COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s private sector has been asked to invest more in the former northern war zone to provide jobs for people and contribute to the national peace-building and reconciliation effort.
Injecting further investment and building the capacity for more value addition enterprises in the north and east remain an urgent priority, said H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, Governor of the Northern Province.
Despite good work in the north and east since the 30-year ethnic conflict ended in 2009, not enough has been done to enhance household incomes and address livelihood issues, creating an atmosphere of confidence that normalisation is taking hold, he said.
“Despite the hive of economic activity of the past few years, the north’s household income remains significantly below the national average and the paucity of investment in the area has continued,” he told the annual general meeting of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
The northern people’s share of the national gross domestic product remained a low 3.4 percent in 2010 and 3.6 percent in 2013 and the north is one of the regions with the highest poverty head count.
“Apart from some ventures in energy, garment manufacturing and trading, there has not been extensive private sector investment in the northern province since the war ended,” Palihakkara said.
Of the 20 billion rupees investment there since 2009, nearly 13 billion rupees was on four or five power plants and only seven billion rupees in manufacturing and hospitality such as garments and a few hotels.
“This is a figure we can and surely must improve upon, especially to invest in value addition.”
Investing in the north and east could also be prudent economic opportunities for corporate leaders, Palihakkara said.
“The corporate sector can contribute by investing, particularly in small and medium enterprises, and especially in value addition in fisheries and the agriculture sector” Palihakkara said.
There were potential opportunities from waste disposal to recycling, construction, health care, hospitality, and trade to vocational training.
“This can be done without significant new legislative or policy frameworks,” Palihakkara said.