Sri Lanka a positive story, poised for higher growth: HSBC Head of International Asia Pacific

HSBC’s Head of International Asia Pacific Jayant Rikhye yesterday emphasised post-war Sri Lanka has a positive story to tell the world and that global giant will play a leading role in the expanding economy of the country.

“Sri Lanka is quite a positive story at the moment. This is because the optics around the story are excellent,” Rikhye told the Daily FT in an interview on the sidelines of a two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

“There has been a significant spend in infrastructure over the last few years. Sri Lanka has an ideal strategic location. Clearly the business environment in the last four to five years has been attractive. Now is the time for Sri Lanka to really connect the domestic economy with regional and global economy. In that context Sri Lanka is well poised to grow further in the future,” the top HSBC official added.

As the Head of International Asia Pacific, Rikhye has direct responsibility over 12 markets in Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.  This is the first visit as the Head of International of Asia Pacific whilst he last came to Sri Lanka in February 2013 as the Head of Strategy and Planning Asia Pacific, a function he continues to perform.

Having met the senior management team and key customers as well as regulatory officials, Rikhye said yesterday Sri Lanka should continue to stimulate the domestic economy and identify the value it can bring regionally (South Asia) and deliver it competitively.

“Each one spurs the other. More foreign investment spurs domestic activity which in turn spurs domestic consumption. This in turns spurs more FDIs. Sri Lanka can emerge as a regional centre for some of the select activities. So Sri Lanka needs to connect these possibilities and become part of the global supply chain,” said the HSBC Head of International Asia Pacific who arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday from official visits to Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand.

Rikhye is also optimistic about HSBC’s prospects in resurging post-war Sri Lanka. The largest foreign bank in Sri Lanka in terms of assets, HSBC has been a key player in channelling foreign investments and financing global trade apart from being associated with all sovereign bonds of Sri Lanka to date.

“We are proud of our association with and contribution to Sri Lanka for over 100 years. In Sri Lanka we are very well represented and positioned across all segments of the financial services market,” he said.

“We will provide continued investments, continued certainty about our plans in Sri Lanka, enhance trade finance as need grows, giving the connectivity element to our customers as they expand locally or overseas, facilitate foreign investments and continue to play a leading role in the economy in Sri Lanka,” emphasised Rikhye, who in his capacity as Head of International Asia Pacific is a key source of support and guidance to country CEOs in 12 markets.

He also viewed the recent historic visits by Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping separately as a big boost for Sri Lanka and its aspirations to become a strategic hub in the region and bolster rapid socio-economic future.

He said HSBC, which is the largest foreign bank in China and a key player in Japan, expects the high profile visits and key agreements to be followed up with greater attention and implementation.

It was pointed out that Asia was seeing a significant growth in intra-regional trade and this momentum will accelerate further.

The visiting HSBC official also described Sri Lanka’s regulatory regime as strong, healthy and robust, proactive, progressive and consultative.

He said low inflation, low interest rates, encouraging greater private sector activity and political stability are key drivers of foreign investments and economic growth. “From a policy perspective, Sri Lanka is fine. So is the stability aspect. This good track record must be continued with as investors like certainty. The Central Bank has done an excellent job so far and there has been continuity and credibility,” opined Rikhye.

Focusing on overall Asia, he described its growth prospects as “stable and subdued” after enjoying high growth trajectory in the recent past.

“However, Asia’s re-emergence led by China and India will continue to gather momentum going forward,” said Rikhye, who joined the HSBC Group in 1989 in India and had served extensively in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.