Bernardo M. Villegas
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PH-SriLankan Partnership

           Although smaller than the Philippines in population, Sri Lanka parallels the Philippines in its highly educated and skilled manpower.  Its literacy rate is 94% compared to our 95%. English is also widely spoken, thanks to the British colonization era.  Among developing nations, it has one of the lowest poverty incidences at 7%, having given emphasis to rural and agricultural development.  This focus on rural development has resulted also in the lowest urbanization rate among its peers.  Its highly productive human resources have been the result of extensive investments in public education and welfare by successive post-independence governments.  Education is free from kindergarten to the university.  Universities and technical colleges are geared towards the needs of industry.  I was told by an executive search practitioner that Sri Lanka has one of the largest pools of chartered accountants in the Asian region.

          Investors looking for opportunities in Sri Lanka may consult the list of priority sectors identified by the Board of Investment:  manufacture of apparel, textile, handlooms and local gift industries; cosmetic industry based on local herbs and medicinal plants; tourism and integrated leisure activities; infrastructure projects (bonded warehouses, cold and dry storage and other  logistics based investments; creative work including artwork; fitness centers for providing facilities for sports; urban infrastructure and commercial housing; higher education/skills development; IT and IT-enabled services; agro-processing/dairy development, fish-based industries; establishment of industrial estates, special economic zones and knowledge cities.  These investments can be made at the SME levels or large-scale enterprises, both export-oriented and import-substituting.

          Some of the possible investors identified by the investment mission I led are gold mining firms in the Philippines that can partner with the precious stones or gem producers in Sri Lanka to capture a large share of the jewelry market in the Asian region.  Water utilities in the Philippines can invest in the water sector of Sri Lanka which has abundant sources of water.  Those in the coconut industry in the Philippines can learn lessons of high productivity from Sri Lanka.  They can then get together to obtains the best terms for their coconut products in the world market.  This would not involve creating a cartel since coconut supplies a very small portion of the world market for fats and oils, having to compete with sunflower, palm, soybeans and corn oils, among others.   Another area for co-opetition is in fresh and processed mangoes.  A joint venture between mango exporters from the two countries can supply the Chinese market with some of the best tasting mangoes in the world twelve months a year as the two potential suppliers complement one another with their varying fruiting seasons.  Some of the middle-sized hotel enterprises in the Philippines can put up hotels in Sri Lanka to cater primarily to East Asian tourists.  Since private education is still very limited in Sri Lanka, Philippine universities can attract Sri Lankan students in such fields as medicine, nursing, agricultural engineering and other specializations in engineering.    For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.