A live pre-budget seminar was organized by the Organization of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) held in Colombo in OPA auditorium with U H Palihakkara, President, OPA moderating the proceedings of the seminar where several leading professionals spoke on what things should be included in the upcoming November Budget to strengthen the development strategy of the country.
M R Shah, Chairman, Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka PLC, speaking on ‘Relief to Common Man, Opportunities to the Investor’ said that there two kinds of common man – poor and ultra poor and as banks collect large sums of money from the public these banks have a duty by the people to utilize these funds on public interest.
He said that in Sri Lanka there are 3 million people who are earning less than one dollar a day and there are 7 million who are earning less than two dollars per day. He said the responsibility of the government is to upgrade the standards of living of the common-man.
He said that foreign direct investment alone would not help the overall development of the country. He said the banks are handling public money and said “They should be utilized for the public interest.” He said that 40% of the people in this country do not have access to banks and a large number of them belong to the rural Sri Lanka. He said that if these funds are diverted for the rural economic development it would be a tremendous relief for the common man.
Mr Shah said that the 2012 budget should provide for the diversion of bank funds for the people in the rural sector and as they speak of an 8% growth, there should be a yardstick that it gets distributed covering the population in an equitable manner. At present the rural sector is not represented in this growth.
He said that normally banks are reluctant to grant loans for the poor as they do not have the type of securities the banks call for. Yet, Mr Shah said that this portion of populations is much trustworthy and the recovery rate of the banking with the poor is 100%.
N R Gajendran, Partner, Gajma Company speaking on Challenges for Budget 2012” indicated that Sri Lanka has a strong economy. He said that the areas that are somewhat neglected are the agricultural sector and Information Technology Sector which the government should address in the coming budget.
Ms G Gunaruwan, Chief Economist, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce speaking on “Macro Economic Perspectives” said that achieving the stated investment target of 32% seems unlikely though there are range of positives such as peace, introduction of new tax regime this year; lower cost of capital; pick-up in private sector credit growth and improved infrastructure.
She said that the negatives towards achieving the stated investment are: lack of clear policies; BOI restructure/poor investment facilities and access to land.
Sarath De Silva, President, National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka speaking on “Land usage, Productivity and Produce, Agricultural and Marine Base, Raw materials to boost export and reduce imports” that there are many ill plaguing agricultural sector. He said that in the North and East there is land without chemicals for the last 30 years and if these land is provided for the private sector they could have food crops without chemicals.
He said that in Sri Lanka agricultural produce yields are very poor in comparison to other countries and yields are so poor that where 200 tons of pineapples, if available could be exported but he said that there are days that some days they failed to collect even 2,000 kilos of pineapples.
He said that though there has been long drawn research in growing various items of food crops, still Sri Lanka imports some of them in large quantities and in some cases the main reason being the low yields.
He insisted that Sri Lanka’s agriculture should move immediately towards High-Tech which would help enhance the yields.
He said that the export sector of Sri Lanka enters into alternate and new foreign markets and year after year they are increasing the exports and they would up the present US$ 9 billion to 20 billion by 2020. He said that the government should provide in the 2012 budget to fight the ills that plagues the Agricultural Sector.
Dakshitha Thalagodapitiya, CEO/Secretary General, Chamber of Construction Industry of Sri Lanka speaking on “Challenges and Opportunities for the Construction Industry – Key Drivers of Development” said that during 2010 Sri Lanka’s construction sector recorded a growth rate of 9.3% while its contribution to GDP stood at Rs 423,414 million – 7.56% of the GDP.
The challenges for the construction industry as he indicated are capacity development; cost of construction and availability of raw material; funding for infrastructure development and construction projects; end product quality and timely delivery; procurement process reform and enabling environment; building the image of the construction industry and –promotion of exports of construction related services.
– Asian Tribune –