Foreign investments to Sri Lanka have surpassed one billion U.S. dollar mark in the first nine months of 2014 amidst inflows to the country's booming tourism industry, an official said on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka's government has targeted 2 billion U.S. dollars in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for the past two years but failed to achieve the goal. Despite the end of a three-decade war in 2009, the South Asian island has lagged behind in attracting FDI.
Up to Sept. 15 the island had gathered 1,064 million U.S. dollars in FDI, mostly for the tourism sector. The latest number is a 22 percent jump from 870 million U.S. dollars recorded during the same period last year.
In 2013, Sri Lanka attracted 1.39 billion U.S. dollars in FDI, which is a 4 percent increase over the 1.33 billion U.S. dollars in 2012.
However, Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana remained upbeat, telling reporters post-war Sri Lanka remains attractive for foreign investors judging by this year's inflows so far.
"We have planned a host of new measures including revamping the Board of Investment (BOI), which is the government's investment arm and providing incentives to investors," he said.
In May, three hotel projects amounting to over 1 billion U.S. dollars, including a 350 million U.S. dollar casino by Australian gaming mogul James Packer, have been approved by parliament.
Abeywardana insisted that the government was turning the tide on its lackluster FDI earnings with 38 investment agreements being signed in the first three months of 2014. Of these, 31 projects have already begun construction and 14 have started commercial operations.
Sri Lanka's booming tourism industry grabbed the lion's share of first quarter investments by attracting 36 percent of all inflows.
Utility with 26 percent and infrastructure with 15 percent rounded off the top three sectors for FDI.
Sri Lanka's economy has grew by 7.2 percent in 2013 and the government has targeted a 7.8 percent growth this year.
However, Abeywardana emphasized that sustaining an 8 percent growth needed minimum FDI of 4 billion U.S. dollars and the government tended to reach that target by 2016.
Sri Lanka's government has been criticized for, inconsistent polices, nationalizing 37 private companies in 2012 and failing to improve ease of doing business in the country.