Chairman's speech 2021 - 2022
ADDRESSING THE 24TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE EXPORTERS' ASSOCIATION OF SRI LANKA
Good Afternoon ladies and Gentleman,
Firstly, let me Thank you all for the Confidence placed in me to take the seat of the Chairman of the Exporters Association of Sri Lanka at its 24th Annual general Meeting.
The Annual Report and the outgoing Chairman's speech has covered the affairs of the Exporters Association over the past year. The need of the hour is increased Exports; hence we believe that the EASL as well as our members have a very large role to play in the recovery of our economy. As an industry, what we need is stable policy decisions - AD Hoc policy decisions such as banning the importation of Chemical Fertilizer could have a detrimental impact on our Agricultural Crops, which in turn would result in decreased volumes available for export of such crops.
We believe that going organic is important, but this should be achieved with a long term plan and should be phased in and we urge the government to not implement such decisions overnight. The Daily news of the 3rd of July stated that a ministerial committee has been setup to make amendments to the current Export CESS Act.
We have made representation with the EDB to intervene and stop any amendments to the act which could kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs. Along with a general increase in the global freight rates, the current import ban (as required to conserve our Foreign Exchange) has resulted in less containers being available for exporters to ship out with which has worsened the situation for exporters. Exporters have had to bare the cost of increased freight rates, vessel's by passing Sri Lankan ports due to low cargo volumes etc.
Whilst these are natural market forces at play - the exporters have had to bare the brunt of these with late shipment penalties, being reputed as an unreliable sourcing destination, sky high freight rates, claims etc. Further, Whilst understanding the need for our very tight exchange control policy's , we believe the government should look at mechanisms of giving the Export sector an extra benefit in terms of a higher value for every USD that's brought into the country through exports ( similar to foreign worker remittances ) - We believe this would make our exports more competitive, further Exporters should have the ability to negotiate 100% of their term USD Bills through local banks and to be able to remit money out for raw material purchases without any restrictions.
We believe that we will have to live with the COVID 19 Pandemic for the foreseeable future, however I believe that we will have to find methods to live with this pandemic.
A key to doing so is to have most of our population vaccinated, in that light whilst appreciating the Government for having carried out a very good vaccination program to date we would like to request that all SLEDB registered Export Companies are put on a priority list in order to be able to vaccinate their staff and work at full capacity and efficiency and in turn increase exports from Sri Lanka.
We would like to commend the EDB on the work done on the National Brands Development Program 2021-2024 which is a program setup to give financial assistance to 100% Sri Lankan owned brands to be taken to the world market. This is a great initiative for both current exporters as well as Export Ready companies in Sri Lanka. Moving forward The Constitution of the EASL states that the objectives of the association are to promote and protect the common interests of the members of the association who export products and services to engage in any actuary as may be necessary or conducive to the interest or benefit of such exporters. We would like to work with the authorities by engagement and not confrontation and we would like more inclusiveness and greater engagement with policy makers.
I would like to place on record that we had a very productive meeting with Mr. Suresh De Mel - Chairman Export Development board who wanted the EASL's input on increasing exports in the short to medium term. We are grateful to our membership who have come back to us with their feedback on the same. This was the first of many engagements we hope to have with the SLEDB. We believe this is one of the mechanisms of the private sector working very closely with the public sector for the betterment of our mother land. We would like to continue to be a part of the discussions with regard to all areas of trade such as FTA's , Bilateral trade agreements and as such. Sri Lanka's current Ease of doing business ranking is at 99, whilst our closest neighbour India is at 63 and other countries who are close competitors in the Asian region such as Vietnam ranks 70.
We have a lot of work to do to increase our rankings in the Ease of doing business index and the EASL is happy to play its part to help the government increase our rankings. We will continue with our Recommendation for a National Export Strategy document NEDEV's and would like to play an active role in formulating future strategy to increase exports from Sri Lanka. In order to be current in a global context and also not to rely solely on our existing basket of export goods, we believe high value Technology Exports as well as Technology in Exports needs to be looked at this is an area that I would like our committee to look at very seriously. I believe that we could engage more with our member associations such as SLASSCOM and their member companies to see how best we could use technology and cross sell technological products to enhance our product portfolio and become a relevant destination in the global supply chain.
Acknowledgements I would like to Thank Mr. Harin De Silva who got me involved in the EASL, Mr. Fazal Mushin, Mr. Chirsso De Mel, Mrs. Dawn Austin and Mr. Muzammil for all the advice given and for always being open to help. Thank you to Ushani Dassanayake and Sajani Upekha who runs the EASL secretariat and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for helping us conduct our affairs in a smooth manner Would also like to thank my vice Chairs Ranil Goonethilake and Yohan Lawrence for the support and for helping me take the EASL forward. The year ahead is definitely going to be a challenging one. We look forward to engaging with the authorities to ensure that the exporters expectations are met and look at how we could play our part in bringing in much needed export earnings into the country.