Workshop to develop SOPs for investment facilitation

September 4, 2023

State Minister for Investment Promotion, Hon. Dilum Amunugama; Honorable Secretaries from Ministries represented in the Investment Facilitation Committee; Organizing Committee of the workshop on preparation of Standard Operating Procedures for Investment Facilitation; Colleagues from UN family; Distinguished guests. 

I am pleased to address you all today as we commence the workshop dedicated to crafting Standard Operating Procedures for Investment Facilitation. 

First, let me apologize for not being there due to competing programmes. I am very humbled by this opportunity given to me to join you virtually, however. This momentous gathering brings together representatives from various government agencies engaged in Sri Lanka's investor facilitation process. Our collective commitment is to support Sri Lanka in enhancing its investor facilitation process to create a more inviting ecosystem for investors. We know this initiative is timely and much needed. As Sri Lanka strives to overcome the unprecedented economic challenges, we have heard over and again, including from the Honorable President, the importance of attracting investments to generate much-needed resources, create jobs and improve Sri Lanka’s competitiveness. 

In today’s ever-competitive world, having efficient processes and procedures is a minimum requirement for attracting investments. Sri Lanka was ranked at the 99th place among 190 countries on the influential World Bank Doing Business Index in 2019. This is the highest ranking Sri Lanka has achieved since 2015. Registering property, getting credit, and enforcing contracts emerged as areas that needed the most improvement. In the current context, in addition to facilitating doing business, policy consistency, policy coherence and instituting a set timeline for completing the processes have become top priority needs of both international and domestic investors.

UNDP has always been cognizant of the importance of working with the Sri Lankan government in improving the investment climate. Among our recent partnerships with the Government is the SDG Investor Map. This innovative map effectively pinpoints strategic investment opportunities in Sri Lanka based on national priorities. Investor map is a market intelligence tool that helps the private sector to identify investment themes in emerging markets with a significant potential to advance the country’s economic growth.

We all hope to attract “good” investments that will promote the attainment of SDGs – by being environmentally and socially responsible, and by creating jobs with dignity. This investor map is a useful foundation for attaining this goal. 
Similarly, UNDP is committed to enhancing the tax regime in Sri Lanka, to create a transparent, accountable and a conducive environment for business enterprises to flourish. The Tax for SDGs programme is one such example, where UNDP joined hands with the Inland Revenue Department, the Fiscal Policy Department, and the Ministry of Finance to better align taxation policies with the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Moreover, UNDP is also currently supporting the Parliament of Sri Lanka and multiple justice sector institutions, including the Ministry of Justice, to bring about transformational reforms and enhance the capacities of justice sector actors to provide a fair and just investment climate.  In this regard, our ongoing work with CIABOC to support the implementation of the new anti-corruption law is critical. Having a transparent and corruption-free environment is a pre-requisite for building the confidence of prospective investors.  

In the same vein, the development of SoPs for the investor facilitation process will have a significant impact on building investor confidence and boosting the economy. While you will be embarking on an intensive work programme for the coming two days, SoP development requires a deep understanding of the pain points experienced by the users of your services, liaising with various institutions to improve information sharing and streamlining of processes and systems, and reviewing regulations and various practical applications. The new SOPs have to be practical and implementable, supported by the will of the parties concerned, resources and capacities. Achieving this will require thorough consultation with, going beyond the government agencies, and more crucially with investors themselves. 

The insights we have gained together with the BOI and SDG from the investor map consultation process with over 50 consultations will give you a good starting point. Following the workshop launched today, UNDP has offered the support of the UNDP-Government partnership – Citra Social Innovation Lab to help reengineer the process and create a user-journey map where multiple stakeholders, particularly the investors themselves, will be consulted. 
Many governments around the world have adopted this approach in their efforts to re-engineer public sector service delivery processes. It is widely acknowledged that a human-centred design, which requires listening closely to the concerns and real experiences of the users, will allow the public institutions to test solutions. 

This type of testing will help use public resources wisely and smartly before investing in a system at full scale. And this is probably what is needed most in Sri Lanka or any government around the world that is confronted with fast-shrinking fiscal space. The Citra team will work very closely with the Investment Facilitation Committee in the coming weeks to develop a comprehensive framework of SoPs. Through our combined efforts, we aspire to create a future where economic growth goes hand in hand with the attainment of SDGs.

Once again, let me thank the Ministry of Investment Promotion and its organizers for giving us the opportunity to partner in this activity of national importance.

Thank you.