National quality infrastructure, the way forward for export competitiveness - Part 2 | Sunday Observer

National quality infrastructure, the way forward for export competitiveness - Part 2

1 November, 2020

 Continued from last week

This needs to be done considering the present operation of regulatory bodies and the technical regulations as there is no proper authority to coordinate these activities as a result manufacturers, importers, exporters, and the public may face issues when it comes to the compliance due to the non-availability of a supervising institution having full powers.

It is very important to have an apex body to coordinate, supervise, assess, and to eliminate duplication or conflicting issues of the NQI institutions and to monitor the performance of these institutions to enhance efficiency. The most important fact is to have situations to make quick and faster decisions so that unforeseen costs that would add to the shoulders of the consumers having a detrimental effect on the economy can be avoided. Therefore, more disclosure-based regulations will need to be introduced and promoted transparency to expedite the approvals, certificates, and permits for various commercial transactions. With this approach, there should be stringent enforcement of penalties for wrongful disclosures.

The apex body can develop partnerships with internationally recognised bodies when the legal framework is developed providing authority to eliminate trade barriers paving the way for local manufactures to enter international markets.

This will support the SMEs to enhance their capabilities while supporting them to directly look for new markets without going through intermediate parties. One best example is small scale organic products growers, they are unable to penetrate new markets or to sell their products directly overseas as the international certificates needed to enter into such markets are not affordable by SMEs. As we are aware, usually the SME is the heart of the economy as it contributes to the economic development of any country and therefore there is a need to develop the SME sector.

The way forward

Even though the components of NQI is available in Sri Lanka it has not properly established by having a necessary regulatory framework enabling these institutions are properly coordinated, controlled, and updated to bring in institutional integration with the policy framework to have the internationally recognised accreditation of testing laboratories and of certifying bodies to be accepted throughout the supply chain and to achieve worldwide acceptance.

This can only be done by the formulation of fully fledged National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) within the country that will bring in the following benefits that contribute to economic growth while enhancing the quality of life of the citizens of Sri Lanka. Some of those benefits that can accrue by streamlining the NQI framework as listed below;

Increase investment opportunities as investors can penetrate any markets without any trade barriers due to acceptance of certificates and test reports for products by the buyers because of the sound NQI system having a mutual acceptance system of test reports and certificates of products.

Enhance efficiency, productivity, and market access by reducing costs of trade and avoiding duplication in testing and inspection, streamlining operations, and eliminating restrictive regulations.

Enhance public health and safety with the effective implementation of technical regulations in the mandatory markets leading to consumer protection.

Facilitate free trade agreements and support World Trade Organization rules on eliminating technical barriers to trade (TBTs) by the acceptance of international standards and the mutual recognition of conformity assessment results.

Enhance the product quality and increased confidence in domestic and international markets, paving the way to create a healthy competition in these markets.

According to the 2018 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, Sri Lanka is the 84 most competitive nation in the world out of 140 countries ranked.

This shows that Sri Lanka at present is at a very low ranking position and therefore, needs to strengthen its activities to become a prosperous nation.

Therefore, one of the important areas of the country is to have a sound NQI system for improving the quality of products and services at the domestic level while supporting the national industry to meet the needs of export markets, as that increases the competitiveness of the nation’s economy and its ability to participate in global trade and value chains. Moreover, this leads to the expansion of markets and that helps create new jobs and higher economic incomes.

The writer is a retired Director General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution.