Let us heal the wounds as business leaders and employees | Sunday Observer

Let us heal the wounds as business leaders and employees

15 May, 2022
Political stability is an utmost necessity for an enabling business environment. Here an Army patrol in Colombo. Pic: Rukmal Gamage
Political stability is an utmost necessity for an enabling business environment. Here an Army patrol in Colombo. Pic: Rukmal Gamage

Businesses generally stand little chance of doing well when politics is not stable. Our country has never experienced such a level of political chaos in recorded history.

Political stability is an utmost necessity for an enabling business environment. What can the business community do to help achieve sustained political stability? Is there anything left? Experience shows more often than not they fail to do so. What keeps the private sector divided even when their collective and personal interests are directly at stake? Such an apparent puzzle cannot be explained in words as things keep evolving in an unimaginable way.

A crisis that emerged due to the shortage of USD and its related economic activities will get further deepened with unruly events that have taken place. We can only hope and pray that there will be some remedial action taken by those stakeholders who should and can do whatever possible to re-establish political stability.

Wishes and demands  of some people that we can do without politicians one can say is reasonable given the history of politics and its performance but the reality is that as per the constitution the country cannot run without a government – elected or appointed otherwise.

Amid this eventful condition, business organisations will have to face the worst ever socio-political and economic conditions in the immediate future. A significant percentage of employees will lose jobs and others will have to accept pay cuts as business organisations have to take drastic measures to stay afloat.

Paying public servants’ emoluments will be a major issue unless more currency notes are printed which in turn will hurt the public servants when the inflation skyrockets much beyond where it is now.

If we are to learn from similar global incidents such as the Yellow Vest Movement in France and civil unrest in Venezuela, firms will have to adapt their investment, growth plans, and allocation of resources to deal with greater political uncertainty.

Significant impact

This uncertainty has a significant impact upon economic conditions, such as the cost of inputs such as workers and resources and adverse customer behaviour. It will also very seriously threaten business continuity: the simple ability for firms to carry out their daily activities. Operations may have to stop because goods can no longer cross the frontiers or because service provision becomes impossible.

Business leaders cannot give up though. We need to continue to honor our commitments by doing what it takes to control and manage what we can to safeguard the country’s economy. Politicians don’t create wealth – it’s the workforce and private business entities that create economic value in any country. I call upon all Sri Lankan business leaders to stay positive and work with their teams to march forward despite these humongous challenges. I also make a humble appeal to the public sector to honour your obligations for the sake of the poor Sri Lankans. If we collaborate and coordinate our efforts we can still get our people out of this mess. Bygones are bygones.

There is absolutely no point in harping on them. We have an obligation to drive the country forward.

Take care of employees

Taking care of private sector and public sector employees and securing their jobs is the bare minimum. Employees feel a range of negative emotions after divisive events, including fear, anger, devastation and anxiety. While many employees will turn to their leaders and managers for support, many managers are ill-equipped to handle these conversations, especially when in a virtual environment. Senior management and HR should remind managers to model appropriate behaviours and set the right tone by speaking candidly about their own experiences — which also reduces the stigma of openly discussing mental well-being.

Let’s hope that there will be political stability being restored soon so the fight against the major balance of payment issues and the consequent exchange rate issue can be curtailed in the medium term.

Let’s leave aside hatred and come under one umbrella to protect Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Its our country - our future and the future of the next generation. The best of human values need to come to light and action to heal the wounds.