Opening ceremony of the Boat Show to be held in October 2016 was held on Wednesday in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.
Boat Show is organized by the BTTI-Boat Building Technology Institute which is the brainchild of a prominent boat builder who has done yeoman service to this Industry – Mr Neil Fernando.
Ministers involved in development and investment should have attended the ceremony, but the only minister, who understands the value of developing the business, Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Amaraweera participated, though many ministers were invited.
Ministers heading Industry, Investment, and Strategic Development who should be leading the development of Boat Building Industry may have considered that this industry does not need their support.
The private sector is struggling to survive as the government is not giving any support whatsoever to help the industry due to ignorance.
This industry can bring much benefit to the country by way of exporting assembled, manufactured yachts, fishing boats and other vessels, and yet the decision makers have to understand the importance and potential of developing the same by providing relief in taxes and cutting bureaucratic approval processes to establish boatbuilding yards.
I, myself as an investor, am struggling to get a simple approval to commence a boatbuilding yard in Galle where many organizations listed below have become stumbling blocks to start the project.
One agency wants to pass the buck to another agency and I have met many ministers to get a kick-start the “fishy business”!
It is over many months and I have still at “sailing off” point to commence the yard.
I have written numerous articles and letters about the need to have a centralised coordination committee to gather all agencies such as CEA, CCD, MEEPA, UDA, METROPLIS, Fisheries Ministry, Customs, SLPA, Navy and Local Authorities and manage the approvals to start new boat building projects right around the island.
You will be really surprised that this industry is still governed by Wildlife Laws in Sri Lanka which has nothing to do with fishing Industry!
Therefore, my plight has been like playing cello/violin to a deaf elephant’. I mean the real elephants but not the elephants who govern the country!
Budget proposals were put forward in 2016 and if the Finance Minister can tell us what incentives have been given to the boat builders to develop the industry I will “cut by most critical organs” (many politicians have promised to cut their bellies and throats hence there is no much left to cut!) to prove that I am right. Ministers have memories like fish. You know what I mean!
Dr Sarath Obeysekera