Foreign workers from India, China work without proper visas in Sri Lanka: U.S.

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Sri Lanka is a challenging place to do business, with high transaction costs aggravated by an unpredictable economic policy environment, inefficient delivery of government services, and opaque government procurement practices, U.S. Department of State said in a 2021  Investment Climate Statement.

Excerpts from that statement:

“Sri Lanka has seen a gradual rise in foreign workers.  Most foreign workers are from India, Bangladesh, and the China, many reportedly without proper work visas or other documentation.”

“In areas where foreign investments are permitted, Sri Lanka treats foreign investors the same as domestic investors.  However, corruption reportedly may make it difficult for U.S. firms to compete against foreign bidders not subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when competing for public tenders.”

“In 2019, the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) completed the reclamation of 269 hectares of land adjacent to Colombo’s port and historic downtown to form the Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which government officials describe as a future “international commercial and financial hub.”  CHEC invested $1.4 billion in the land reclamation and basic infrastructure of the Port City, in return for which it will have control, via lease, of 116 of the 178 total hectares of marketable land on the site, the balance of which the government will control.  Parliament approved on May 20, 2021 legislation to govern the SEZ and establish a commission to act as promoter, manager, regulator, and “single window investment facilitator” to attract foreign direct investment to the project.  The legislation also includes tax exemptions and other incentives for potential investors.  The legislation was amended prior to approval by a simple majority in Parliament following a Supreme Court ruling on multiple legal challenges to the bill’s constitutionality, though concerns remain about the potential risk of illicit financial flows.”

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