Friday, 28 June 2013 09:56
New Ceylon Chamber Chief says private sector key for sustainable growth
Lists four immediate priorities for way forward to greater socio-economic prosperity
" The first principle is that the nation comes first, the private sector second and our individual firms, third. To reverse the order, as we are sometimes tempted to do, is to compromise the sustainability of the success we may achieve in the short term. The second principle is that market-driven, private sector-led, export-focused growth is the path to sustainable economic prosperity – Ceylon Chamber of Commerce new Chairman Suresh Shah "By Cheranka Mendis
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s newly-appointed Chairman Suresh Shah yesterday emphasised that the private sector was key if the country was to have sustainable growth and listed four immediate priorities to achieve the desired socioeconomic prosperity.
“We have based our work on the belief that sustainable growth in our country’s economy must be private sector-led. This belief must continue to guide us, as we focus on what we must do, in the future,” said Shah, Director of Carson Cumberbatch Plc, who succeeded John Keells Holdings Chairman Susantha Ratnayake at the premier Chamber’s 174th Annual General Meeting held yesterday at the Colombo Hilton.
Shah also said Sri Lanka was a country of tremendous promise. “For 26 years we had a reason, some may even say an excuse. Call it what you may, four years ago it was put to rest. We, however, remain distant from the country that we should be. Indeed, some challenges confront us. Let me deal with the four that I believe to be the most important,” the new Ceylon Chamber Chief said.
First, he said, is the economy. “We are a small nation both in terms of population and size of economy. Too small in fact, to achieve sustainable growth by doing business amongst ourselves. We are also an import-dependent country. Both of these suggest that prosperity will come to us only if we become an export-centric nation,” he added.
The second priority, according to him, is the issue of national integration. “Sri Lanka is home to four of the world’s great religions. And each one of these teaches us that the path to wellbeing lies in attaining harmony and co-existence between human beings. Yet Sri Lanka is not at peace with herself. Our society is marked by tensions driven by a fear of the ‘other,’ of those we perceive to be different from our own selves. To truly move forward as a nation, we must celebrate our diversity, not fear it,” Shah emphasised.
The third priority, according to the Ceylon Chamber Chief, is governance. “Over the years, each succeeding government has brought new pressures on our systems of governance. Increasingly, our society is called upon to rely on the goodness of our leadership rather than on the strengths of our institutions. Yet, we know from experience that successful societies are underpinned by strong institutions. Sri Lanka must not aim to be an exception,” he said.
He listed education as the fourth priority. “Education in the sciences yes, because we need to compete and succeed in overseas markets but also education that leads us towards becoming a mature society. A society that cherishes democratic ideals, meritocracy, hard work and responsibility amongst others,” Shah added.
However, he said that none of this meant that the Chamber would rush out tomorrow and attempt to resolve all that lies ahead of Sri Lanka – be it potential or challenge. “Not at all. Indeed, we have neither the skills nor the capacity to address many of the issues that confront us. But where we have the skills and the capacity, we must – to use a cricketing term – bat in the top order. Where we do not, we must follow,” pointed out the CCC’s new Chairman at the AGM.
“All that we do must be anchored to two overriding principles. The first principle is that the nation comes first, the private sector second and our individual firms, third. To reverse the order, as we are sometimes tempted to do, is to compromise the sustainability of the success we may achieve in the short term. The second principle is that market-driven, private sector-led, export-focused growth is the path to sustainable economic prosperity,” said Shah, adding, “To succeed in what we must do, we must work together, towards common objectives.”
The keynote speaker at the AGM, HSBC Chief Economist for India and ASEAN Leif Lybecker Eskesen pointed out that in the Indian economy, a large portion of the slowdown had been supply-led, which had partly resulted from a stalling policy momentum.
This supply-led nature of the slowdown has led to a high inflation. He further stated that the growth of the Indian economy is likely to recover slowly, but the reform push has to be sustained and stepped up to reach the 8%+ growth.
Speaking of Sri Lanka, he stated that it was among the fastest growing environment in the region. However, pickup in growth is expected to push inflation upwards. Sri Lanka is better positioned regionally due to its better educated labour force and strategic location.
At the Ceylon Chamber AGM, Samantha Ranatunga was appointed as the Vice Chairman and Rajendra Theagarajah as the Deputy Vice Chairman for the year 2013/14.