|Thursday, 8 August 2002|
Employment and Labour Minister and Chief Government Whip, Mahinda Samarasinghe contested the 7.5 percent unemployment figure given in the Central Bank report when he addressed the National Convention on Quality and Productivity 2002 held at the BMICH, Colombo recently.
Minister Samarasinghe said the Central Bank figure is highly incorrect because it is based on a definition which treats a person as employed even if he or she works one hour per week. Everyone knows that one cannot get an income to survive and meet one's needs by working one hour per week, the Minister said. "We have to be true to ourselves and self critical if we are to rectify shortcomings in all sectors of the economy and levels of administration.".
He said his ministry is a unique ministry which represented the tripartite character of society - the government, employers and employees. It has now been entrusted with the subject of productivity too by the Prime Minister.
The ministry has now formulated a National Productivity Policy in a fully open, transparent and accountable manner by consulting all stakeholders in society. Minister Samarasinghe said he has always championed the cause of transparency and accountability both as an opposition and a government MP.
He said he was grateful to US Aid for financing the formulation of the Productivity Policy on the private sector. The Secretary General of the Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) has pledged for the Productivity Policy on the public sector and he would thank APO for it. Two consultants from Malaysia would arrive here to assist in formulating the Public Sector Productivity Policy and by September the ministry would have the two components ready to be handed over to the Prime Minister.
This should not stop there. The document would be an excellent one but its success would depend on the successful implementation of what is embodied in it.
The Minister said: "Today we have a situation in the world where we have new and different trade regimes. There are garment manufacturers, exporters who would testify to the fact that come 2005 we will have to stand on your own two feet to compete as a result of these new and different trade regimes coming in to play. When that happens we can't rely on quotas, we can't rely on special concessions; we have to say that we are competitive to enter those markets and stay in those markets. So it is high time that this productivity culture is inculcated and what we aim to do after we present the National Productivity Policy is to work with society, to work with the schools work with other sectors of a economy to ensure that this new productivity culture will be felt and understood by the people of this country. By all of the stakeholders which are important is the sustainability the implementation of the long term sustainability of what we are trying to achieve in this country.
"So we have the Employment Policy by September. We will have the Productivity Policy and are working on the labour reforms which are needed to create that conducive environment in our society to attract investment to encourage the private sector to expand their industries.
I am bringing in a new law. Actually this was a proposal made by the Prime Minister himself. He was behind this law, working with me on this law. By end of August we will have law in place which will make it mandatory for labour tribunal cases to finish in three months, for arbitration to finish in two months, for termination application for the Labour Commissioner General to finish in one month.
There are other labour reforms that we are working on, all those will be coming very soon. Then at a higher level we have the competitiveness initiative and of course with that competitiveness initiative with all these things working upwards will gain that comparative advantage which will make us realise or enable us to realise that very ambitious 10% growth rate which the Prime Minister has set this government to achieve. And of course if we can go to that high level of economic growth then we will have real development which would also enhance social justice in this country, Minister Samarasinghe said.
Produced by Lake House