Lanka Sathosa sales plunge

by Suresh Perera

In a move that could possibly expedite the privatization of Lanka Sathosa, the government’s key consumer trading arm, suffered a whopping Rs. 844 million drop in sales in February 2016 in comparison to the corresponding month last year (2015), trade officials said.

"This indicates a critical consumer base loss", they said, noting that the state-run institution’s February 2015 turnover of Rs. 2.8 billion plunged to Rs. 1.9 billion in the corresponding month this year.

Lanka Sathosa has lost its competitive edge as pricing on most essential commodities are virtually on par or at times even higher than the open market, the officials pointed out.

Questions have also been raised on the inferior quality of some of the day-to-day essentials sold by the organization’s chain of supermarkets, which could have led to the drastic drop in sales as a result of a dent in consumer confidence.

The government insists that Lanka Sathosa will be restructured and not privatized, but employees assert that subtle moves are ongoing to hand over the institution to the private sector.

The first step in this direction is the involvement of a private company – a big-time player in the pharmaceuticals industry – to operate the organization’s warehouses across the country, they claimed.

Repeated attempts to contact Lanka Sathosa Chairman, Rohantha Athukorala for comment were futile as his mobile phone went unanswered.

Lanka Sathosa is also under probe by the special  Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) over alleged irregularities in rice imports running into billions of rupees during the previous regime.

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