ECONOMYNEXT – A collective of information and communication technology (ITC) industry leaders in Sri Lanka on Monday (04) called for transparency, stability in governance and fiscal management, access to dollars for startups and small businesses for essential services and an end to an ongoing public emergency.
Signed by over 160 industry representatives including Sanjiva Weerwarana of WSO2 and Hasith Yaggahavita of 99x, the statement said the ICT community finds it difficult to defend and justify to its stakeholders that Sri Lanka is a safe environment to build innovative businesses, products and provide continued services at global standards.
“The current situation sends dangerous signals and in fact many of our community have had to start looking outside of Sri Lanka for the continued delivery of their products and services. The economic impact created by the current situation further compounds the challenges faced by our early-stage companies and will prevent necessary investment and risk capital to come into the country. We beseech the government to repeal the State of Emergency as this is causing more uncertainty amongst our stakeholders,” the statement said.
Sri Lanka has seen a wave of public protests, most of them seemingly spontaneous and with no involvement of opposition parties, against President Rajapaksa and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led government over their handling of the one of the worst economic crises in the country’s history. As fuel shortages and power cuts brought about by a severe dollar shortage forced people onto the streets, culminating in a 36-curfew over the April 02-03 weekend, uncertainty looms over the fate of the government with speculation rife of mass resignations.
The signatories expressed grave concern over the public emergency declared by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last Friday (01) in the aftermath of a protest outside his residence the previous night.
“As a community, we are gravely concerned by the declaration of the state of emergency by his Excellency the President on the night of April 1st, 2022. Our community is of the view that the declaration of state of emergency is not the solution to the present social economic situation. We believe that the right approach is in fact to open a dialogue between the political leadership and the country’s constituents,” the statement said.
Sri Lanka’s digital economy represents approximately 4.37% of GDP and, according to the statement, is positioned to grow exponentially in the coming years.
“This ecosystem has developed itself mostly on its own, relying on the support of each other on the values of freedom of expression and collaboration. Hence this ecosystem is firmly committed to protecting people’s basic civil liberties which includes the freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” the ICT professionals said.
“This community for its part is committed to protecting the rights of its constituents and the basic civil liberties we expect of a democratic nation state. We believe that the decisions that affect the country need to be participatory and collaborative with our industry,” it added.
The industry leaders called on the government to:
- Ensure stability in governance and fiscal management of inflation to provide overall confidence to the ICT community.
- Improve decision making by the government to provide the minimum power required for the continuity of our industry and introduce incentives immediately for solar and other renewable energy solutions.
- Provide access for startups and small businesses to the minimum dollars required to pay for essential services not available locally.
- Remove emergency, curfew, and suppression of citizens’ rights to peacefully protest and or express displeasure of what they are experiencing as severe hardships.
- Refrain from blocking access to the internet and all social media sites during states of emergencies that completely deny business for startups who rely on accessing their customers, suppliers and/or produce through these channels.
- We require transparency and accountability at all levels of government.