ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka authorities will introduce a long-awaited National Export Strategy (NES) this week (19), but export industry is calling on the shaky administration to focus on implementation, as many of the reforms required requires government action such as improving the investment climate.
“Time and again we have stressed the importance and need for a strong, positive political will and vision to drive the exports sector of our country to reach its full potential,” the Export Association of Sri Lanka President Harin Fernando said addressing the 21st AGM of the association on Friday.
“But sadly, it seems that our pleas have been in vain.”
Unveiling the long overdue NES is not enough, he said
“The private sector cannot be called up on to drive this on behalf of the government,” Fernando said.
“It is absolutely imperative that either the President or Prime Minister personally oversee the implementation process of the recommended policies in the NES,” he urged.
The Export Association of Sri Lanka, which is part of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, comprises around 1,000 members who account for over 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s total annual exports.
The association has submitted its recommendations to the NES classified under five broad themes: improving the investment climate for export industries, addressing market access constraints, trade liberalisation, fostering innovation, and effective policy implementation especially with regards to the NES.
Digitalising the land bank, an effective national single window, a trade information portal, labour reforms and overhauling the Customs Ordinance are some of the recommendations made by the export association.
“I will like to go record and state that transparency, accountability and implementation are what we are requesting from the current and future government and policy makers,” Fernando said.
Successful implementation maybe the government’s responsibility, but others believe the export sectors is not doing enough for itself.
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rajendra Theagarajah who was chief guest at the AGM said exporters need to be more pragmatic and proactive.
“Waiting for the government to take the lead on innovation is not going to work,” he said, adding that businesses should be taking the lead instead.
He also urged members of the Export Association of Sri Lanka to pressure government to remove import protections, without which export growth would be difficult to achieve.
“It’s not just about growing exports. To improve connectivity and competitiveness of our exports we need imports. There is a need for the elimination of para tariffs and barriers to trade in this country,” he said. (COLOMBO, 15 July 2018)