|Thursday, 15 April 2004|
CCC presents proposals to new govt
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) in a press release said the work of the new Government must now begin and we wish to put forward the following priorities for its consideration.
These priorities are based on our belief that an appropriate Public - Private partnership with clearly defined roles for each is essential if the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people are to be met.
It is the position of the CCC that the Government must focus on the security of the nation, law and order, health, education and an appropriate policy framework to ensure the competitiveness of local industry and services and to achieve an equitable distribution of wealth across the nation whilst leaving economic activity in the hands of the private sector.
A lasting peace is the country's first priority. Without peace Sri Lanka will not attract the levels of investment it needs for accelerated growth leading to full and gainful employment. Urgent steps must therefore be taken to defuse the current tension between religious groups lest it gets out of hand and escalates into an ethnic conflict.
Accelerated economic growth is the country's second priority. Next to a lasting peace, the most pressing issue impacting economic activity is the supply of uninterrupted power at reasonable rates.
This is not a new phenomenon but unfortunately little attention has been paid by successive governments to this pressing issue. We trust the new Government will act quickly to forestall a possible power shortage in the not too distant future.
Development of other areas of infrastructure is crucial to improving Sri Lanka's competitiveness. Highways linking the major cities of Sri Lanka, the development of the Hambantota Port, and adequate health care and schooling facilities outside Colombo are pre-requisites to make areas outside the capital attractive locations for investment and business activity. Extending economic development to different parts of the country should be a cornerstone of policy.
Rapid economic growth will help reduce unemployment, this is Sri Lanka's third priority. Indeed the country must strive for full and gainful employment. In this context a modern education system that will meet the requirements of an increasingly competitive knowledge based global village is critical.
Sri Lanka being a small economy, growth must necessarily be export driven. Thus policies that enhance the competitiveness of our export businesses would be welcome as would be the quick finalisation of the FTA with the USA ideally before the possible negative fallout from expiry of the Multi Fibre Agreement (MFA) in 2005.
Fiscal discipline is the country's fourth priority. A low budget deficit leading to manageable levels of public debt and a low interest rate regime are essential if Sri Lanka's economy is to move forward. We are therefore concerned with the proposals to expand the public sector and to extend the role of the state in Commercial Activities.
Both are a step backwards and we urge the Government to re-consider these proposals in the best interest of the country.
Strengthening democracy via an institutionalised framework is the fifth priority facing Sri Lanka. The recently concluded elections have demonstrated the effectiveness of the Elections Commissioner and the Police Force now that they have been given wider institutionalised powers. This mechanism must be extended to cover other areas as well as was intended by the 19th Constitutional Amendment.
Maintaining law and order, eliminating bribery and corruption and the practice of Good Governance, eliminating barriers to trade and investment, reducing transaction time and cost and improving the enforceability of contracts are essential to enhance the competitiveness of Sri Lanka. Economic development will be accelerated only if we as a country become competitive in the global market.
We believe that these priorities cannot be met unless the different segments of Sri Lankan society come together in the best interest of the nation. Indeed a strong public - private partnership is of vital importance at this juncture and the new Government can rest assured of our fullest co-operation and assistance in guiding Sri Lanka and her people towards peace and prosperity in the coming years, the release said.
Produced by Lake House