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Sri Lanka looks beyond euphoria

The end of the civil war has boosted economic confidence. But there is much to be done in improving infrastructure and reviving activity stunted by the conflict, such as agriculture and fisheries. Chris Wright reports.

A stock market set for boom days

IF YOU THINK a rebound in world stock markets improves your mood, try the end of a 25-year civil war for a really big confidence booster. Interviews in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo reveal a sense of unbridled optimism and opportunity with hostilities at an end.

"It’s a pivotal moment," says Nick Nicolaou, HSBC’s chief executive for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. "When a conflict like this is over – and you can look at analogies like Northern Ireland or Kosovo – the post-conflict scenario is one of great hope and an increase in economic activity and foreign direct investment. That’s the background that everyone is looking towards."

Sri Lanka’s most important industrialists see the end of the war as one of the most momentous developments in their recent history, in a business as well as a social context. "For us, it is going to be a complete change in the way we do business," says Ajit Gunewardene, deputy chairman of John Keells Holdings, Sri Lanka’s biggest conglomerate and listed company with interests ranging from plantations to food and beverages, transport, leisure, property, financial services and business process outsourcing.

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