As demos and strikes hobble economic activity and ignites public outrage: Economists call to quantify economic burden of productivity loss | Sunday Observer

As demos and strikes hobble economic activity and ignites public outrage: Economists call to quantify economic burden of productivity loss

Sri Lanka’s economists last week called on the Government to devise a mechanism to compute the economic costs of strikes and demonstrations represented in Rupees and Cents so that the heavy productivity losses the country suffers could at least send a warning to the unnecessary strikers and demonstrators. Expressing views in the aftermath of the anti-government protest organised by the Joint Opposition held in Colombo which brought economic activity in the island’s financial capital, Colombo, to almost a standstill, analysts point out that the irresponsible actions by a section of the public whilst resulting in loss of domestic productivity both in terms of labour and output, is also hampering the tourism sector and the efforts in enticing foreign direct investments.

“Given that nowadays there are sudden strikes by a number of sectors like health and transport and demonstrations are also held in unannounced locations, there is a definite need to find a long term solution. The first step could be to compute the losses and present the numbers to the public so that they would be more aware of the damage they are causing,” a top Economist told The Sunday Observer.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Economist noted that professors attached to transportation divisions of universities could be entrusted this task of loss computation as they have a good knowledge on the cost of disruption to normal day to day activities.

On September 5, while businesses in Pettah, the busiest financial district in the island, where most of the shops, textiles, commercial buildings and many other business organisations are centered shut doors early and a majority of employees from the vibrant World Trade Centre located in Fort, the heart of the Central Business District also took a full day or half day leave at their workplaces.

“We closed our offices early anticipating the heavy inconvenience this protest could cause to the employees. We definitely lost a lot of potential income due to the loss of labour productivity,” a chief executive of a prominent organisation involved in IT and BPO services industry, whose office is located at the bustling World Trade Centre in Colombo said.

According to Central Bank statistics, in 2017, a total of 10,312 workers were involved in 32 strikes and 58,279 man days were lost due to strikes during 2017. However, these data indicate only the strikes of the private industries that are reported to the Labour Department. On the other hand, labour productivity, as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA) per hour worked, decreased marginally by 1.14 % in 2017 to Rs. 458.29 per hour in the first three quarters of 2017, from Rs. 463.56 per hour in the corresponding period of 2016, recent statistics showed.