|Tuesday, 14 October 2003|
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Keeping the industrial sector humming
Moves by the State to foster industrial harmony could be considered a stitch in time, which could indeed save nine. The reason for this assessment is the news that moves are afoot in some quarters to infect the country's mercantile sector too with the trade union unrest which has already gripped sections of the public sector.
The principal demand among these trade unions is, apparently, a substantial salary increase but common sense should dictate to these sections that it is only economic prosperity which could lay the basis for the granting of salary demands. Accordingly, there needs to be a dynamic effort to propel the economy towards greater growth and this wouldn't be possible without industrial harmony or accord between capital and labour.
Therefore, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe needs to be commended for this bit of foresight in calling upon Industries Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to set up the necessary machinery to not only bring about industrial harmony but to also ensure that the industrial sector continues to hum without a hitch. For instance, preparations are under way to ensure a dialogue between the State and ailing industries on rectifying the bottlenecks lying in the path of the latter. As pointed out in our lead story yesterday, some four million local jobs are dependent on the country's industrial sector, and every effort needs to be made to ensure that problems affecting its efficacy are quickly overcome through a close liaison between the State authorities and local industries.
The recent Rupee appreciation, although seen as a blessing by importers, couldn't be seen in the same light by exporters in view of the reduced earnings it is likely to bring. Today, more than ever before, therefore, the local export sector needs to be assisted by the State to make its operations viable or profitable. Institutions such as the Industrial Development Board, the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and the trade chambers need to collaborate closely with the Industries Ministry and other relevant State bodies, to ensure that our manufacturing and services sectors continue to operate with maximum profitability. There is a pressing need to energetically market our goods and services abroad and to expand market access internationally for our products. We are certain that the upcoming Preferential Trade Agreement with Indian Ocean states, recently announced by Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando, would help boost regional trade and help in the further uplift of our industrial sector. However, emerging economic opportunities need to be energetically seized.
Moreover there is no doubt that industrial peace should be one of our top priorities. While the indications are that the current round of trade union unrest has a political dimension, it is ailing productive sectors which spur worker discontent in the first place. If a concerted effort is made to ensure the continued dynamism of our industrial sector, the possibilities could be reduced of worker unrest being exploited by vested interests for the furtherance of political agendas. Every avenue needs to be explored, therefore, to promote worker well-being and productivity.
Produced by Lake House