As another General Election approaches with a host of promises to be made by candidates, business leaders in advance urge those who would steer the country’s future course, to shun bribery, corruption, misappropriation of public funds, waste and inefficiency, to be competitive in the global business arena and leapfrog in economic progress.
They called upon the to-be policy makers to learn from the global pandemic which has opened the eyes of everyone to abhor all forms of discrimination, racial disharmony and promote goodwill, peace and harmony among communities and the environment.
Colombo Stock Brokers Association Past President and Director/CEO, Candor Group of Companies, Ravi Abeysuriya said the country urgently needs a government that will eradicate corruption, uphold the rule of law and make long term policy decisions in the best interests of the country.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Past Chairman Kishu Gomes said this election is more crucial than any of the previous elections as the economy was in shatters before Covid-19 hit the global economy creating multiple economic challenges for Sri Lanka.
“Our GDP growth had dropped to approximately 3% for the past four years from the previous high of over 6% under the previous regime.
“Now with the pandemic, export income has been paralysed with all export markets and revenue streams including tourism, apparel and expatriate worker remittances coming to a grinding halt.
“The way out is for the country to reduce recurring expenses and increase revenue through the export of value-added goods and services and tourism while promoting FDIs with policy alignment, infrastructure development, investor-friendly labour regulations and streamlining the approval process.
“Bribery, corruption, misappropriation of government funds of various forms, public sector waste due to inefficiency and bureaucracy have to be dealt with severely to be more competitive as an investment destination.
“Local businesses should be encouraged to cross borders in the new normal world with more forward looking policies and committed support to enable exporters to be more competitive and explore new markets.“If we do not make these tough decisions soon the economy will soon hit a level where a turn around will not be possible for another decade.
“At least this time, the voters need to select candidates who are educated, who would place the country before self, economy savy and understand how a sustainable economy can be built.“Campaigning has become an expensive business. So most candidates depend on monetary help from business organisations and rich entrepreneurs.
“This is where the issue starts and this later leads to policy and regulatory deviations, bribery and corruption.
No politician has a strong business base to invest his or her own money and survive on legitimate income unless their intention is to spend their own money for the sake of the poor people of the country. The question is do we have such politicians in the country anymore like 3-4 decades ago? Voters should be wise and make their choices based on the candidates education, intelligence, global exposure, past performance, transparency and values,” he said.
Planters’ Association of Ceylon Past Chairman and Haleys Plantations Managing Director Dr. Roshan Rajadurai said the tea industry which has sustained the economy for decades must be taken seriously and supported to expand its contribution to the local and national economy which needs a fresh boost.
Marketing the Ceylon Tea brand with value addition is crucial to remain in the game and boost market share.
Policy measures should be in place to enhance production and market them in new destinations in diverse forms taking into account the limitations at ground level.
The potential is upstream and if value addition could be enhanced benefits will trickle down to the workers whose productivity could thereby be increased.
Tea smallholders who contribute around 70 percent of the production must be supported to build the supply chain and boost income.
Executive Director, Kent Ridge (Pvt) Ltd., Janaka Kumarasinghe said the global pandemic has created a level playing field. Sri Lanka should leapfrog to a higher level even without having advanced transportation systems and infrastructure by using information communication technology.
“Our island should be a stepping stone to India and connect to the Silk route which can harness the potential of the two superpowers. It should also promote local industries and self-reliance.
“We need a strong civil and diplomatic service supported by intellectuals to overcome challenges.
Parliamentarians should introduce sound legislation, create a visionary mindset and develop intellectual capital with the support of the Executive for Sri Lanka to be a force to be reckoned with in her strategic location in Asia’s century,” he said.