ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s retail industry, representing supermarkets, consumer durables, footwear and restaurants badly hit by a Coronavirus pandemic has asked for relief on utility bills and to re-open sectors that are still closed.
Sri Lanka Retailers Association (SLRA) which represents the affected business have told Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa that they were already suffering from the time of Easter Sunday attacks two years earlier when the Covid pandemic hit them and sought relief from the Ministry of Finance.
The SLRA is made up of FMCG vendors, supermarkets, clothing, fashion & jewellery, household & consumer durables, footwear & accessories, e-commerce, healthcare & wellness, entertainment, restaurants and fast food sellers, and shelter & housing providers.
The SLRA has also requested permission to re-open some of the sectors that are currently closed.
Currently, most places such as supermarkets, clothing stores, restaurant dine-in, registered pavement and mobile vendors, malls are allowed to operate with limited capacity.
However, entertainment places, pubs and bars, casinos, clubs, museums, cinemas, musical shows, etc where public gatherings often take place are not allowed to open or operate.
They have problems in getting bank loans, opening Letters of Credit, vaccination of apparel and retail workers, and difficulties in paying EPF and ETF, the SLRA said.
“We also appealed to reduce or postpone utility payments which would reduce our cost burdens as they constitute a significant expenditure for us,” SLRA said.
“We were also informed that moratoriums on bank loans will be granted to the business community which we are a part of and for which we extend our highest appreciation.”
SLRA says the retail sector employs 15 per cent of the workforce and youth.
“The FMCG and fashion sub-sectors have become key channels of employment for the country’s youth and the entry point for them in modern trade,” Hussain Sadique, the president of SLRA and the Deputy Managing Director of Hameedias, a menswear brand, said.
“We are confident of relief measures so that a consumer crisis would not take place.”