The National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) will implement the ‘holding hands’ concept practiced in many developed countries to boost Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) by fast-tracking the approval process and getting investments off the ground, NCCSL President Sujiva Samaraweera said.
Samaraweera who was elected as the 32nd president of the Chamber last week, said the Chamber will not wait for trade delegations to come to the country to spearhead investments but would rather create a platform that would facilitate FDIs to the country.
“Opportunities will be provided for investors to have joint ventures with local partners that will pave the way for employment for youth and thereby support regional development,” Samaraweera said.
The NCCSL, a pioneer Chamber since independence plays a pivotal role in facilitating trade, investment and supporting small and medium sector enterprise development in the country.
“The Chamber will go the whole hog to ensure the formalities for FDIs are expedited provided the investments are legitimate and substantial,” Samaraweera said. With regard to Free Trade Agreements the Chamber has made its stance clear that there has to be a national trade policy that governs any trade agreement and that it has to bring about a win-win situation.
“This is our position even with the Economic Cooperation Technology Agreement (ECTA),” a senior official of the Chamber said. He said, India has a well defined foreign trade policy which is updated every five years.The current policy statement is applicable until 2020. Consistency of policies is crucial to sustain economic growth.
Samaraweera said the Chamber will rethink of its strategy to be direct and bold especially when is comes to trade policies, signing of trade agreements, anti dumping measures and creating a skilled workforce in the country.
“Our focus will be to urge the private sector to set a precedent in promoting a corruption free business environment in the country. The Chamber will call upon its member companies to implement anti corruption measures in the organization itself which will be an eye opener for the other private sector institutions and the public sector to be law abiding and serve the country better,” he said.
The NCCSL also will come up with programs with the support of foreign development agencies to create a skilled workforce for the country which is short of workers who are competent in various sectors. The skilled workforce shortage in the country is around 15 to 20 percent.
“We have commenced negotiations with foreign development agencies to support the endeavors of the Chamber to bridge the skilled workforce gap in the country,” Saraweera said. The Australian government has volunteered to fund the e-commerce and marketing development to empower women and the differently-abled sector in the country.
The NCCSL has been in the forefront of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development as this sector is considered key driving force of the economy. SMEs comprise 70 percent of the enterprises and provide approximately 45 percent of the employment in the country.
However, this sector has less access to modern technology primarily due to lack of funds and less attention by the State and lending organizations. Further, SMEs are not directly connected to markets especially in the case of exports.
“The Chamber will develop skills in this sector but to provide services in the area of finding local and international markets for SME products which is a key factor for the development of the sector,” Samaraweera said. The Chamber launched the Western Province Entrepreneurship Awards for the first time in 2016 on an invitation by the National Enterprise Development Authority.
“We are paving the path for SMEs to come to national level and compete in the National Business Excellence Awards,” an official of the Chamber said He said the Chamber welcomes the decision of European Union to grant the GSP Plus facility to Sri Lanka which will have a positive impact on Sri Lanka’s exports to the region.
The Chamber notes that it is vital to keep the cost of production low to make products competitive in the international market especially with Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar.
“Reducing the utility prices which is high compared to many countries in the region will help enhance competitiveness of export products,” Samaraweera said.