Sri Lankan exporters want govt coalition partners to have common policy
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s top export business chamber has called for government coalition partners to agree on a common agenda, saying policy inconsistencies and duplication of effort were a drag on growth as competitor nations pulled ahead.
Fazal Mushin, chairperson of the Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka, said the business community understands that the government has been hard-pressed to carry on ‘business as usual’ in the midst of the many challenges it has had to face.
These include the global economic slowdown, depleted foreign reserves, debt servicing and repayments, environmental disasters, and the unexpected consequences of Brexit.
But he warned: “Our neighbouring countries are outsmarting us and have faster growth rates while we are running around like headless chickens.”
Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and India all have growth rates of 6.2%-7.8%, Mushin told the association’s annual general meeting.
“The need to change and adapt to face these new challenges can no longer be dealt with on a ‘wait-and-see’ policy,” he said.
“We can no longer be reactive to circumstances but we should now be proactive and be prepared to recognise the challenges with forethought. Change in the mindset of all parties involved is an imperative and must be addressed now.
“Red tape and overlapping functions of several ministries, several strategic initiatives being undertaken by several agencies on the same topic of trade and strategic policy has created an environment of confusion and inconsistency,” Mushin said.
“What we need is a political policy agreed by all coalition partners of government, accountability of ministries and more importantly make the Prime Minister’s policy statement to be the driving vision of this country.
“We need to collectively work on private-public partnerships and engage in all areas of trade such as free trade agreements, bilateral trade and economic diplomacy and remove all red tape and hurdles to make Sri Lanka’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business index to be within the top 5 in Asia and top 20 globally.”
Mushin said Sri Lanka needs to study the examples of Vietnam and Dubai see how they drew top brands to set up there, noting that Sri Lanka cannot continue to rely on its existing basket of export products.
“I appeal to all stakeholders involved in exports; we have been silent far too long and been politically correct. It is time we all spoke with one voice and be the drivers of our industry.”
(COLOMBO, July 24, 2016)