By Jamila Najmuddin
COLOMBO, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka is seeking to become an international hub in the South Asian region and attract more foreign investments next year to boost its economy.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in its latest report that the election in January of a new president and the change in government, as well as the prospect of parliamentary elections later in the year, slowed economic activity as investors adopted a wait and see approach.
With political uncertainties now diminished, private sector investment is expected to revive, the ADB said.
"In 2015, there had been a shift in the priorities because we had promised a lot of relief going into the elections in January. We also had issues with some ongoing projects, so those projects were stalled for some time," Deputy Foreign Minister and leading economist Dr. Harsha De Silva told Xinhua.
"So that pace of construction-led development was shaken a bit until things were put back in order. So we did not see that high growth that we saw for the past couple of years in the construction sector. But other than that I think things went reasonably well as our overall growth has not seen a drastic fall as spoken about by some."
Sri Lanka has announced that it will resume all suspended foreign projects in the island nation early next year including a mega multi billion dollar Port City project in the capital funded by China, which will be pivotal in boosting Foreign Direct Investment's (FDI's) and strengthening the economy in the months to come.
With a more "sharper focus on engaging with the world, the government also aims to use Sri Lanka's strategic location in the Indian Ocean to attract investments.
"Our location is becoming strategically more and more important as the world becomes Asia focused in this coming century. Look at our position. We are going to be one of those countries that are going to be pivotal in the region," De Silva said.
"See the interest that we are attracting. So in that context our friends must appreciate our position. This is a God given gift."
With China being one of Sri Lanka's largest development partners, the government said it wants to further expand its ties between the two nations and seek more investment from China.
Discussions are currently underway between the two governments on building new industrial parks in the island nation next year.
The country's tourism sector which suffered a severe blow due to decades of conflict has performed as the top runner this year, largely due to growing Chinese tourists. The government plans to unveil mega publicity campaigns in China next year to attract more Chinese travelers.
"Sri Lanka is different as it has amazing potential in the coming decades to become a real dynamic modern competitive democratic country. And in that move up the ladder all our friends will benefit," De Silva said.
"We are not just asking people to come invest here. We are asking people to invest here so it can become a platform for them to go to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Africa etc. It is almost a tragedy that we are where we are. And that has to change. And we are hopeful that both our friends from the east and the west will come. And there are people coming."