Made in Sri Lanka Vs the imports
On the most recent edition of BENCHMARK, ‘Made In Sri Lanka’ – the pros and cons of local enterprise, industry and manufacturing – was in the spotlight. The business programme presented by LMD began by noting that the island nation has tried virtually every economic model. “But the focus has never really been on servicing the Sri Lankan market, simply because it has always been perceived as too small – and therefore, the returns would hardly be worthwhile,” BENCHMARK noted, observing however: “But that appears to be changing.”
The business programme went on to discuss related issues such as competition from cheap imports and queried, among other matters, if national policy should be to encourage local manufacturers by offering them a degree of state protection.
Nawaz Rajabdeen, the President of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka, asserted that much protection is offered to manufacturers of products, recommending that the same should be offered to the consumer. “Any organisation that introduces a product to the local market must have competition – in the interest of the consumer,” he averred.
Commenting on Sri Lanka’s reputation in the global apparel market, he noted that the “name of the game is the brand”, observing that most international brands are now manufactured in Sri Lanka. The chamber chief also noted that the country has enjoyed its share of success stories in terms of tea, apparel, rubber and leather products, and urged the government to encourage the sale of such products globally.
Rajabdeen noted that the local market has also created a demand for such products and many branded products are sold locally under different names.
He also opined that in order to provide a level playing field for Sri Lankan manufacturers, infrastructure needs to be improved without further delay.
“The government needs to play a positive role in infrastructure development – specifically with regard to roads and railways,” he opined.
Rajabdeen told BENCHMARK that the present government has set its sights on expanding the rural sector, noting however: “Nobody will venture into rural areas to start up a factory, for example, if there is no infrastructure – especially a good transportation system and electricity. If these are improved, we can compete in any field, with any country.”
Responding to issues raised by BENCHMARK vis-à-vis corruption, he said that if taxes keep multiplying while numerous restrictions are also imposed, corruption would become a social evil that cannot be easily eradicated. He surmised: “Importers will find a way to bring down their goods at a lower price. The bottom line is that they must be very competitive…,” noting that hidden taxes often account for 40-50 per cent of the total cost of an import: “As a result of the imposition of cess and other duties, the consumer is affected.”
Also airing his views on the programme was Dr. Lawrence Perera, Chairman and CEO of Transmec Holdings – the man behind the Micro – about his experiences as a local manufacturer.
He noted that a major investment in manufacturing local products is not sustainable, as the market is not big enough. Low-volume manufacturing, he declared, is most suitable, elaborating: “There are two aspects of manufacturing. One is where you opt for larger markets, and hence, invest in robotics and other expensive infrastructure. The second is to opt for a low-volume manufacturing facility. This does not require a huge investment. Moreover, we have plenty of skilled labour; and if you use skilled labour, you do not need to invest in robotics.” Challenging the widely held belief that anything foreign is better than a local product, he said that this could well have been the case 10-15 years ago, but affirmed that things have greatly improved today. He cited the garment industry as one that has made great strides towards world-recognised quality. “If the quality of a product is good, people will automatically get used to it,” he said. In such instances, competing with imported products would not be so arduous as it is now for the local manufacturer.
Perera noted that Sri Lankans expect any local product to be cheaper than its imported counterparts. Otherwise, he said, it does not make sense to invest in a local car – a Micro, for example.
“This is where the government can play a role: by imposing a different tax structure for imports and locally manufactured goods, so that people will then be encouraged to buy local products,” he underscored, stating that this would also lead to more employment creation and could perhaps even attract the interest of global-giant manufacturers.
He emphasised: “We do not need any special grants or incentives, but the government should allow us to carry on our business without any bureaucratic blocks.” Such, he said – speaking from personal experience – is the bane of the local industrialist.
BENCHMARK is presented by LMD and produced by ‘the wrap factory’. It is aired every Sunday on TNL, at noon and 9.05 p.m.; and also goes on cable TV – on LBN’s Bloomberg segment – on Mondays at 10 p.m.
Tsunami housing rebuild complete by end 2006 - RADA
In an effort to overcome various difficulties and issues in the sphere of housing reconstruction and to address the needs of the tsunami affected masses, President, Mahinda Rajapaksa has revised the housing policy accordingly to expedite relief to the people who have lost their homes to the tsunami.
