(HE) Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Sri Lanka Abdulnas
H. Al Harthi (far left) invites Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (centre) to taste Saudi Arabian dates at the 88th Saudi Arabian National Day event celebrated on 25 September at Hotel Shangri La, Colombo.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) now stands as the largest employer of Sri Lankans outside of Sri Lanka. More importantly, KSA commits US$ 300 Mn for Sri Lanka’s development projects.
“Relations between KSA and Sri Lanka are excellent and are based on mutual respect and joint cooperation. KSA commits to projects in Sri Lanka through the Saudi Fund for Development” said H.E. Ambassador of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Sri Lanka Abdulnaser H. O. Al Harthi on 25 September. Addressing the 88thNational Day celebration of KSA in Colombo, H.E. Ambassador Harthi was joined by the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen and many other distinguished visitors. ”The total funds guaranteed by the Saudi Fund for Development to Sri Lanka reaches nearly US $ 300 Mn in various sectors-health, education, water supply, irrigation, agriculture and road development. The Kingdom also accommodates nearly 200,000 skilled Sri Lankan workers” added H.E. Ambassador Harthi.
Among the leading KSA funded Projects in Sri Lanka are the Epilepsy Hospital in Colombo, the Kaluganga Development, Badulla- Chenkaladi Road Improvement, the Road Network Development, Wayamba University Township Development, and the Kaluganga River Left Bank Development Project.
Representing the Government of Sri Lanka as the Chief Guest, Minister Bathiudeen lauded bilateral ties since 1974, extended his greetings to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques -His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud -and the Crown Prince His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the KSA Government, and highlighted of unexplored but ‘great potentials’ between the two countries. “I wish to recognize the support and solidarity extended to Sri Lanka by the KSA in the multilateral fora. KSA stands as the 23rd import partner in the Sri Lankan market while Sri Lanka is ranked as the 82nd import partner in the Saudi Arabian market. In the last three year period from 2014 to 2017, Sri Lanka’s total trade with Saudi Arabia was around US $ 215 million annually. Sri Lanka’s major export to Saudi Arabia has been Ceylon Tea. Last year Ceylon Tea exports to Saudi Arabia was at US $ 27 Million accounting for 36% of the total exports to Saudi Arabia. We believe that there are great trade potentials between both countries that have not been exploited and it is now time that we should exploit these potentials jointly.”
Sri Lanka’s main exports to KSA last year were tea, apparel, bananas, desiccated coconut, and fish. Such export revenues are apart from the large Riyal transfers by Sri Lankan workers in KSA. Leading imports from KSA last year were plastics, gas oil/Diesel, chemicals, paper, tanning / dying extracts and glassware. In 2003, KSA and Sri Lanka have signed an MoU setting up the first Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Investment, Scientific, Technical, Cultural, Youth and Sports Co-operation. Thereafter, annual bilateral trade (at US $ 105 Mn in 2003) continued to surge, and a decade later in 2013, reported a high of $290 Mn. By last year total trade levelled at $215.37 Mn (that too, with an increase of 6% from 2015’s $203 Mn).