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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, December 25, 2005

FCCSL blames Govt. for ignoring tsunami-hit business

Daily Mirror: 20/12/2005" By Poornima Weerasekara

Alleges Govt. has done nothing for the economic recovery

The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCSL) President Nawaz Rajabdeen yesterday alleged that the government has done nothing for the economic recovery of businesses affected by the tsunami.

“The private sector has done more than the government. The government has ignored the micro, small and medium and livelihood rehabilitation process. Their main priority has been to develop roads, houses, etc,” Mr. Rajabdeen said.

However, he stressed that addressing issues of economic rehabilitation was an urgent priority as it was impossible to reorient people who have been languishing in refugee camps, to rejuvenate their livelihoods or micro, small and medium businesses once their professional skills have rusted.

FCCISL Secretary General Samantha Abeywickrama highlighting four key challenges in bringing tsunami-affected entrepreneurs back to business noted that the 100 metre buffer zone has eroded the commercial value of property in the designated area.

“Even though the rule is now made flexible, the value of these lands has plummeted. Now they can’t be used as collateral even to get bank loan,” he added.

He also urged the government to revise the tsunami related financial assistance schemes as affected people have nothing to offer as collateral.

Next, he stressed the need for a central co-ordination mechanism to monitor the wide range of complimentary initiatives undertaken by NGOs, independent donors, private sector organisations and the government. The lack of such a mechanism, even one year after the tsunami devastation was highlighted as the key reason for the duplication of effort and inefficient utilisation of aid pledged.

Finally he urged the government to introduce a compensation mechanism rather than focusing on providing loans. Quoting success stories in Gujarat and other tsunami affected countries Mr. Abeywickrama added that this was a more effective means of encouraging people to rejuvenate their businesses thereby creating more employment, greater incomes and restoring normalcy.

He also noted that “the moment the government officials get to know that your businesses have bounced back, they stop giving you the Rs. 5,000 grant. This is a real de-motivator. These people have to be given an incentive for recovering so fast.” He also stressed that the entire approach to economic rehabilitation had to change if the pace of recovery is to be increased.

Official statistics show that over 5,000 micro, small and medium businesses have been affected by the Dec 26 tsunami devastation. Over a 40,000 livelihoods have also been affected.

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