State Minister Arundika Fernando in conversation with President Shirley Jayawardena
FCCISL President hands over the proposals for rapid economic development to State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Also present (from left): FCCISL Vice President K. Kuladeepan, Senior Vice President Keerthi Gunawardena, and Secretary General/CEO Ajith D. Perera
Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena with FCCISL Board of Directors. (From left): Dharshaka Rupasinghe of Sabaragamuwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Thusitha Wijesinghe of Food Processors Association, Dhammika Lokuliyana of Galle District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FCCISL President Shirley Jayawardena, Minister Bandula Gunawardana, FCCISL SVP Keerthi Gunawardena of International Chamber of Commerce, FCCISL VP K. Kuladeepan of Trincomalee District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Saranga Wijeyaratna of Colombo Chamber of Commerce, Dooland Silva of Kalutara District Chamber of Commerce and Ruwan De Silva of National Constructors Association. (Absent): K.N. Mahendra of Matale District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FCCISL IPP Ruwan Edirisinghe of Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, Rohitha Silva of Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs and MacDonald Perera of Puttalam Chamber of Commerce and Industry
CCISL President Shirley Jayawardena (left) presenting a token of appreciation to former Director General of Department of Commerce Sonali Wijeratne. Also present (from left): FCCISL Vice President K. Kuladeepan, Senior Vice President Keerthi Gunawardena, and Secretary General/CEO Ajith D. Perera
Federation of Chambers Of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) organised its first interactive meeting between its board members and some of the key ministers of the Government recently at Shangri-La.
Speaking at the occasion, FCCISL President Shirley Jayawardena said, “This event is of importance to us in many ways. Firstly, this is our first public event after the COVID-19 pandemic, marking FCCISL’s return to normalcy. Secondly, it is the first interactive session with the Government on policy directions, which is a part of a series of future interactive meetings. FCCISL sees the strong mandate is now given to the Government to launch its ambitious economic development plan. FCCISL understands the economic power of Asia Pacific, and believes in shared economic prosperity, exchange of best practices, and collaborating and competing with other Asia Pacific countries.”
FCCISL Secretary General/CEO Ajith D. Perera made a PowerPoint presentation explaining the past role of FCCISL locally and regionally.
Unveiling FCCISL’s future expectations from the new Government, he said, “FCCISL expects preferential treatment to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs (MSMEs), capital instead of loans, best practices at government institutions, transparency for business deals, progressive national policies, fair distribution of national income, environment-friendly development, women’s participation in the economy, national drive for business startup/innovation/R&D, and a new economic zone at sea.”
Speaking on the future expectations from the Government, State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal told the gathering that the Government is prepared to look at these expectations positively. “However we should remember when we give preferential treatments to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, we discriminate some suitable candidates and their rights to contribute to the economy,” said the Minister. Further expressing his views on capital instead of loans, he said the Government had already started on this course of action because there was no point in granting a loan to a person who is already in debt.
Cabraal commented on the introduction of best practices at Government and said even in the private sector, only 5% of companies use best practices, therefore it is good for both the Government and private sector to introduce best practices to improve efficiency. He expressed his views too on transparency for business deals. He said the question is who gives the bribery to whom? This is the crux of the matter to be solved by the private sector itself!
He reminded the gathering of the bribery connected to Bonds Scam during the past regime it was the private sector, which was at fault! Commenting on the progressive national policies, he said country should have a national policy to steer the development work however sometimes national policies too have to be changed for the betterment of the country. The people of the country changed the previous government since they wanted the previous policies to be changed.
Speaking on fair distribution of national income, Cabraal said an effective tax collection system is the answer to this expectation. Further he said development and environment are always conflicting processes and we need to balance both ends. He also spoke about women participation at the workplace and despite the reservations of the private sector on this matter due to maternity leave, etc., if the private sector requests the government we will bring a legislation to impose a high ratio of women employment equal to men. He said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a special interest in national drive for business startup/innovation/RD and already this process is underway. Finally, he accepted that despite Sri Lanka’s vast sea area we still do not exploit the potential at all.
Speaking on this occasion Cabinet Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardena said one main problem the government has to solve is the loan repayment. He mentioned that Yahapalana government within five years borrowed $ 10 billion as opposed to $ 5 billion borrowed by the previous government. He also noted that the $ 10 billion was taken from international money markets at an exorbitant rate of interest payable only by bullet payments within a short period. He also said that his ministry is on look out for a new range of homegrown products and to make available these products at new outlets to be opened in every major city for the convenience of consumers.
At the end of the interactive session, FCCISL handed over a number of proposals for rapid economic delivery to ministers for the purpose of transmission to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Arundika Fernando State Minister of Coconut, Kithul, Palmyrah, Rubber Cultivation and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification too attended the event.
At the end of the session Sonali Wijeratne former director general of Department of Commerce (1985-2019) was felicitated by FCCISL for her commitment and dedication in promoting international trade and protecting the business interest of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs.
Delivering vote of thanks FCCISL Senior Vice President Keerthi Gunawardane said since independence now 72 years passed and we are still a developing country and we are yet to see the next stage of development of the country. People have given a strong mandate to the government to correct the certain practices in the past, which were seen by us as not right. Lack of transparency of business deals is one such practice we had seen in the past. We admit that private sector too is responsible to some extent, now we expect the new government with a strong mandate to deliver goods and as a Federation of Chambers along with our membership, we will give the fullest support to the government to development the country in a most appropriate manner for the benefit of all.
FCCISL is the largest and most representative apex body of Sri Lankan business. Since its inception in 1973, it has been the rallying point for free enterprises from large, medium, small and micro segments of manufacturing, trade and service sectors of Sri Lanka. It empowers Sri Lankan businesses to show up their competitiveness and enhance their national and global reach. FCCISL has a nationwide membership of over 60 chambers of commerce and business associations and speaks directly/indirectly to over 50,000 enterprises from all districts of Sri Lanka. FCCISL is the country focal point at SAARC CCI in Islamabad, Pakistan and lead chamber APTA CCI in Beijing, China.