- Delegation impressed by high standards of production and worker conditions
A delegation consisting of six members of the European Parliament visited the Katunayake Export Processing Zone following an invitation by the management of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.
The delegation consisted of Jan Zahradil, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Leader; Sajjad H. Karim (MEP); Paul Rubing (MEP); David Martin (MEP); David Campbell Bannerman (MEP), Ramon Tremosa-i-Balcells (MEP) and officials of the EU including Martti Kalaus, Andrea Cepova-Fourtoy, Felix Lutz and Ursa Pondelekas as well as representatives of the European Union Embassy in Sri Lanka such as Roshan Lyman.
The visit was coordinated by Lyman, who is the Deputy of the Political, Trade and Commercial section of the EU mission in Colombo, with Nilupul de Silva – Director (Promotion); Dilip S. Samarasinghe – Director (Media and Publicity); and Himali Urugodawatte, Director (Legal), Industrial Relations of the BOI.
The visit began with a briefing at the BOI administration office by Acting Executive Director (Zones) M.K.D. Lawrance, who spoke on the role of the Export Processing Zones within the BOI. Thereafter Urugodawatte made a presentation on the Katunayake Export Processing Zone.
The BOI also arranged for the delegation to visit several factories. The first was to the factory of Flintec Transducers Ltd. which is engaged in the manufacture of the sensors used in weighing scales. This company, located at KEPZ, was created with a Swedish investment and manufactures advanced components using state-of-the-art technology.
This was followed by an inspection of the factory of Global Sports Sri Lanka Ltd. which is involved in manufacturing kites, sails and kite bars. The company is an important player which manufactures products for industry leaders such as North Kite Boarding and North Windsurfing. GSL has a workforce of 650 skilled workers. The company managers told the parliamentarians that since Sri Lanka was just 8 degrees north of the equator, easy access to markets for such products was a key selling point.
GSL has supplied 29,000 kites, 13,000 sails and 24,000 kite bars to 46 countries. The company was created through an Austrian investment and also promotes these leisure sports in Sri Lanka, notably in Kalpitiya and the Eastern Province.
The final visit of the delegation was to MAS Active Trading Ltd. and the MAS Kreeda Nirmaana Division, which is engaged in the manufacture of sportswear and also the design of sportswear for leading brands.
British MEP for North West England Sajjad Karim stated: “One of the ideas that many in Europe hold is that manufacture really entered in the West and is not done entirely in Asia and in particular countries such as Sri Lanka. However, we have seen with our own eyes that this is not the case and that in some instances even R&D is being conducted in Sri Lanka, which implies that new products will be developed here in the future.”
Speaking about the MAS Kreeda Nirmaana Division, Karim went on to state that he was reminded of Lancashire in the United Kingdom, where he had grown up, which had once been a leading global centre of apparel manufacture.
He added that that industry was now relocated in Asia in countries such as Sri Lanka and he said that he “was enthused by seeing high standards of production in Sri Lanka”.
David Martin, British MEP for Scotland, said: “The economic zones of the BOI house without a doubt the cutting edge of Sri Lanka’s industry but their very high standards should not be an exception. They should be the norm for all industry in the country.”
David Martin also emphasised that the factories in the BOI which the delegation visited “were clean and dedicated in maintaining high standards and the quality of their products”.
Ramon Tremosa-i-Balcells (MEP), from Barcelona, Spain, stated: “I particularly enjoyed the visit to the MAS Kreeda Nirmana Division, which combined in its corporate image on the one hand Sri Lankan tradition and on the other hand modernity and high technological standards. It is also very clear that Sri Lanka’s industry treats its workers well and is not exploitative.”
The visit to the Katunayake Export Processing Zone therefore provided the European Parliament with very clear insight into Sri Lanka’s potential and also highlighted the very high standards maintained in the country in general and more specifically in the BOI’s Export Processing Zones.