• Kuwait is home to more than 130,000 Sri Lankan expatriates
• Since 1971, Sri Lanka and Kuwait have maintained enduring ties. Interestingly, traces of pearl divers in Kuwait can be traced back to prehistoric times in Sri Lanka
Kandipan Bala, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the country,reaffirmed that Kuwait boasts a vibrant community of over 130,000 Sri Lankan expatriates. Their contributions over the years have served as a dynamic force in nurturing the multifaceted relations between our two nations. This substantial presence of Sri Lankan citizens in Kuwait not only fosters a robust bond but also strengthens the enduring ties between our nations.
In his speech during the celebration of his country’s National Day, attended by the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of State for Municipal Affairs, Dr NouraAl-Mishaan, he highlighted that intra-regional trade has recorded respectable growth over the years.
Additionally, he noted a doubling in the number of incoming tourists last year and a rise in the number of their workers. He emphasized, ‘Most importantly, foreign remittances from Kuwait continue to grow.’
He stressed the enduring ties between Sri Lanka and the State of Kuwait, dating back to 1971. He also highlighted the historical connection, noting that traces of pearl divers in Kuwait can be traced back to prehistoric times in Sri Lanka.
Kuwaiti Fund supports key infrastructure projects
He continued, “The Kuwaiti Fund continues to support essential infrastructure projects, driving our social and economic development. I thank the leadership and Kuwaiti government for their ongoing support and cooperation in strengthening our relations.”
He emphasized the growing cultural collaboration facilitated by the National Council for Arts, Culture, and Letters, recognizing culture as a potent soft power tool. He underscored its pivotal role in fortifying diplomatic ties between the two nations over the years.
He extended his gratitude to His Highness the Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Al-Yahya, Minister of Interior Sheikh Fahad Yousef Al-Sabah, and ambassador SamihJohar Hayat, Assistant Secretary of State for Asian Affairs, for their support, assistance, and cooperation in strengthening our bilateral relations.
Speaking on the occasion, he expressed profound appreciation and gratitude to the ancestors who made significant sacrifices in Sri Lanka’s struggle for independence. He elaborated that the post-independence era of nation-building is fraught with conflicts and challenges, mirroring the experiences of numerous nations across Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world.
Sri Lanka’s strong commitment to international cooperation
He emphasized Sri Lanka’s unwavering commitment to international cooperation, actively engaging in bilateral and multilateral endeavors to tackle pressing global issues including climate change, economic development, and peace and security. He underscored the nation’s dedication to shared responsibilities, highlighting its recent assumption of leadership within the Indian Ocean Rim Association as a testament to this commitment.
“We have succeeded in diversifying the spread of migrant workers from traditional sectors to many sectors, including professional and skilled employment in Kuwait,” the ambassador added.
Continuing his address, he elaborated, “I wish to shed light on Sri Lanka’s journey towards recovery from the severe economic crisis we encountered in early 2022, a crisis that posed a grave threat to our nation’s stability. We initiated crucial negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and other multilateral development banks, embarking on a comprehensive restructuring process aimed at achieving debt sustainability.”
He highlighted that their independent and multi-aligned foreign policy played a vital role in surmounting these formidable challenges and garnering support from the broader international community. “Ladies and gentlemen, 18 months later, the progress we have achieved is truly remarkable.”
Sri Lanka’s inflation rate
In September 2022, Sri Lanka’s inflation rate, which stood at 70%, fell to less than 5%. The rupee stabilized and even appreciated by about 15% against the US dollar, while foreign remittances witnessed an annual growth of 60% in 2023.
He continued by stating that tourism witnessed an annualgrowth of 106% in 2023, and usable foreign exchange reserves, which amounted to $20 million in April 2022, rose to $4.5 billion in January 2024.