The Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) and the USAID-SAIL project hosted a Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on global trade for businessmen in the Kandy District at Hotel Suisse in Kandy recently.
The event, titled, ‘Kandy in the Global Economy – How can the district maximise benefits and minimise risks?’, was the second in a series of district-level PPDs being held to increase the general awareness and understanding of trade, and obtain the views of wider and more representative groups of stakeholders across the country.
The resource personnel were led by USAID-SAIL Trade Expert Dr. Sanath Jayanetti. He was followed by Deputy Director, Department of Commerce, Premathilake Jayakodi,who spoke on Certificate of Origin, Assistance for the exporters through commercial attaches abroad and the Trade Information Portal.
Superintendent of Customs, Lal Weerakoon elaborated on ‘New Initiatives at the Customs’ and Assistant Registrar, Registrar of Companies, Heshan Mathugamage outlined the progress of ‘EROC (e-Registration of Companies) project’ and his role as the Official Receiver. Each presentation was followed by a questions and answers session.
There was a special segment in the program to listen to a ‘Success Story’. Chairman, Earth Bound Creations (Pvt) Ltd, Sagara Ranga Liyanage described his journey from humble beginnings to an industry leader, transforming waste products into useful household items.
The guest of honour was Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Reed Aeschliman.
Deputy Director, Economic Growth Division, USAID, Brian Wittnebel, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrema, Secretary MODSIT, Sisira Kodikara, and Chief of Party, USAID-SAIL Project, Glenn Mackenzie-Frazer were also present.
Minister Samarawickrema said, “The focus of the government is to shift the economic growth model from one that was heavily dependent on debt-fuelled public infrastructure spending, to growth driven more by private enterprises, exports, and foreign direct investment.
Attracting foreign investment is a key priority of the country right now, and this is where a lot of our policy initiatives are being undertaken.
“We have embarked on a path of cutting para-tariffs within three years; and already work on over 1,200 items have been completed. In Parliament last year we passed long overdue trade remedy legislation that provide protection to our enterprises against unfair competition and undue pressure from imports.”
“We have signed FTAs, such as the landmark one with Singapore, and several more – with India, China and Thailand – in the pipeline. We also have the new Trade Adjustment Program and the Trade and Productivity Commission that were approved recently.
“Today’s event aims to provide useful insights and guidance to you in the private sector and also get your observations and views. I am delighted to note that it is taking place in the historic district of Kandy which happens to be my adopted home town. The Kandy District is known to be a key player in the trade sector of the economy,” he said.
Guest of Honour, Reed Aeschliman said, “The US-Sri Lanka development and humanitarian assistance dates back to 1956. Since then, the US Government’s development agency, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, has invested over Rs. 320 billion (USD 2 billion) in grant aid not loans.
Minister Samarawickrema had a special message for the private sector.
“The economy has to be driven by the private sector, and that too by a private sector that is willing and able to compete internationally. We are a small domestic market, and we have no option but to integrate strongly with the global economy,” he said.