Business Chambers laud Govt’s COVID-19 response | Daily News


Business Chambers laud Govt’s COVID-19 response

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs, the National Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka, National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka, the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka, Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce Sri Lanka and Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka have written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa lauding the Government’s effort to combat the COVID-19 contagion and suggesting immediate, short and medium term measures to minimise the effect on the economy. “We wish to convey our fullest support and appreciation for the timely actions taken by the Government under your able leadership to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. We strongly believe that the measures taken by the Government have and will contribute significantly to prevent the virus spreading at a much faster pace. We are cognizant however, that in spite of the best efforts taken by the Government, the risk of further escalation remains alongside the consequential disruption to livelihoods and medium to long term impact to the National Economy,” the letter added.

The Chambers recommended several measures which included the following:

Continue the containment strategy now in place until Sunday (22) and review the need to extend it for a further period thereafter. The strategy should include identification of key hotspots through the use of Geographical Information System (GIS) tools combined with Big Data Analytics. Further, the strategy should include:

* Stoppage of all foreign travel to and from the country virtually shutting down the airport and port for passenger travel.

* Suspension of all non-essential business other than those engaged in essential services and in the supply of food, medicine, fuel and banking services. This will compel citizens to stay at home curtailing movements except for essential purposes.

* Implement a unified and central system to publish information on the current and future actions.

* To ensure that there is no disruption in supply of goods to retail stores with special emphasis on food and medicines, the government should have special procurement measures so that the private sector is able to source from different sources such as economic centres.

* Border agencies should provide uninterrupted services albeit with a skeleton staff and maximum precautionary steps taken to ensure their safety. To facilitate this process, the customs and border agencies should deploy a less stringent regime with respect to examination

* Priority should be given to facilitte local production of essential safety items (such as masks, gloves, hand sanitiser liquid) to meet the demand. In this respect, it is recommended that the government waives or relaxes the licensing requirements placed on the importation of raw material required to produce such items.

* For worst affected industries like Tourism and Construction, the government could consider in consultation with the banks to look at short term working capital loans to ensure payment of wages among others.

* Deploy strategic procurement strategies to exploit the sharp fall in global oil prices. The benefit of low oil prices can be translated in to targeted benefits to consumers and targeted activities and sectors. Such measures can ease the financial burden on low income households.

* Establish a committee with representatives across all sectors to strategize Sri Lanka’s response to the demand slowdown that is expected to take place in key export markets as a result of COVID- 19.

These measures will help arrest the rapid spread of the virus and help stabilise the economy in the coming weeks and months.


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