The economy faces numerous challenges and the country’s GDP growth has been below 4% for five consecutive quarters. The LKR has been under pressure against the US dollar this year, a trend with most emerging and Asian currencies. There is also a slowdown in certain reform initiatives such as the customs ordinance and state-owned enterprises, said Rajendra Theagarajah, Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, addressing the 179th AGM of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in Colombo yesterday, June 28.
The chief guest at the AGM was Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Finance and Mass Media, and Mr. Theagarajah said that under Minister Samarweera’s leadership and with the stewardship provided by the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, they had seen a significant improvement in the macroeconomic fundamentals and a positive shift in the economic narrative for the country.
“Our hope is that programs such as ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ and ‘Gamperaliya’ (Village Transformation) will bring up the next generation of entrepreneurs and drive economic development to the village,” noted Mr. Theagarajah.
Following is Mr. Theagarajah’s speech at the AGM:
Last year was a challenging year for the private sector and our members balancing both external and domestic risks. While macro stability has been achieved to a great extent with higher level of reserves, FDI and exports reaching all-time highs in 2017, business confidence has been tepid in the backdrop of political uncertainty. We have also seen a semblance of policy congruence in recent policy documents brought out by the government which has been lacking in recent years. As we have highlighted in numerous forums and submissions, the credibility of government policy will solely rest on the effectiveness of its implementation.
I would like to take this occasion to urge all the stakeholders to be united in preventing violence and propagate harmony amongst communities. Sri Lanka’s development will be adversely hindered if we see recurrence of events that transpired in Kandy during March 2018.
The economy presently faces numerous challenges. The country’s GDP growth has been below 4% for five consecutive quarters. The LKR has been under pressure against the US dollar this year, a trend we have seen with most emerging and Asian currencies. We have also seen a slowdown in certain reform initiatives such as the customs ordinance and state-owned enterprises.
Having said that, we have seen progress in terms of trade and investment facilitation. The Chamber favors an outward orientation of the economy which involves deeper engagement with countries such as through bi-lateral Agreements such as FTA’s. The recently signed FTA with Singapore along with the legislation on Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties and Safeguard Measures are examples of this.
On FTAs, the Chamber facilitated many meetings for the Negotiating Team to consult with private sector stakeholder groups and is currently studying the text of the Singapore Agreement to provide a responsible view and opinion which is missing in the current discourse in the public domain. The discussion while focusing on national interests should also be based on sound facts in the context of the overall development strategy for the country taking into account the trade and investment nexus. Irresponsible statements that are not based on the truth should be avoided.
Hon. Minister, the effort made by the Ceylon Chamber demonstrates our commitment to contribute towards the national development agenda of the Government. Your address this evening will no doubt add great value to the audience and guide the private sector in the year ahead.
The Chamber will continue to engage in the process of private-public dialogue, voice our concerns to government and policymakers and be an enabler in progressing Sri Lanka’s economic development agenda.