Unrest taking its toll on economy, biz community | Sunday Observer

Unrest taking its toll on economy, biz community

Sri Lanka Tourism sources said currently the situation in the hill country has been brought under control and that it is too early to make an assessment of the damage to the tourism industry and the economy at large.

“We need to wait and see and probably it would take around three to four days to make some judgment on the impact of the violence on the country.”

Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Kavan Ratnayaka in a statement to the media last week said it is a wake up call that shows the gravity of immature behaviour of those who contributed to the situation.

He said in two years, the tourism industry will be the number one foreign exchange earner for the country. Therefore, it is important that the society- at large understand the importance of preserving a peaceful environment to sustain and grow this business.

The next time before someone throws a stone, or engages in any kind of road-rage, they should think ten times of the wide-ranging economic consequences of their actions.

The loss of income affects not only the major hotels, but also the street seller, the Tuk driver, the farmer and the restaurant worker.

However, economists, think tanks and business chambers out rightly condemned the recent violence in the country that would totally tarnish the image of the country, keep foreign investors away and make the destination a taboo for tourists.

They said such incidents will plunge the economy further into crisis to a point of no returning given the dire need to resuscitate the economy which had struggled to take off after the end of a thirty year conflict

Former Central Bank Deputy Governor W.A Wijewardena said the riots in the hill country released a very bad signal to the international community and in particular foreign investors who look for stability calm and order in the destination they chose to invest.

He said though the outcome of the incident would not be as the same scale of the 1983 riots it will dealt a fatal blow on the economy when at a time measures are taken to stabilze the inflation, exchange control, reverse the declining growth rate and try to get investors to come to the country.

“The government should not permit extremist groups who think the country belongs to them and that all other minority groups must hand over their property to them in which case investors will focus on other destinations for investments.

“Banning social media 100 percent will not solve the problem. It would affect foreign travelers who mainly use social media to communicate with their kith and kin,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in a media release stated they condemn religious and ethnic intolerance which has led to the current situation of unrest. “We call upon those vested with authority to take stringent measures to control all efforts to perpetrate violence. We urge all persons to unite and provide leadership to prevent further violence or the propagation of disharmony.

“Recent history has shown us how seriously our people were affected by a conflict rooted in communal disharmony. A recurrence of such a conflict will impact adversely on the development of this country in many ways i.e. spiritually, socially and economically. We call upon our citizens to act in a responsible manner and help the authorities restore normalcy.”

Sujeeve Samaraweera, President, National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) said their chamber vehemently condemns the situation that has suddenly erupted in the country, sparked off by a minor incident.

“It is important, and we reiterate that such unrest will only take the country’s economy to difficult situations. We should remember that majority of the enterprises/businesses in Sri Lanka are the small and medium enterprises and these business are already in trouble due to the prevailing situation. Moreover, the impression that the rest of the world have on us could be damaged and will lead to loss of confidence of the international business community in Sri Lanka, and that could lead to so many economic difficulties that Sri Lanka could face in time to come,” the statement said.

The National Chamber calls upon all citizens in the country at this moment, to be calm, act intelligently and not bow down to hearsay at a situation of this nature and requests the state authorities to immediately take action and bring back normalcy to our dear motherland.”

Former Tea Exporters Association and currently Heladiv Group Chairman Rohan Fernando said he was in Digana over the long weekend but could not witness any form of unrest or disharmony among the residents in Madawala, Mankhinna, Digana or anywhere in the Kandy region.

These are places where Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims live in peace and harmony since the time of ancient kings. Then to learn of a delayed reaction it must be an organised effort by persons with ulterior motive to create mayhem and disrupt civil society.

The authorities must take the blame for lack of intelligence especially after finishing the 30-year civil war and the inability to take control of the situation without delay. The delay in taking punitive action has caused the country much strife in terms of racial disharmony and disruption to tourism and economic activity.

Having responsible officers in the correct places and being alert to activities of disruptive elements are key to maintaining law and order in the country. Declaring emergency should have been the last resort after calling in the STF who are trained in anti-subversive activities, he said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a special statement said the situation in Kandy has been brought under control and arrangements have been made to ensure adequate stocks of food available in the area.

The Prime Minister pledged to compensate the affected parties.

However, he said the incidents have delivered a great blow to the tourism in the country and the economy as a whole while it has also tarnished its reputation.