Private sector can help Govt execute policies - Chairman, CNCI | Sunday Observer

Private sector can help Govt execute policies - Chairman, CNCI

Raja Hewabowala
Raja Hewabowala

The President of Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Raja Hewabowala said that the private sector industries could help the Government to execute its policies by providing support services, research and development activities, supporting to reduce unemployment among other ways.

Industries operate within the legal framework stipulated by the Government and the support they receive from Local Government institutions helps industries perform and contribute positively to the economic growth of the country.

Higher the rate of industrial support for the Government, the more it can focus on sustainable development of the country as a whole, he said at an interview with the Business Observer.

However, he said that the Chamber would like to emphasis the fact that the tax structure, opaque tender polices, certain corruptions in Government policy making and undesirable political influences over trade activities could adversely impact the entrepreneur development.


Q. What are the key priorities that your Chamber needs to address to further its agenda?

A. The prime responsibility of the Chamber is to dutifully discharge duties to its members. The current priorities are: 1.1 To promote and foster industrial growth in Sri Lanka and to co-operate with the Government and other Governmental and Non-Governmental Associations in the attainment of such objectives.

1.2 To promote and protect the interests of persons connected with industrial undertakings in Sri Lanka.

1.3 To promote and take action necessary to expand the export of industrial goods of Sri Lanka.

1.4 To assist and provide facilities for industrial research and to take necessary steps to further the introduction of more efficient manufacturing techniques.

1.5 To collect and circulate statistics and other information relating to industrial, commercial and economic matters.

1.6 To advise and communicate on economic and industrial matters with public authorities, and similar associations and with individuals.

1.7 To set up and assist in organising and establishing vocational and industrial training institutions in Sri Lanka and to arrange and assist in specialised training of personnel of member organisations.

1.8 To organise and participate in industrial exhibitions and seminars.

1.9 To do such other matters as may be necessary to carry out the objects of the Chamber.

1.10 To represent and express on industrial, commercial and economic matters the opinions of the industrial community in Sri Lanka and to aid, assist and co-operate with others in such representation and expression.

1.11 To foster fellow feeling and co-operation among industrialists, workers and consumers in all matters of common interest.

1.12 To mediate on behalf of members and settle disputes with Government Departments, and Ministries.

1.13 To publish industrial, economic, commercial, scientific, technical and vocational journals and literature and to propagate industry in Sri Lanka.

1.14 To maintain a library of books and publications on industrial, commercial and economic matters.

Q. How have you gained commitment from your team?

A. We work as a team to support achieving our present objectives for the benefit of all stakeholders. CNCI member team’s commitment and their diversified knowledge over various subjects are very important to dischargeour responsibilities effectively. The team is adequately equipped by their education, related experience and professionalism to handle the duties of the chamber successfully. Elaborating with an example, we as the chamber promptly interferes in to issues affect the industries from various trade pacts and government decisions and assess the detrimental effects to industries from them and discuss with relevant authorities for harmonisation.

Q. Is the regulatory environment in the country supporting the opportunities for entrepreneurs today?

A. There are various opportunities opened in the country for entrepreneur development. There are many successful entrepreneurs also available in the country as well as yet to come forward. However I would like to emphasis the tax structure, opaque tender polices, certain corruption in Government policy making and undesirable political influences over trade activities could adversely impact the entrepreneur development.

Various trade pacts with other countries influence the industrial sector in different ways. We always attempt to safeguard industries from negative influences due to such trade pacts by promptly dealing with government institutions to regulate and safeguard local entrepreneurs.

We proactively involve in submission of budget proposals and engage in co-ordination and discussion with Government bodies pertaining to budget decisions and subsequent impacts.

To strengthen the regulatory environment, these proposals and other relevant suggestions should be positively encouraged by the respective Government bodies. This is important, to have focused industrial development being aligned with global standards, to identify hidden resources in the country, exploit the creative skills of entrepreneurs within a legal and ethical framework to benefit the country as a whole.

