Sri Lanka moots multi departmental body to sustain long term export upswing

*Commerce minister identifies three emergent challenges to export growth


Sri Lanka is mooting a single coordinating mechanism consisting of vital government departments to sustain its long term exports upswing. Sri Lanka has also identified three emergent challenges to future exports growth, according to Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, the ministry said in a communiqué issued earlier this week.

"Sri Lanka needs to firmly focus on a collaborative approach to overcome emergent challenges so that our export growth momentum will continue. We need to promote a Cross Functional Team styled mechanism that involves the vital stakeholders in our exports. The inter-departmental coordination of all concerned government departments and Ministries such as the customs, Environment Ministry, etc is essential," Bathiudeen said.

He identified three emergent challenges to Sri Lanka’s exports. "I should caution that we now have to face a number of serious challenges in the export sector. First is that our export volumes have showed strong resilience even when a three decades of terrorist war and a highly volatile global economic climate was battering our country. You may wonder as to how such an achievement has turned to a challenge. As we embrace a new economic upswing in a peaceful Sri Lanka and also entering a recession free global market, we are now compelled to demonstrate much stronger export growth statistics than ever before.

"The second crucial challenge is that any economic growth trend, however promising, cannot go on indefinitely. There should be concerted efforts by all stakeholders to sustain the growth specially in the context of both local and international economic cycles, and other vital factors such as global production process sharing, that may pose strong challenges to our current positive exports cycle.

"The third and most important challenge is the greening process of our manufacturing and agro sectors. Going green has now become not only fashionable but even profitable. The idea is gaining increasing importance due to the competitive advantage it brings to our manufacturing and exports along with increased cost savings. In fact I wish to reiterate my statement on last May 4th that Going Green could be the future for our industries. I think you would agree that there may not be industrial excellence or international greatness for us if our precious environment is left to suffer. In fact, it is in these three challenges that the strength of our export development strategy of sustained diversification, outsourcing, value addition and integrating to the emergent international value and supply chains will be tested," Bathiudeen said.

According to international analysts, after 30 years of lacklustre exports performance, Sri Lanka has recorded a 45% exports growth in the first four months of 2011. An 18% annualised growth in Money Supply stimulus combined with a policy of steadily held interest rate has brought an appealing credit outlook and rate of return for investors. The 2011 first quarter also reported resilient industrial output exceeding 10%, the ministry said.

Proposing solutions for the emergent challenges and effective exports coordination, Bathiudeen said: "Given the magnitude of the above challenges, firstly it is clear that Sri Lanka needs to firmly focus on a collaborative approach to overcome these emergent challenges so that our export growth momentum continues. In that, inter-departmental coordination of all concerned government departments and Ministries such as the customs, Environment Ministry, etc is essential.

"To this end, we need to promote a Cross Functional Team styled mechanism that involves the vital stakeholders in our exports. Secondly, promptly activating a well-integrated and a well-functioning, streamlined single electronic documentation window system that also takes in the stakeholder feedback, should be initiated in parallel to this inter departmental cross functional mechanism. Of course, it is imperative that the coordination mechanism and the electronic single window system be linked and tightly integrated. Such a two pronged course of action, I believe can help us enormously to address not only the above mentioned challenges but even the emergent issues in competitive advantage, cross border logistics and electronic documentation."

Stressing on the steps on future exports development, Bathiudeen said: "As Sri Lanka prepares for the 2012 mega export exhibition "Sri Lanka Expo 2012" and sets a new export target of US $ 20 billion by 2020, the endowment from our exports to the projected future national growth has increased in its significance while also adhering to the national development objectives as stipulated by the "Mahinda Chintanaya" policy framework. As you may already be aware, the "Mahinda Chintanaya" framework clearly accords high priority for the export sector. In fact, it correctly emphasises that the increased exports revenues will contribute to enhancing foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment opportunities and thereby contributing to the alleviation of poverty. There is no doubt therefore that recognition of success in the export sector is not only vital for Sri Lanka’s exports upswing, but also for Sri Lanka’s very fate in the global marketplace. I also have no doubts that service sectors and outsourcing will play an increasingly important role in diversifying our export basket further."

Highlighting the export development framework under the Mahinda Chinthanaya policy platform, Bathiudeen said: "This award ceremony comes at an important milestone in our exports history as Sri Lanka, for the first time in its international trades, has seen its monthly export earnings surpassing the US$ 1 billion mark in March this year. I congratulate our export community for achieving this target under trying circumstances. The good news is that the exports development strategy built around the Mahinda Chinthanaya policy framework has begun to pay dividends. The restoration of peace under the able leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has resulted in the creation of a conducive environment to Sri Lanka’s reinvigorated export development activities. With the objective of using the new peaceful conditions to contribute to national development, Sri Lanka has embarked on new strategic initiatives that would enable exporters to improve their business activities, enhance export earnings for the country and more importantly, continue to strategically position Sri Lanka Branding including the Cinnamon Branding announced today in the competitive global marketplace."

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