“SL should continue development plans to fuel growth” | Sunday Observer

“SL should continue development plans to fuel growth”

It is too early to assess the economic impact of the Easter Sunday attacks which dealt a severe blow to many sectors including the tourism industry. The country needs to have a sound national security cover and a vigilant surveillance system to meet challenges of this nature, an expert analyst said.

“The measures taken to beef up national security are important for quick recovery and Sri Lanka should continue with its accelerated development policies and plans to fuel growth.

The government should support the badly hit sectors with financial and other assistance to bounce back soon to enable them to positively contribute to economic growth, former President, Stock Brokers Association and economic analyst Ravi Abeysuriya said.

Elaborating on the measures that should be taken by Sri Lanka on ‘How Can the country Recover’, he said that while it’s too early to quantify the economic impact from the attacks, the overall economic impact could be far reaching.

“The economic setback will be felt in the tourism sector with spillover impact on the financial, food and beverage sectors.

This will have an impact on the livelihood of millions of people who depend on sectors that are adversely affected. A lot of hard work will have to be put in to build confidence and credibility on the country among the local and international community,” he said at an interview with Business Observer.

Excerpts:

The well-coordinated suicide-bombings on April 21 that left over 250 people dead was a catastrophic inteligence failure. The World has learned a great deal about how to thwart terrorists since September 11, 2001. A crucial lesson is that it is vital to share information quickly and widely, so that fragmentary intelligence can be pieced together, followed up and action taken.

This is precisely what our leaders and Ministry of Defence failed to do, despite receiving an unusually detailed ‘operational grade intelligence’ from Indian security agencies on an imminent attack by National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) on April 4.

If the discovery of a huge haul of explosives and detonators in a training camp in Puttalam and the Philippines church bombings by Islamic State (ISIS) both in January 2019 together with detailed warnings received, were pieced together and followed up, this carnage of innocent people could have been easily prevented.

Terrorism rarely destroys tourism for good. When a terrorist attack occurs, prospective tourists may exhibit greater reluctance as they fear becoming victims of future terrorist attacks.

While terrorist attacks tend to cause an immediate decline in tourism demand, revenues are typically quite resilient, recovering in a matter of months as was the case in several countries that endured terrorist attacks on tourism. Secular declines in tourism activity are much more likely to be the result of protracted periods of political instability, due to its crippling effect on all components of the economy. Restoring normalcy, preventing any further terrorist attacks and any retaliatory action among the communities in Sri Lanka is imperative for the country to move ahead.

The people need to be assured that the government machinery to safeguard its people from acts of terrorism is effective, and that all political parties collectively work together setting aside political differences to accord the highest priority to national issues.

Several Chambers of Commerce and the business community have proposed five action points for the Government to do better in reviving the nation.

The five action points are:

1. National security

The National Security Council mechanism to be activated and the portfolios of Defence and of Law and Order to be placed in the hands of those who have the capacity to provide leadership to handle current and future challenges with foresight and devoid of political aspirations.

The President, the Prime Minister and Government should speak in a unified voice on the current and future actions after considering decisions are taken together. A 24-hour media response centre should be set up to respond to false reports that create fears and concerns among the public. The current legal provisions available (ICCPR Act) should be used to deal with hate speech.

Revival of the economy

Formulate a national policy for the revival of the major sectors (such as tourism) that are currently affected. For this purpose, adopt an inclusive process that secures inputs from all stakeholders.

Decision making in Government

To ensure speedy and sensible decision making in important areas, persons of competence should be appointed to key positions. Identify key positions in Government relevant to implement the development agenda and re-examine the capabilities of current holders of those positions. The government functionaries should have the capacity to take decisions speedily and without fear. If necessary, invite private sector leaders to handle those key positions.

Overall revival

Take appropriate action to inspire people of all political parties to unite in the revival process. This is a time to unite for the good of the country. Condemn the actions of those who seek to stifle a resurgence for narrow political gains. Ethnic unity should be consistently called for and extremism of all kinds should be abhorred and acted against, by the political leadership.

The elected representatives of the people should comply with a code of conduct when making public comments. They’re opinion makers and must act with responsibility. The media should to comply with the need for responsible reporting.

5. Effective communication and management of perceptions

Inspire confidence in the people of this country and internationally. Such an effort will result in our ability to reinforce the pursuit of vital economic objectives such as attracting investment, attracting tourists and being held out as a country that has systems and processes in place to deal with vulnerability to terrorism and the resilience to overcome such threats. 

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