In assessing tsunami damage, RADA has identified that housing has been the largest physical assets lost in the tsunami. Needs analyses have shown that houses are the most valued assets and that people affected need them urgently to rebuild their lives.
RADA’s Director Housing, Ramesh Selliah said a total of over 98,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by the December 26, 2004 tsunami. About 30,000 permanent houses have been completed under the Owner Driven Scheme, while 39,000 houses are being constructed at present. Almost 6,000 permanent houses have been completed under the government’s Donor Assisted Scheme, while 8500 houses are under construction. About 4500 permanent houses have been completed by well wishers. RADA estimates that about 18,000 new houses are required in 2006 to fulfil original Tsunami requirement of 98,000.
The New Housing Policy (NHP), which has been prepared by the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) in consultation with the key stakeholders, supersedes all previous government circulars.
It ensures government’s firm commitment to expedite the reconstruction process so that all tsunami affected persons will be provided homes by the end of 2006. Consultation with the key stakeholders which includes donor organizations, NGOs and INGOs will be central to the implementation of the new housing policy.
The government will drive the housing projects through its decentralized administrative structure. The District and Divisional Secretaries will be instrumental in implementing the reconstruction process. Guidelines have been given to District Secretaries on implementation of the housing policy. But the District Secretary is not the competent authority on the legacy issues. They are given an operating framework and the discretion to take decisions in implementing the housing policy, RADA’s Chief Operating Officer, Saliya Wickramasuriya said. He said that although concerns are raised about housing programs in the North and the East, the current trend indicates that these issues will be solved by the year end.
The strategy of the new housing policy is to consider all affected shelters regardless of the location. The beneficiaries will be selected from among the tsunami affected through transparent and public beneficiary lists.
Community participation and the policy of equity to beneficiaries will be ensured under the new policy without affecting houses already built by donors. The new policy will promote the ‘owner driven housing concept’ which is initiated by the owners them selves. The government hopes to provide these Owner Driven Housing Programs with regulated donor assistance under the new policy, RADA said.
In regard to the design of these houses, the strategy is to be flexible and to let the people decide on the design. The house will be built to suit the home owner’s choice provided that it fits the allocated budget. The housing projects will be carried out in compatibility with existing schemes. Under the policy, four housing assistance options are proposed in achieving the set targets and also to simplify the implementation process.
The new housing policy is expected to expedite the construction process. The options will be used by the local authorities in taking decision on housing grants. Any issue which cannot be resolved within this framework will be approached on a case by case basis, RADA further said explaining that all efforts are to focused on rebuilding the affected homes expeditiously.
Over 98,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by the December 26, 2004 tsunami.
* 30,000 permanent houses completed under the Owner Driven Scheme
* 39,000 houses are being constructed at present.
* Almost 6,000 permanent houses completed under the government’s Donor Assisted Scheme
* 8500 houses are under construction.
* About 4500 permanent houses have been completed by well wishers.
* RADA estimates that about 18,000 new houses are required in 2006 to fulfill original Tsunami requirement of 98,000.
Displacement continues, nearly One and a Half years since Tsunami
Another Face of Tsunami:
W.Vivian Charlet Fernando is from Moratuwa. She had a house on the coastal belt, which was washed away with the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. She lost all her belongings. She is now living with her grand sons in a school in Wellawatte.
Vivian Charlet Fernando continues to be diplaced and homeless, nearly one and a half years since the Tsunami.
At the age of sixty three, she is still struggling hard to earn her daily income. Her average daily income is Rs.250/=.
She travels from Wellawatte to Piliyandala fruit market to buy fruits, where the fruits are cheaper. And travels by bus to Bambalapitiya to sell. She walks to the houses in Bambalapitiya.
She has been selling fruits in Bambalapitiya for eighteen years.
W.Vivian Charlet Fernando (63) has been selling fruits for 18 years.
She sells Papaya for Rs.75/=
Although she is party blind, she has to travel in the public bus with the basket of fruits.
The fruits are in great demand due to the prevailing extremely hot weather in Sri Lanka.
“I am getting older. I beome very tired now, so I can’t travel daily and sell fruits. But I have no other way of earning daily income. I am still homeless and I am frustrated” says W.Vivian Charlet Fernando
Her best customers are in Bambalapitiya according to Vivian.