The tussle to establish an economic centre in the North came to an end last week with a decision reached to establish two centres in Mankulam and Vavuniya.

The establishment of an economical centre for the North was a hugely-debated topic with several views and arguments expressed from various quarters with regard to the location at which it should be established.

There were conflicting views which resulted in the delay in reaching a permanent solution. One segment wanted the centre at Omanthai while another group of people wanted the centre to be established at Thandikulam.

The government last week decided to establish two centres in Vavuniya and Mankulam, which are almost 50 kilometres away from each other.

These economic centres are expected to provide the much-needed focal point for farmers and entrepreneurs in the North who have been calling for such an establishment in order to broaden their market.

Arthur WamananLack of facilities
The majority of the population in the North, especially the Wanni is dependent on agriculture. Some also indulge in fishing and have a whole lot of issues thanks to the Indians. The farmers from the region earlier stated that they did not have a proper place to market their produce.

Over the past few years after the end of the brutal war, the agriculture sector, along with other sectors, saw a facelift, owing to the assistance provided to farmers and other stakeholders.

In addition to encouraging mass-scale production, the government also focused on backing home gardening especially to the families who had lost their male breadwinners. The women headed households in the war-affected areas benefited through this initiative. However, despite such assistance, the farmers were not able to sell their products due to lack of facilities that were essential to market their goods.

Most of these farmers live in the most interior places and therefore lack some of the basic facilities that are needed to make sure that there goods are marketed and sold.

Majority of these farmers do not have the necessary transport facilities to bring their produce to the nearest town. Part of the reason for this issue is that the roads which lead to these interior villages are not in good condition.

The establishment of economic centres would solve one part of the problem. It would help the farmers and traders in the region to bring their goods to one point. But do all farmers and traders have the ability or the facility to do this?

The previous and the current government have continued to provide livelihood assistance to the Northern farmers who were affected in several ways due to the war.

In addition, vocational training for the youth in the war-affected region is also a priority of the  government in order to rebuild the community.

Strengthening entrepreneurs
One of the key factors essential for the Northern businessmen and the farmers was the exposure. It was important so that they would understand the bigger picture and try to fit into the scheme of things. Businesses and domestic production picked up after the war. But Northern manufacturers lacked the knowledge and awareness that was needed to improve the quality of their products to match national and international standards.

The present environment has allowed the Northern businesses to get that much needed exposure. The National Chamber of Commerce along with the chambers of commerce and industries in the North organized programmes where local agriculture producers could meet with other local and international stakeholders through whom they could export their goods.

Such initiatives need to continue for some time in the future too. It is never easy to make it big within a short period of time, and for those who do not have much of the idea about what it takes to survive in the national arena, such guidance and assistance is more than valuable.