‘Private sector should be roped in to create jobs in the North’ | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

‘Private sector should be roped in to create jobs in the North’

There is great scope for SMEs and the garment manufacturing sector, but they want infrastructure, trained labour, marketing facilities and low cost transport. PIC: LAKE HOUSE MEDIA LIBRARY
There is great scope for SMEs and the garment manufacturing sector, but they want infrastructure, trained labour, marketing facilities and low cost transport.PIC: LAKE HOUSE MEDIA LIBRARY

It is nine years since the three-decade long conflict which mostly affected the Northern and the Eastern Province has ended. Yet, the progress on the commercial and industrial sectors in these provinces is picking up at a slow pace, according to the representatives of the business chambers in the North and the East.

People in general and the commercial and industrial entrepreneurs in particular look with much anticipation to coordinate and streamline the processes with provincial and central administrations to expedite industrial and commercial development in the region.

Most of the industrial and commercial ventures, big and small time, in the sectors of agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, chemical, construction and palmyrah was devastated during the conflict and virtually all programs and projects envisaged by the two successive governments, including several industrial parks, are yet to take off.

“Lack of coordination and mutual cooperation between the central and the provincial administrations is one of the issues for this setback,” aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs told the Business Observer.

Living amidst poverty and social trauma, the people look to something or someone to support them fast-track industrial and commercial development and resume progress as in the ‘good old days’. “But things are only moving at a snail’s pace,” they lamented.

They are of the view that finding ways and means of exploring the vast natural resources of the two provinces by strengthening the private sector to create employment opportunities and livelihood facilities is the only way to make the regions bounce back.

Jaffna representative of the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries (CNCI), K.C.Vignrajah, a reputed professional with financial and management credentials and long years of involvement and participation in industrial and financial institutions, told the Business Observer, that the CNCI being an organisation that contributed immensely to the formation and development of industries in Sri Lanka, feels that although there is a broad spectrum of people willing and ready to contribute and invest to build an enterprising society in the North, various factors especially the non-cooperative approach between the central and provincial administrations keep them away.

“There is great scope for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the garment manufacturing sector, but they want infrastructure, trained labour, marketing facilities and low cost transport. These are the issues to be addressed soon,” he said.

The entrepreneurs and investors want everything done in the respective areas instead of having to go to Colombo to get every minor thing attended to and also to get permission from the authorities such as the Road Development Authority and the Urban Development Authority. There should be coordination and some sort of arrangement between the centre and provinces on these matters, Vignarajah said.

Everyone will benefit if such an agreement on power-sharing on these matters can be reached, he said, adding that there also should be arrangements on bonding the North and the South to promote industry and commerce. The CNCI is working on projects in the North, funded by the USAID, World Bank and other international agencies and they also gave guidance to a German-funded ‘quality assurance project’ which was to start work in Jaffna, Vignarajah said.

President of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Rasiah Janakumar said that their activities are confined mainly to livelihood programs and social service works.

Over a100 people had submitted their proposals to USAID for the Rs. 500,000 assistance, of which 50 percent is anoutright grant, for starting self-employment ventures or SMEs but only about two people have so far received the assistance.

Most of the USAID assistance goes to the South in spite of the fact that the Northern people need assistance on a priority basis because they were most affected in the three-decade-long conflict.

The North and the South should not be measured with the same yardstick, Janakumar said.

They explained their desperate need for financial support and assistance to the Finance Minister and the Central Bank Governor during their recent visit to Jaffna, he said.

Most of the essential food items are imported from India and when they come through Colombo the cost is comparatively higher. Therefore, the Government should expedite the process of developing the KKS harbour and the Palaly airport so that imports can come direct to the North.

That will facilitate the export of local products to India and other countries while also contributing to an increase in local products, Janakumar said.

Former President of the JCC, Pathmalingam Jeyasekaran said that they met with the Chairman of the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA) recently and requested for concessionary loans up to ceiling of Rs. 2.5 million for prospective smallscale investors in the animal husbandry sector at an interest rate of 2 percent and a 10-year repayment period because the Northern province has very good scope for animal husbandry.

The REPPIA Chairman promised to consider their request favourably, he said. Commercial activities in the Northern province have not picked up momentum although several livelihood-oriented projects are in the pipeline, Jayasekaran said. 

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