RIYADH: The Sri Lankan government hopes that further cooperation with longstanding partner Saudi Arabia can include the hiring of more of the country’s skilled workers, and increase trade and two-way investment in local industries.
This was the message conveyed by Sri Lankan State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya during a visit to Saudi Arabia, after meeting several officials including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Balasuriya thanked the Saudi government for providing jobs for the country’s workers. He hoped the two nations could strengthen their economic partnership.
“We discussed several issues, both pertaining to foreign employment, to increase opportunities for Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia; and also on the investment front, how Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka can collaborate and see how we can develop mutually beneficial investment to and from Sri Lanka.”
“We have looked (at) and discussed how to increase the numbers of Sri Lankan workers, and also we want to concentrate more on the high-end workers rather than getting the housemaids and other low-end workers coming to the Kingdom,” he said.
Sri Lankan State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya thanked the Saudi government for providing jobs for the country’s workers. He hoped the two nations could strengthen their economic partnership.
During his visit to the Kingdom, Balasuriya met several officials including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih.
Balasuriya said that ‘we discussed several issues, both pertaining to foreign employment, to increase opportunities for Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia; and also on the investment front, how Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka can collaborate and see how we can develop mutually beneficial investment to and from Sri Lanka.’
Commenting on his discussions, Balasuriya said: “The meeting with both ministers was great. Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia share a good and time-tested relationship. Though we have a very good political relationship, we have not seen that transforming into a prosperous economic relationship. We feel that there are more opportunities (on) the economic front.”
He said the meeting with the minister of investment was “very successful” and included discussions on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan and Sri Lanka’s five trust areas that the government was looking to meet.
The Sri Lankan trust fund supports an ambitious agenda for jointly working with other nations to meet the UN’s 2030 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals of the island nation. The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global targets designed by the UN to provide a sustainable future for the planet’s citizens.
Balasuriya praised the Saudi investment minister saying that Al-Falih had “immediately after the meeting, on such short notice … called 22 large Saudi companies which I aligned with Sri Lanka’s five trust areas, and we had a very fruitful discussion.”
“I am very optimistic with the outcome of the meeting and we are trying to work … to see what possible investments Saudi Arabia can bring to Sri Lanka,” said the minister.
Remarking on his meeting with Al-Jubeir, the Sri Lankan minister said: “We have supported each other at several international forums, and I (want to) express my sincere appreciation for the understanding and support of Saudi Arabia, especially in the UN Human Rights Council.”
Commenting on the recent visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Sri Lanka, Balasuriya said the two countries were seeking to enhance bilateral cooperation.
Saudi Arabia is bidding for the World Expo 2030, and Sri Lanka agreed to support the Kingdom’s bid, he said. The Kingdom in December last year launched its bid to host the expo in Riyadh, and took part in a virtual general assembly meeting of the Bureau International des Expositions held in Paris to start the candidature process, which will take place in five stages and end with a vote at the end of 2023.
Prince Faisal had met his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris in Colombo as part of his trip to the island nation, and the two ministers, according to Peiris, agreed to “transform Sri Lanka-Saudi Arabia bilateral relations into a results-oriented, multi-faceted partnership.”
Balasuriya and his delegation also visited on Monday the Federation of Saudi Chambers in Riyadh, and met chairman Ajlan Al-Ajlan and the acting secretary-general of the federation, Hussein Al-Abdulqader.
At the outset of the meeting, Al-Ajlan said the countries enjoyed a good relationship and hoped there would be a rise in trade and investment going forward.