Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday shot down the demand for pay hike by trade unions, saying relief over cost of living can only be achieved meaningfully via increase in productivity.
Rajapaksa made this remark after opening a new trade complex for the pavement vendors in Pettah who were evacuated in the process of beautifying the Colombo City few months ago.
The trade complex was constructed at a cost of Rs. 18 million by the State Engineering Corporation and the Colombo Municipal Council.
Addressing the gathering, the Minister said this was the second stage of a series of construction of trade complexes throughout the country for the pavement traders who had no permanent place to do their business.
He said that the country’s labour force comprised of 8.5 million people, of whom nearly 4.5 million were engaged in the private sector while only 1.2 million were engaged in public service. Over 1.7 million migrant workers are engaged in overseas jobs.
Noting that there were over 2.6 million self employed people, Minister Rajapaksa said it was the Government’s duty to give them protection and security in every possible way.
He said the construction of trade complexes for the pavement hawkers was a concept of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was keen on protecting the self-employed and giving them a bright future.
The Minister said when Sri Lanka had financial problems, support from expatriates by way of worker remittances helped stabilise reserves.
Federation of Self Employees President Mahinda Kahandawaarachchi said there were 534 trade stalls in the newly-built complex. In the first stage 289 stalls were given for the traders.
“In the third stage another 464 stalls will be constructed to facilitate all pavement traders who were doing business in temporary shelters,” he added.