June 26, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka needs to look beyond developing infrastructure as a strategy to uplift the economy and minimize the gaps between urban and rural sector through regional inclusivity, strengthening small and medium enterprises and development of education and skill, a chamber official said.
“Looking back we have achieved much but fresh challenges seem to be looming in the horizon,” Samantha Ranatunga, the newly elected Chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) said.
“There has been significant upheaval in our political landscape which has created a lot of uncertainty,”
“Over the past few years we have been able to concentrate on hard physical infrastructure but now more needs to be done to look at the soft aspects of development, if we need to bring holistic economic development to this country.”
He was speaking at the 176th Annual General Meeting of the CCC held Wednesday in Colombo.
Ranatunga says through Sri Lanka is extremely proud as a county on the high economic growth, the increasing per capita income and the infrastructure development, some key statics show the “magnitude of disparity” between urban and rural sectors.
Giving subsidies will not solve the problem, but add serve impact to the economy, Ranatunga said.
“Nearly 50 percent of rural children drop out from school at ordinary level, in spite of a free education available in the country. About four percent of rural and 12 percent of estate children do not attend school at all,” Ranatunga said.
“The consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is much higher in the rural areas and the abuse is much higher too while the percentage of saving is much lower in the rural households than urban areas,”
“The government tries to achieve this disparity through very expensive subsidies schemes,”
“One of that is fertilizer subsidy, in fact today’s cost is 50 billion to 60 billion rupees, which is 30 percent of what we totally spent on education in 2014,”
“We need to critically look at these.”
Ranthunga also pointed out that in a developing economy, a nation would need a quality workforce.
He urged the private sector participation in education, to build future ready employees for the Island nation.
“If we need quality people to compete in the future marker place, we need to play a role in developing those people nurturing them and not leave it to the government alone,”
He said the chamber should play an active role in an education sector though getting involved with universities to bring up future ready workforce who can take over private sector entities in the future.
Developing small and medium sector is another challenge, that the country will face, Ranathunga said.
“The fragmented SME sector policy has not helped the small and medium sector in the recent past,”
“The white paper on the SME sector which was initiated in the year 2010 updated in 2012 has not come to pass, at best the SME sector is confused, as helping the SME’s has become an empty slogan for everyone concerned.”
In addition to Ranatunga’s appointment, Rajendra Theagarajah, CEO of National Development Bank was appointed to the position of Vice Chairman while Dialog Telekom Plc CEO Hans Wijayasuriya was appointed to the post of Deputy Vice Chair.