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Sri Lanka mulls freer trade in gems, tea

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new government is considering further opening up the economy and allowing more trade in commodities like gems and tea that now are protected against imports, a ruling party legislator said.

Harsha de Silva, former Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, said the business community  should think afresh and consider the prospects of speeding up economic growth by the island becoming a trading hub.

 “What about the hub concept?” he asked in an address at the opening of Facets, the island’s annual gem and jewellery show being held for the 25th year.

“Can we import gems, add value and export them?”

De Silva was referring to resistance from local trade and industry to lifting import controls in certain sectors where the island has established a global name for itself and carved out market share.

Thailand became a gem trading hub with a lot of funding for their infrastructure development coming from Sri Lanka’s own gem industry. De Silva said, noting that the island had been exporting a lot of rough stones.
“The decision must be made – are we becoming a hub or continuing to unearth rough (gem) stones and export?”

De Silva said the same policy predicament faced other sectors like tea where a proposal to import teas from other origins, add value and re-export to promote trading activity had generated much controversy. 

“There’s a raging debate on tea – do we import tea, add value and export?” de Silva asked. “We need to think of long-term plans of being a hub.”  (Colombo/September 4 2015)

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