Q. Is it hard to be optimistic about growth in industries when you see where the world is today?

A. It is hard to be optimistic about industrial growth in the country when compared to the global trend. However, there are many critical aspects the Sri Lankan leadership should be concerned about.

One is the quality of education including primary, secondary as well as tertiary levels. Is our education system qualitative enough to provide appropriate skills to support industries and to fulfill their expectations? This is a burning question mark for most industries in the country.

The weakening of the rupee is another concern for industrial performance due to increased prices of raw materials.

As most raw materials are imported in present, rupee depreciation negatively impacts the industries. However, there are very many untapped resources in the country while the industrial sector agonises over the price hikes of raw materials.

Our country is mainly dependent on a few basic exports and labour as our main foreign income. Export structure should be changed according to present levels of global needs as well as by optimising available national resources.

Some other aspects to be concerned of are infrastructure developments, clean water systems, uninterrupted electricity supply, land facilities, skilled labour and less rigid labour laws.

At present, infrastructure development is rather slow.

The Government should encourage industries to go for automation and develop productivity. To encourage this, Government could facilitate financial facilities for potential industrialists. Country must have good political leaders without corruption having adequate education to run the activities of Government.

As per the recent trends and above captioned concerns, it is hard to say that I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the industrial growth potential of the country but I would emphasis that there is a vast growth potential in the country as whole.

Q. How much business can the private sector do to really drive change?

A. The private sector is important for growth as well as its quality, sustainability and inclusiveness. The need to increase the role of this sector in development is important to support poverty eradication and the achievement of sustainable development of the country.

The private sector constitutes wide-ranging term covering all private actors engaged in economic activity, from the small boutique and family farmer to large domestic and foreign corporations.

Even though it is tempting to concentrate entirely on the role of multi-national corporations (MNCs) or large corporations for the growth of the economy, it is still critical to recognise that the private sector consists of more than formal businesses supporting the growth of the country.

Q. How do you propose to increase PPPs in industries? Can you name a few projects suitable for PPPs?

A. Most PPPs fail due to political intervention. When a Government is

changed, the entire operating structure is exposed to alteration due to various political influences including allegations.

This diminishes the confidence over PPPs. Hence, the private sector is reluctant to get involved in them. Our proposal to increase PPPs is to avoid the involvement of corruptpolitical influences into these agreements, upgrade the legislative environment in the country with justice and transparency with modifications to enhance the quality.

I strongly propose to strengthen the focus of the Ministry allocated to oversee the industrial development as its consistent and continuous emphasis could drive the county to prosper if it works with appropriate focus with genuine need to support the country.

Q. What are the immediate steps that the Government should take to tackle GDP growth?

A. There are certain areas the Government could look at immediately to support GDP growth.

* Accelerating the process of privatisation of Government activities so that they could be more productively undertaken by the private sector.

* Reforming the legal foundation of the economy. Certain legal procedures are too lengthy and decisions are late in execution. Certain legislative areas need to be further improved in line with the latest global trends.

* Increasing substantially the efficiency in critical Government functions. For example, efficiency in the areas of tax and Customs procedures. Reduced trade and regulatory barriers will enhance competitiveness.

* Making more opportunities for training and education for productive employment. This will not be only for young people entering the workforce. It will also provide the opportunity for the employed to improve their prospects and incomes.

* Reducing the cost of living.

This can only be done if the economy can produce more efficiently the food we eat, the clothes that we wear, and also our transportation.

Higher growth will not only mean more jobs and higher incomes, but it will also mean lower tax burdens and a lower real cost of living.

Q. How could the industries support Government’s plans?

A. Industries could help the Government to execute its policies by

providing support services, research and development activities, and help to reduce unemployment.

Industries operate within the legal framework stipulated by the Government and the support they receive from local government authorities helps industries perform and contribute positively for economic growth.

Higher the rate of industrial support for the Government, it can focus of strategy development of the country as whole for sustainability in the future.