Jaffna's drive to prosperity
Jaffna, the main city in the North, is now the on the cusp of a
development revolution. The area has progressed rapidly since its
liberation from the LTTE in 1995. A recent event marked the revival of
paddy cultivation in the peninsula. The Nallur Kovil festival attracted
hundreds of thousands of devotees from here and abroad. Trade and
education exhibitions conducted in Jaffna have been tremendously
The biggest boost to the fortunes of Jaffna was the liberation of the
entire North from the LTTE in May this year and the subsequent opening
of major highways including the Kandy-Jaffna A9 to commercial traffic.
This means that Jaffna is no longer an 'island' cut off from the rest of
Before the opening of the A9, goods and passengers had to be
transported by sea via Trincomalee. This was an expensive, time
consuming process. The prices of goods were much higher in Jaffna due to
This picture is now being changed. Leading businesspersons and
analysts say Jaffna has the potential to become a leading bustling
business centre in the country. The banking sector has already realized
this - the leading private banks are scrambling to gain a foothold
there. Telecommunications services are expanding at an accelerated pace.
The entry of the Sri Lanka Air Force as a commercial carrier to the
Colombo-Jaffna air route has also helped the business sector in Jaffna.
Other investments in logistics, food processing, industries,
education, transport, warehousing, tourism and cold storage post harvest
technology are in the offing. More foreign investors should be
encouraged to set up ventures in the peninsula.
The National Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (NCCSL) is playing a
leading role in this transformation, along with the relevant business
chambers in Jaffna.
A 50-member delegation from the NCCSL recently visited Jaffna to meet
the Jaffna business community and to explore opportunities there. The
NCCSL's visit had resulted in progress towards developing business
The NCCSL is already assisting the Jaffna Women's Chamber of Commerce
under the Business Processing Fund, a grant by the Netherlands
Government. The Fund will provide machinery and equipment to start
business and nearly 50 recipients have benefited from this scheme.
The Ministry of Industries is also planning to set up an industrial
zone in Jaffna which will accommodate local and foreign investments.
The linkage between the Southern and Northern business communities
augurs well for the economy. The re-integration of the North and the
East to the national economy will definitely help increase its growth
The easing of restrictions on fishing and the recommencement of
agricultural activities in the North are just two factors that will
drive this growth. It is also important to identify other potential
businesses that had been affected by the conflict and take steps to
revive them. All possible incentives and concessions should be granted
for rejuvenating these businesses. This will help generate employment
for the Jaffna youth. leaving no room for certain elements to exploit
As a city which suffered the brunt of the conflict, Jaffna does have
many woes. There should be better roads and improved access to the road
Other infrastructure facilities too have to be developed. It was only
recently that Jaffna received a 24-hour electricity supply. The
electricity network in Jaffna must be expanded to meet the rising demand
from homes and industries.
The much-anticipated recommencement of train services to Jaffna will
enable goods to be sent by rail at affordable rates. Facilities should
be provided for tourists to visit Jaffna. The city needs more star class
hotel rooms to cater to this influx of local and foreign tourists. More
tourist spots in the peninsula must be identified. Another exciting area
for growth is education - there is a dearth of educational opportunities
for Jaffna students. Educational institutions will thus be able to
thrive in Jaffna.
The Port at Kankesanthurai must be developed to facilitate exporters
and importers. This must be done with an eye on the huge Indian market.
Jaffna can position itself as a 'gateway to India' due to its proximity.
A ferry service too will be ideal to cater to passenger transport needs
between the two countries.
The NCCSL has suggested the opening of a 'one-stop shop' for dealing
with all business inquiries on Jaffna. This is a timely proposal because
red tape and other impediments will not be conducive for the rapid
development of Jaffna. This should necessarily have offices in Colombo
and Jaffna. Our trade missions abroad can promote this 'one stop shop'
among potential investors in those countries.
Jaffna has a resourceful, persevering people who can be fully
involved with the development drive envisaged under the Uthuru
Wasanthaya program. All government and private sector stakeholders must
strive to make it a great success.