Fazal Mushin | Dr. Harsha de Silva

The incoming Chairman of the Exporters Association of Sri Lanka, Fazal Mushin last week said that they would like to play a key role in shaping and developing policy for the promotion of exports and hence expect to present a position paper following the setting of a new government post August 17 elections. He also called on all other export chambers to stand as one voice and lobby government on national issues as they must be heard and seen as the drivers of economic growth.

“At this crucial moment in Sri Lanka, when we are about to face a general election, I would like to see policy makers focus on real growth in exports and Walk the Talk. We would appreciate that the Government develops a model for advocacy whereby private sector stakeholders are invited to participate in planning of policy in an inclusive manner where we can be partners in developing a conducive long term strategies in hich we can grow and thrive,” Mushin said in a speech made at the 18th Annual General Meeting of the Exporters Association of Sri Lanka held last week.

Noting that Sri Lanka should try and develop a hybrid policy where the country can take advantage of its rich agricultural history and natural resources and at the same time develop its industrial base to increase volume and value within the given space and resources available to us, the new Chairman said the island also needed to develop its skills and talent pool.

“We must invest in the future of R&D and technology and make a conscious effort to move up the value chain and look at shaping our tomorrows. I see only the garment industry today that has stayed ahead of the game,” Mushin said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning Dr. Harsha de Silva claimed that ‘lack of focus’ by the previous government had resulted in the decline in Sri Lanka’s exports as a percentage of GDP. While in 2010, it was 17.4% of GDP and as of 2014 it has further declined to 14.9%, statistics showed.

“I would like to see the exports to GDP in the next; I don’t know how many years, but to surpass the GDP. That means more than 100% of GDP. That is our aim should be. Not the 20, 30 or 50, but exports should be more than 100% of GDP. If we can get there, I was just telling over lunch, that Singapore is 250% of its GDP, Hongkong is 300% of its GDP. We don’t need to get there right away. Let’s have a target. Think about it. 100% of GDP. If you have a dream like that then we can really think about completely different way of looking at exports.

Completely out of the box. Because you can’t just have plaster solutions, you can’t just gradually build this up. We are in serious trouble. We have to do something serious now, some massive surgery is required,” De Silva said.

He noted that it was said to see that while annual worker remittances contributed by the poorest strata of society domiciled abroad have now surpassed almost US$ 7 billion exports was still hovering around the US$ 10 billion mark
“You know it’s really not what we want.

Out of this 10 Billion exports, look at how much value added exports, 5 Billion in textiles and apparels. Value added might half of that. So how much of value do we bring in these exports,” the Deputy Minister said adding that he was inviting the exporters to be a part of policy making as any future policy should be consensus driven and be a win-win situation for all.