Industry stakeholders call for stability restoration | Sunday Observer

Industry stakeholders call for stability restoration

9 April, 2022

Industry representatives addressing the media on the dire straits of the economy and the ensuing plight of industries called on the President and the Prime Minister to resolve the political impasse and restore stability in the country to continue business.

“We need to urgently restore stability and discussions with the IMF should take off the ground with financial  and legal experts to negotiate with the global lender,” said CEO shippers’ Academy of Colombo and Director General Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers  and Exporters of Rubber Products, Rohan Masakorala.

Twenty-three industry associations, representing private sector firms engaged in exports, imports and logistics spoke of catastrophic repercussions for the economy and the people if the ongoing economic and political crisis was not resolved urgently. At the joint industry briefing, the associations stated that their industries which collectively earn around US$ 16.7 billion a year through merchandise and services would come to a standstill if the political and economic stalemate continues. They said the livelihoods of over 4.2 million workers or half of the entire working population will be affected.

“We have sent a letter to the Speaker and Parliamentarians and are expecting a favourable response soon,” said Masakorala.

Industry representatives said the economy is on the brink of a complete collapse with an acute shortage of essentials which would lead to mass unemployment and social unrest.

They said exports had declined by around 20-30 percent in the recent weeks owing to the current crisis.

Importers said they are unable to source raw materials and essential commodities due to the scarcity of dollars and the inability to open LCs.

Major export sectors such as apparel have done their best to earn the much needed foreign exchange while protecting the livelihoods of thousands of workers but the continuous shocks are having their toll sparing no industry, said JAAF Secretary General Yohan Lawrence.

The Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber Products (SLAMERP), Tea Exporters Association Sri Lanka (TEA), Sri Lanka Freight Forwarders Association (SLFFA)  and Exporters Association of Sri Lanka (EASL) were represented at the briefing.

Meanwhile, tourism sector stakeholders took to the streets last week to urge law-makers to immediately restore socio-political stability in the country key to keep the timely and much needed industry alive from further deterioration.

They were out for the scalp of the chief of the tourism industry regulator whom hoteliers and leisure sector personnel said failed to listen to their concerns in rushing to amend the Tourism Act.

Inbound tour operators, hoteliers, restaurant owners both large and small, officers related to the industry and tour guides called for the restoration of socio, political and economic stability to run the industry which has been battered left, right and centre since the Easter Sunday carnage in 2019.

The industry cannot go on with ad hoc and short-sighted policies which has throttled the industry  and now enough is enough said Jetwing Chairman and a hospitality industry veteran  Hiran Cooray said.

The tourism industry today hasn’t the basic needs such as fuel, gas and power to function and the worst is that it has no proper leader to look up to represent its concerns, Cooray said.

The stakeholders demanded the protection of employment, uninterrupted supply of gas, fuel, power  and access to social media, abolition of the  20th Amendment, freedom of speech, protection of the  Tourism Act No. 38, appointment of  competent and credible people to make economic decisions, eradication of corruption, removal of emergency rule, justice and accountability to the people, protection of human Rights, protection of livelihoods of two million Sri Lankans and appointment of a competent chairperson to the Tourism Board.

Social media is a vital communication mode today and moves to block them stifles daily operations, stakeholders said adding, imposing curfew was the worst that could be done to the gasping industry.

The tourism industry which takes one foot forward and two back has not been able to reach its full potential and come anywhere near its regional competitors who have made leapfrog progress despite the limitations.

Hoteliers and leading tour operators have been against the mighty hurry to amend the Tourism Act, a move they believe would cause division in the industry.

At a media briefing  last month inbound tour operators and hoteliers said the regulator had failed to  take their views on board before tabling the new Bill on Tourism in Parliament.

The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) expressed their displeasure over how the regulator conducted affairs in this regard and the haste to bring in a new Tourism Act.

They said foremost it is not the time to effect changes to the tourism law when the country and the industry is in turmoil.

All efforts must be directed now at bringing in the much needed foreign currency to the country rather than focusing on amending the laws of the industry, Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition and Event Organisers  President Imran Hassan said.

The Tourism Act No 38 of 2005 came into effect in October 2007. With the circulation of the new Tourism Act, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Act No 10 of 1966, which was in effect for the past 41 years, was replaced.

In terms of the provisions contained in the new act, the Tourism Development Fund was legally constituted, with 2 main sources remitting finances to the fund. By way of 1/3 of the Airport Tax collections and 1% of the Turnover of all Sri Lanka Tourist Board registered establishments. The Act provided for the setting up of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, thereby replacing the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

The objectives of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority as specified in the Sri Lanka Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005 is to develop Sri Lanka as a tourist and travel destination both in Sri Lanka and abroad, advise the Minister in charge of the subject Tourism on matters relating to travel and the tourism industry, within the policy formulated by Cabinet of Ministers, in relation to this sector;

Provide guidance to the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau to develop, promote and market Sri Lanka as a tourist and travel destination in Sri Lanka and abroad;

Provide guidance to the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management to undertake human resource training and development activities;

Work towards the enhancement of the tourism and travel sectors in order to secure a contribution for the expansion and development of the Sri Lanka economy;

Develop and promote adequate, attractive and efficient tourist services, inclusive of the hospitality industry in a sustainable manner;

Licence and accredit tourist enterprises to develop, enforce and maintain locally and internationally accepted standards in relation to the tourism industry and other related industries;

Encourage persons or bodies of persons in the private sector to participate in the promotion of the tourism industry and the promotional and training activities connected with such industry, and do all such other acts as may be necessary or conducive to the attainment of all or any of the above objectives.