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The plantation sector yesterday called on the government to respect the spirit and covenants of privatisation and by no means re-visit the post-independence debacle of nationalisation. Reason being, generations of Sri Lankan politicians have proved time and time again that the government is incapable of managing private enterprise, the Planters Association (PA) said.
The association pointed out that doing so would mean that Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) finally are given the freedom to manage their estates and assets in the manner that is best suited to their individual strengths, and that the 150-year-old daily wage system be abolished in favour of a productivity-linked model.
It would also mean that RPCs will be given the freedom to diversify their crops, business models, or any other aspect of their business, based purely on their considerations as to what model of business will yield the highest and most sustainable returns on the assets they have been charged with. “So long as those businesses are in total conformity with the law of the land, the government must not interfere or disrupt these operations. That is the only way forward,” said the Planters’ Association, speaking to Mirror Business. Sri Lanka’s plantation sector has been repeatedly impacted over the years due to poor decision-making by the government, the majority of which was to fulfill a political agenda. Some of the decisions include the push towards 100 percent organic fertilisers, and banning the importation of agrichemicals. The move resulted in a drop in crop output, especially tea, which continues on a declining trend, which has made Ceylon Tea rather vulnerable. “In many ways, the ban of importation for all agri-chemicals is merely the extrapolation of a prior political trend related to the banning of glyphosate, and oil palm cultivation. In both of those instances too, politicians were all too happy to use their grassroots networks to stir up public sentiment on these issues.
“Once enough sentiment built up, they issued bans to meet that public sentiment merely so they could win political capital by appearing to listen to the will of the people, and with no consideration whatsoever to the science or the economic consequences,” the Association said.
It asserted that the only recourse appears to be to appeal therefore to the Sri Lankan people themselves where the only way to break these cycles of political mismanagement is to actively champion reform at every level of society, in every industry, and most importantly – starting with the public sector. “If we can get the fundamentals of business correct, then we can at least be on a slightly better footing to pursue recovery than we are today. Our positions as an industry have been disregarded at every turn, even as we have been proven to have been correct on each point. We have solutions, we simply need to be allowed to implement them,” the Planters Association said.
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