Saudi Arabia has stepped in to provide further assistance to promote tourism, increase foreign direct investments and enhance employment opportunities for Sri Lankans.
This pledge was given by Foreign Affairs Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud when his Sri Lankan counterpart Ali Sabry met him and had an extensive bilateral discussion in that country.
Minister Ali Sabry underlined the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries and thanked Saudi Arabia for the support extended to Sri Lanka in the international fora, especially during its membership at the UNHRC in 2009, 2012 and 2014.
Sabry also acknowledged the contribution of nearly SAR 1.5 billion by the Saudi Development Fund in infrastructure and other developments in Sri Lanka and the solidarity shown in the IMF supported debt restructuring programme.
He paid a tribute to his Saudi counterpart for hosting nearly 185000 Sri Lankans and expressed his willingness to enhance the employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in skilled, semi-skilled and professional categories in the Kingdom.
Minister Sabry invited Saudi investors to invest in Sri Lanka, especially in the Colombo Port City and the Renewable Energy sector.
The Saudi Foreign Minister stated that Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka are true friends and share similar views on a number of international issues. He expressed his appreciation to Sri Lanka for being one of the first countries to support Saudi Arabia’s bid to host EXPO 2030 in Riyadh.
He also said that Saudi Arabia always encourages business entities to look at Sri Lanka as a possible destination for investment.
Responding to the update given by his Sri Lankan counterpart on the current economic situation in Sri Lanka, the Saudi Minister said that he is “glad that Sri Lanka is getting positive attention from her friends around the world”.
The ministers also agreed to the resumption of air connectivity between the two countries to the level of the pre-Covid period.
During his meeting with Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi Fund for Development Sultan A. Al-Marsad, the Sri Lankan Minister thanked the SFD for the continuation of the funding despite the economic situation in the country and the flexibility shown on debt repayment.
On the invitation extended by Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, his Sri Lankan counterpart undertook an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 22 to 27 January.
During his meeting with the Secretary General of Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Hissein Brahmin Taha, the Minister and the Secretary-General agreed to enhance the engagements and continue to cooperate in the international fora.
The minister also urged the member states of the OIC for “visible humanitarian and economic support” to Sri Lanka.
At a meeting with the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Dr. Zamir Iqbal, the organization offered to coordinate with the Government of Sri lanka to organize an investment conference to unlock alternative finance with a view to helping Sri Lanka’s economy.
During the meeting with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr. Nayef Falah M Al Hajraf, the Sri Lankan minister noted that the total trade volume between Sri Lanka and GCC countries is in the region of US$ 2.5 billion a year, a significant trade bloc, following India, China, Europe and the USA.
Sabry also mentioned that of the 300,000 employment opportunities generated during the year 2022, 257,000 were employed in the region.
The Sri Lankan minister and the Secretary-General acknowledged the necessity of exploring untapped investment opportunities available in Sri Lanka for GCC countries. In this context, it was agreed to expedite the process of entering into a framework agreement between Sri Lanka and the GCC.