Speaker proposes renewal of Palk Strait bridge project | Sunday Observer

Speaker proposes renewal of Palk Strait bridge project

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Ramal Jasinghe
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Ramal Jasinghe

The government sees immense potential in having a bridge across the Palk Strait connecting India and Sri Lanka, that would strengthen trade and bilateral relations between the two countries, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told guests at the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) recently.

He said the government is interested in the project that was mooted way back in 2001 under the UNF government. However, the proposal to build a bridge was shot down by Jayalalithaa and thereafter, by certain segments of Sri Lankan society who claimed that the country would lose its island status.

“Constructing a bridge across the Palk Strait is commercially viable for both countries. However, it is up to the country to think about it. The bridge across the Palk Strait linking Sri Lanka and India will be like the Suez Canal to Egypt. India can be a good market for exports,” Jayasuriya said.

Going forward in developing exports, he said the Chamber with the Export Development Board must pursue the idea of holding an expo show similar to the Expo 92 that was a tremendous success.

Recalling what President Ranasinghe Premadasa told the country ‘Export or perish’ Jayasuriya said the NCE should take the lead with the support of the EDB to create a vibrant export industry in the country.

He said Lalith Athulathmudali set up export processing villages which was a tremendous success. Similarly, steps should be made to set up such villages across the country that would help develop niche products for exports.

Jayasuriya also said that it is his wish to have an export development bank to support the export industry.

Setting up an export import bank has been in the pipelines for many years but to-date no concerted effort has been made to get it off the ground.

He said that certain segments try to gain political mileage by exaggerating that the withdrawal of the US GSP will be a huge blow to Sri Lanka’s exports. This is totally false since it is only a small quantity export items that is eligible for exports under the special trade facility.

NCE President Ramal Jasinghe who was appointed for the second year said the NCE is planning to hold a Sri Lankan Trade Exhibition from August 23 to 25 in Chennai.

The chamber proposes to hold the event following the finalisation of the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) with India, which is expected to be concluded by the end of the year.

“The trade exhibition will help promote Sri Lankan products and services that have immense potential for the Indian market under the concessions that will become available under the agreement,” Jasinghe said.

The event will be conducted in partnership with the EDB, the Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Department of Customs.

Founder Chairman SSA Business Solutions (Pvt) Ltd., N.C. Narayanan said Sri Lanka has lot of potential to increase exports from the current level. What is need is a change of mindset that should begin in the organisation to be cost effective and deliver value to customers.

“India and China have made great strides through the manufacturing sector. Sri Lanka should focus on producing high tech products to capture larger markets,” he said.