It came as a pleasant surprise and will certainly stimulate Colombo’s stockmarket which is yet to take off after the LTTE was defeated in May, ending over 25 years of fighting. Unknown to many, Jim Rogers, a 67-year-old entrepreneur who first started business as a 5 year-old selling peanuts and then went on to co-found the mega Quantum Fund with billionaire George Soros, visited Sri Lanka last week in a trip that would have raised a lot of interest if those, particularly, in the private sector were aware.
Rogers, an investor with an adventurous streak and frequently quoted by news media on investment options where he has said Sri Lanka is a better bet than India or China, had spent three days here and also visited Kandy. There was no confirmation as to whether he met corporate bosses or private sector executives and whether he came on invitation from the government (he had met mostly government bigwigs) or flew in as a tourist.
Rogers has said that he would recommend to investors the sectors that they need to put their money in, and if this is true, that’s a huge boost to Sri Lanka. Last month, a Central Bank team of officials went on an ‘investment update’ to Singapore, Hong Kong, the US — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, London, Bahrain, Dubai and Mumbai meeting some 105 big-time investors and explaining investment prospects.
These are investment bankers who can move millions of dollars at any given time, at the press of a button on a computer. The visit of Rogers and his interest in Sri Lanka would lend more strength to these fund managers to speed up any decision on investing here.
The Central Bank’s foreign reserves are also rising for a multitude of reasons including the IMF tranche, some hedge fund monies coming in and dollar purchases from the inter-bank (money) market to stabilise the dollar. Large flows of dollars into the banking sector, mainly through UN agencies and Non Governmental organisations (NGOs) for humanitarian work, has put pressure on the currency and the Central Bank has been mopping up these excess dollars to ensure the currency doesn’t crash and fall below the current Rs 114-Rs 115 level.
Jim Rogers has taught finance at Columbia University’s business school and is a media commentator worldwide. He is the author of Adventure Capitalist, Investment Biker, Hot Commodities, A Gift to My Children, and A Bull in China. See his website.