HDCC celebrated the completion of 18 years of collaboration between the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) and the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC). The event was held on 24 November in Hambantota.
The relationship between HDCC and RNE extends back to 1993 and has been an extremely positive one for both sides. Over the last 10 years RNE has, under a number of agreements, provided a significant proportion of the funding that HDDC has needed in order to serve the business community and also to support it in its work to enhance the overall economic status of the Hambantota District.
As well as working to enhance the capacity of HDCC to fulfil its primary mission, RNE and HDCC have worked together on other major projects in the district and region, most notably on tsunami relief and in the provision of access to financial services for the region’s SME communities.
HDCC took the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the long-term relationship. With the support of RNE and other partners, HDCC shared the key achievements and lessons learned over the course of the relationship, as it looks to the future.
Norwegian Ambassador Hilde Haraldstad and Minister of Economic Promotions, Social Welfare and Employment of the Southern Provincial Council U.D. Ariyathilaka participated as the Chief Guest and Special Guest respectively.
RNE officials, HDCC’s Board of Directors, management, a cross-section of members and representatives from HDCC partner organisations such as WUSC, VSO, World Vision, Navajeewana, University of Ruhuna, RUEDA, Ruhunu Tourism Bureau, Esoft, Dialog, DFCC Bank, and HNB participated.
HDCC President M.S. Usuph welcomed the gathering, mentioning that as the private sector of the Hambantota District “we have come a long way and throughout the Royal Norwegian Embassy has been a great strength to us”.
Ambassador Haraldstad said the Norwegian Embassy was pleased to support HDCC in last 18 years and that it had seen many positive results.
“Future ambitions of this part of the country are quite impressive. Many opportunities are available for private sector and public-private partnership. It is crucial to have such a strong chamber of commerce. We have positive achievements. HDCC is continuing greater service to the business community, providing business advice, development of enterprises and capacity building of small businesses. The Norway-HDCC financial relationship has come to an end, but the Norway-Chamber relationship will continue more than 100 years and we will work together in other ways and other means.
“Norway has always been traditional bilateral donor, now it has changed because Sri Lanka has become a middle income level country. We are gradually phasing out our bilateral aid and we are focusing on private sector cooperation between Sri Lanka and Norway, in the education field and more reciprocal cooperation and relationships. We are proud of the results we have achieved together.”
Minister of Economic Promotions, Social Welfare and Employment of the Southern Provincial Council Ariyathilaka said private and public organisations must get together to develop the country.
“Hambantota is very fortunate with the seaport coming up, the airport and various development activities take in place. HDCC will have to play a more prominent role in the development of the district,” he added.
Prof. D. Attapattu of the University of Ruhuna said that the Integrated Rural Development Project was initiated in response to persistent economic backwardness in the rural areas. The first phase of the Hambantota Integrated Rural Development Project (HIRDP) emphasis was more on infrastructure development and at the second phase emphasis was changed and more focused on enterprise development and income generation activities.
“Establishment of HDCC in 1993 was one of the main outcomes of the project. Over the last 18 years, the visionary leadership and commitment of the HDCC staff has enabled us to reach today’s position and HDCC is an exemplary model,” he added.
ESOFT Managing Director Dr. Dayan Rajapaksha said: “We were looking for a reliable and strong partner from the Hambantota area and Esoft entered into a partnership agreement with HDCC to implement an IT education centre. This was the first institute where a service organisation like HDCC wanted to partner with us.”
VSO Sri Lanka Acting Country Director Ruvanthi Sivapragasam mentioned about HDCC’s unique response, an organisation which makes maximum use of its volunteers even beyond the placement, which is precisely what VSO would like to see happening throughout the world.
“It is an organisation which provides personal and pastoral care for the volunteers, thereby enabling them to settle in Hambantota with ease and work effectively, an organisation with a highly participative Board of Directors. The continued involvement of past presidents, a visionary and dynamic Director General, a team of energetic and committed young staff, a ‘Learning Organisation’ – one which values immensely the support given by VSO and uses the opportunity effectively to enhance and improve itself continuously,” she added.
HDCC Director General Azmi Thassim pointed out that it would continue to be a professional and sustainable organisation, making available a wide range of development services to individuals and enterprises, helping to accelerate economic growth and enhance prosperity throughout the district.
HDCC Manager Strategy and Projects Krishanthi Weerasinghe thanked the Royal Norwegian Embassy and people of the Norway for their support and encouragement since its inception in 1990 as an association.
Representatives of large businesses appreciated HDCC’s facilitation and coordination role on behalf of them. SMEs appreciated the support they received such as technical, marketing and business development. Young people helped by the Youth Business Programme appreciated the financial support they received from HDCC to start up businesses along with volunteer business mentor concept. The stakeholders of the project presented the case studies and their experience with RNE and other participants.