Turning the tide: Sri Lanka's remarkable investment renaissance in Abu Dhabi, Dubai

UAE Investment Forum was a watershed moment, thrusting Sri Lanka and Port City Colombo into the limelight of the investor community


A Staff Reporter

Published: Sun 1 Oct 2023, 2:45 PM

Sri Lanka's economic and financial prospects, long neglected and recently marred by default, witnessed a remarkable resurgence in Abu Dhabi and Dubai on September 26. The most influential Chairmen and CEOs from top corporations, accompanied by high potential investors, property developers, hotel owners, and leaders in the hospitality and real-estate industry, converged in the iconic settings of the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi and the Armani Hotel at Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

This elite gathering took place in the presence of the ruling families of UAE, united by a common purpose: to explore, understand, and assess the investment potential of Sri Lanka, with particular emphasis on the transformative Port City Colombo project. The audience was privileged to engage in a structured conversation led by the Rt Hon David Cameron, former British Prime Minister, who outlined a compelling case for investing in Sri Lanka.


This momentous event was orchestrated by a coalition of distinguished figures and institutions, including the Niranjan de S Deva Aditya, former British and European MP and Deputy Lieutenant to King Charles III for the Lord Lieutenancy of London. Currently serving as the Presidential Advisor on behalf of the President of Sri Lanka, the Ranil Wickremesinghe, Aditya played a pivotal role in organizing the event. He was joined by Port City Colombo’s regulatory authority the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the primary developer, CHEC Port City Colombo, with the invaluable support of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, representing an astounding $12 trillion in assets.

Rt David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, assumed the role of a true luminary. With magnificent enthusiasm, an unwavering grasp of every detail, and an unshakeable conviction in the success of the Port City Colombo, he brought an indefatigable energy of purpose that radiated goodwill and warmth to all the investors he encountered.

The event provided guests with a platform for a dynamic conversation, characterized by insightful questions and thought-provoking responses between Cameron and Hon Nirj Deva. Cameron's deep understanding of the Port City project, its immense potential as a progressive Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the heart of South Asia, and its significance on the regional and global stage shone through during these exchanges. His ability to articulate the compelling reasons for investing in Sri Lanka, and in particular, the Port City Colombo, left a lasting impression on all in attendance.

The Rt David Cameron emerged as a central figure—a beacon of enthusiasm and conviction, a catalyst for meaningful discussions, and a symbol of the Port City's promise. His contributions will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the journey of Sri Lanka's resurgence and the Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone’s transformation into a global economic powerhouse.

The Commonwealth Union, representing 56 Commonwealth countries, played an integral role, as did KPMG and the Khaleej Times. The UK-UAE Trade and Business Council, spearheaded by the Rt Hon Alistair Burt, former UK Foreign Minister and Minister for the Middle East, also contributed significantly to the event's success. The State Minister for Investment Promotion, Hon Dilum Amunugama and the Ambassador to the UAE, HE Udaya Indrarathna represented Sri Lanka, while Seyed Ansar Moulana from the Investment Promotion Ministry played a crucial role in facilitating the investment forum in the UAE.

The UAE Investment Forum was a watershed moment, thrusting Sri Lanka and Port City Colombo into the limelight of the UAE investor community. This community, known for its global wanderings in search of the most competitive investment opportunities, suddenly found its focus squarely on Sri Lanka. The progressive regulatory framework of Colombo Port City’s Special Economic Zone enhancing the ease of doing business overseen by an all-Sri Lanka Commission, captured the attention of the investor community. Additionally, the multi-currency designated SEZ dedicated to the export of services coupled with attractive fiscal and non-fiscal incentives with in-built investor protection mechanisms were hailed for their transparency, efficiency, and accountability qualities, often elusive in other jurisdictions.

Offering tax incentives up to 25 years with the passing of key regulations for “Businesses of Strategic Importance”, Port City is poised to offer investors an exceptional gateway to the rapidly expanding Indian market, just 40 miles away from Sri Lanka—a market boasting a staggering 1.4 billion consumers and unparalleled growth potential.

Sayed Ansar Moulana, the country representative for Investment Promotion to the UAE, remarked, "This was a historic event, unlike anything ever seen in South-east or South Asia. The caliber of attendees, including members of the Emirati Ruling Families, Ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI) , Sovereign Wealth management companies, Global Asset Management companies and leading property developers like Emaar Property, Damac, Sobha Realities, Al Habtoor, Deyaar, Omniyat, Danube, Al Habtoor, DP World, Dubai Holding, DIFC, BlackRock, and SWFI, made remarkable testimonials and expressed their unwavering support for the game-changing flagship project. This project is poised to shape the trajectory of Sri Lanka's progress in developing countries across Asia."

In sum, the UAE Roadshow for Port City Colombo was not just an event but a pivotal moment in Sri Lanka's history—a moment that not only caught the attention of the world but also demonstrated the immense potential and transformative power of strategic investments in emerging economies. As Sri Lanka emerges from the shadows of neglect, it stands ready to embark on a new era of prosperity and growth, thanks to visionary initiatives like the Port City Colombo project.

A Staff Reporter

Published: Sun 1 Oct 2023, 2:45 PM

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