Regional growth positively impacts on Lanka’s GDP, says UN
Regional growth in South Asia is expected to spill over into the Sri Lankan economy fuelling a 7% growth this year, according to a study based on the report “Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2007.”
The survey, which is the flagship publication of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) showed that the Asian and Pacific nations are rapidly emerging as engines of global growth.
In fact 2006 showed a 7.9% increase in the size of the regions developing economies representing a third of the worldwide growth. This is seen as one of the main reasons behind the 7.4% GDP rate posted by Sri Lanka during the same period and analysts are hoping for the good prognosis to continue in 2007.
However, the question now is whether this growth momentum can be maintained. Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Dr. Saman Kelegama believes so, but he maintains that urgent economic reforms are needed to stop state corporations such as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and other state owned enterprises haemorrhaging millions of hard earned GDP.
“US$ 800 million or 3.4% GDP was spent on State Owned Enterprises (SOE) last year. Even though reforms have taken place in certain areas it has not been adequate to reduce the burden of these enterprises on the government budget. Reforms such as the new Electricity Act should come into effect soon. Reforms in education, agriculture and other areas should move in parallel. The public should be made aware of these reforms, we have seen in the past that decisions made from the top do not have any effect in Sri Lanka and this reform process should be monitored closely,” he said.
He also stressed on the need for economic reforms to support fiscal management. “If the government can save 3.4% of the GDP from SOE’s then it can be redirected for infrastructure development and other investments. The government can reduce expenditure and reduce the budget deficit and inflation thereby reducing pressure on interest rates.”
Expressing that the political situation might stabilise with the proposals made by the All Party Conference (APC) by mid-2007 Dr. Kelegama said that this would provide the government with the opportunity to control defense expenditure and stabilise the investment climate.
“If such action is taken then sustaining the growth momentum is possible. The growth forecast for 2007 is about 7%, which includes 5% from the existing open economy, 1.0% from new investments, 0.2% from policy reform and 0.8% from the Asian buoyancy. The formation of the National Economic Council will hopefully accelerate reforms and with the CEPA to be signed with India, Sri Lanka can benefit from the spill over from the Indian economy,” he said. (UJ)
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to drive Millennium Development Goals
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has launched an accelerated drive to spur the adoption of projects targeting the UN Millennium Development Goals among its membership. The CCC which groups together a vast cross-section of Sri Lanka’s corporate sector has been instrumental in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility among its membership by encouraging CSR practices as a core business function. In its latest initiative, the Chamber has formed a CSR Sub Committee with high level representation from the Top Ten Best Corporate Citizens of 2006 to focus on helping Sri Lanka achieve targets set under the eight Millennium Development Goals.
The Millennium Development Goals or MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions, to galvanize efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest communities by 2015. The eight MDGs promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health, gender equality, and aim at combating child mortality, AIDS and other diseases. In order to achieve the MDGs, poor countries have pledged to govern better, and invest in their people through health care and education while rich countries have pledged to support them through aid, debt relief, and fairer trade.
The MDGs are the backbone of efforts of governments around the world to eradicate extreme poverty and in Sri Lanka, too, there is a concerted effort among public, private and non-governmental organizations to align activities along the goals. The Chamber CSR Sub Committee has been tasked with focusing on future projects that are targeted towards individual MDGs, and the sub committee has invited all CCC member companies to be represented. The Goal Coordinating Committees (GCC) will formulate a 15-month Action Plan targeting each goal.
The eight Sub Committees have identified several key projects, including rural education, training teachers in English,enhancing children’s learning environments, nutrition programmes for schoolchildren, gender equality within organizations, minimizing sexual harassment at the workplace, educating mothers on pregnancy, infant care and maternal health, improving mother’s nutrition levels, creating a stable base for medical infrastructure and to improve health facilities, HIV AIDS awareness and workplace education, minimizing plastics-use to promote environment sustainability, sustainable water and sanitation projects and protecting rain forests and greenery.
The Ceylon Chambers CSR Sub Committee is led by Sumithra Gunasekera of John Keells Holdings, who is supported by members Ms Shiroma Jayawickrema of HSBC, Deepal Sooriyarachchi – Eagle Insurance, Vidhura Ralapanawe of MAS Intimates, Suren de Chickera – Nestle Lanka, Mahesh Wijayawardena - Singer Sri Lanka, Dilantha Seneviratne – Hayleys Ltd, Ms Anusha Alles– Brandix Lanka and Tharaka Ranawala from Sampath Bank. The sub committee will receive advice and guidance from an eminent group of development professionals including Ismail Radwan of the World Bank, Ms Surani Abeyesekera of UNICEF, Ms Shyamala Gomez – UNRC, Ms Priyanthi Fernando – CEPA, Dr. Kumari Nawaratne – World Bank, David Bridger – UNAIDS, Ms Shiranee Yasaratne – IUCN and Ananda Mallawatantri – UNDP.
The members of the sub-committee are drawn from the ten companies that were selected as the "Top 10 Best Corporate Citizens" at the annual competition organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in 2006.