Sri Lanka invites Saudi to set up oil refinery amid crisis
Sri Lanka–A special representative of President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Tuesday that Sri Lanka wants to increase energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia and has requested the Kingdom to build a refinery in the South Asian country.
As the president of Sri Lanka’s special envoy, Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed arrived in Riyadh on Sunday. Since then, he has met with representatives from the Kingdom, including Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji and CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development Sultan Al-Marshad.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Ahamed, who took on his ministerial responsibilities in late May and also supervises Middle Eastern affairs, said that strengthening collaboration with Saudi Arabia will be beneficial in “alleviating the current economic situation” in Sri Lanka.
The 22 million-person country is going through its biggest economic crisis since gaining independence. People have been dealing with severe shortages of basic necessities including food, medication, and fuel for months, while the inflation rate soared to a record 60.8 percent in July.
In a phone interview, Ahamed stated, “We are offering Saudi Arabia to have its own refinery in Sri Lanka.” “We can also build sufficient storage facilities on the island to serve the entire region.”
With Saudi Arabia, Colombo hopes to “establish long-term partnerships” in the energy and fuel industries, including the supply of gas and crude oil.
Given that its current supply of gasoline and diesel is nearly depleted, Sri Lanka has been having difficulty securing the necessary money to finance needed imports. At petrol stations around the nation early this year, there were lengthy lines of motorists waiting to fill up their automobiles.
Ahamed claimed that Sri Lanka may gain from Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, a reform program intended to diversify the Kingdom’s economy.
“As you are aware, Saudi Arabia is a significant economic force in the area, particularly in the petroleum industry. The entire world, including Sri Lanka, has been drawn to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2030 Vision, according to Ahamed.
“Our president intends to utilize this Vision by working with the Kingdom to advance its objectives and to gain from such developments, which would strengthen the Saudi-Lanka collaboration on energy security.”
Stronger energy cooperation, according to Ahamed, will increase bilateral trade from its present level of $300 million to billions of dollars and “allow Sri Lanka to acquire oil with long-term conditions.”
According to him, Sri Lanka is also looking to attract Saudi investment for the nation’s mining sector. Ahamed was upbeat about the results of his visit as his vacation to Saudi Arabia was about to come to an end on Wednesday.
“We are certain that Saudi Arabia will assist our projects and open up new areas of collaboration to deepen the bilateral relations, helping Sri Lanka provide some relief,” he said.