NCE proposals for presidential front runners to aggressively steer the economy ahead

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(L-R): Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa.

The National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), which represents a vital sector of the economy of the country such as exporters of products and services and service providers to exporters, has presented to the presidential candidates 10 proposals to aggressively steer Sri Lanka’s export economy ahead and ensure prosperity for all citizens of the country.

These proposals are the outcome of deliberations at a forum titled ‘Export Vision 2030’, conducted by the Chamber, which had been attended by CEOs of export oriented enterprises, and entrepreneurs from the exports sector. The forum was addressed by three prominent business leaders of the country with wide experience in industry and trade, followed by a panel discussion comprising professionals with expertise in specific areas of the economy.

Some select excerpts from their policy proposals are as follows:

National Trade Policy (NTP): It is observed that there is no common National Trade Policy encompassing the entire trade arena. Mis-alignment of policy stances taken at different segments of the economy has a counterproductive effect on the economy. The NTP should be restructured to include a National Export Policy. The annual budget proposals of the government related to trade should be linked to the NTP. The relevant public and private sector stakeholders should be adequately consulted in the formulation of the restructured NTP.

Taxation Policy (TP): An NTP was prepared and published in 2018. However, the relevant public and private sector stakeholders were not adequately consulted. The NTP should be restructured to include a National Export Policy. (NEP) The prevailing National Export Strategy (NES) of the Government should be linked to the NEP. The annual budget proposals of the government related to trade should be linked to the NTP.

Shortage of Skilled Labor: Inadequate skilled labor supply for export enterprise labor force, due to the prevailing mismatch of the education system and the skills required by the private sector enterprises. Shortages of skilled labor are experienced by important sectors of the economy related to exports.

Skills Development: The alignment of the National Education Policy and a restructuring of the education system are imperative to address this issue. The priorities of the private sector should be identified and the educational curricula should be changed accordingly to address the needs; it should also include development of the mindset of workers related to Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The need to import skilled labor to meet shortages has to be addressed, through the identification of the specific needs. However, the import of skilled labor should be regulated to acquire quality labor with regular periodic audits for control purposes.

The Number of Ministries: The number of Ministries should be limited to a maximum of 30, with rationalized and streamlined functions. Names of the Ministries should be incorporated in the Constitution as in the case of the United States of America. There should be a Single Window at each Ministry to cover all institutions under it, to facilitate access to services and streamlined approval procedures.

Prevention of Corruption: The Exporters are not provided with a level playing field as the favorites are treated in a different manner as opposed to others, also such situations lead to penalizing of certain companies. Strict measures should be put in place to curtail corruption both in the public and private sectors. A common Forum should be convened including Trade Chambers and the Workers Unions to identify the institutions and the points at which corruption take place, and develop preventive measures.

Political Stability: Exporters are suffering due to instability prevailing in the political system as attracting Foreign Direct Investments and attracting buyers for exporting industries become cumbersome Measures to ensure political stability should be implemented because it is vital to attract both Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and local Investments.

Security, Law and Order: This negatively affects the exporters as there are prolonged periods of breakdown of operations during threatening time periods as well as decrease buyer confidence. Measures to ensure security together with law and order should be implemented not only to attract FDIs but also to positively impact the economy, and the lives of the people.

Appointments as Heads of Institutions: Professionally qualified and competent persons should be appointed to head all state institutions. A policy on loss-making state institutions should be formulated. Loss-making trade institutions should either be closed down or privatized with no exceptions. A Wages Policy should be established in consultation with the private sector to reduce the burden on exporter. An Energy Policy and a Labor Regulation Policy to include the consolidation of the EPF and ETF Departments, among other measures.

Tracking the Implementation of the Annual Budget Proposals: Measures to track implementation of the Annual Budget Proposals by the institutions and individuals entrusted with specific responsibilities should be established.

Undesirable Activities of the Private sSector: Measures to control or eliminate or mitigate activities of private sector enterprises related to their adverse impacts on the environment to achieve sustainability should be established.