âWe have to be more imaginative in our enterprisesâ
Address by Dr. Sarath Amunugama Minister of
Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion at the recent
inauguration of Marks & Spencer Operations at Global Park - Seeduwa.
SPEECH: As a country we have to, we can think big; being a
small country we have no future if we cannot think big. Today in a
highly competitive world, every country must play to its strength. As a
country on a growth trajectory, Sri Lanka needs many initiatives such as
the one pioneered by Global Park and Marks & Spencer Ltd.
We have many advantages. Firstly the location. A very few countries
in our region can offer a land of this dimension, so close to the
airport, and a port. If you have this amount of land in Singapore or
Hongkong you are automatically in the dollar billionaire class; itâs
difficult to get extents of land like this in Mumbai, or Chennai.
So though we have been rather negative in the past saying that Sri
Lanka cannot find land; after I took over BOI, I have found that that is
one of the strengths that we should capitalize on.
Secondly, our people; I think many of you would agree, that after
about six decades of investment, in education, health and social
welfare, we have created a workforce, which is as good as any in the
Of course, it could have been improved if we had, for example, taught
our people international languages. If we had moved earlier on into the
But even so, we have to be proud of what we have got now; A highly
receptive workforce. Only the other day, I was speaking to some top IT
entrepreneurs from India, and they told me that one problem with Indian
employees is the high attrition rate.
Once they come and start working, in a highly mobile society -
actually it is a good sign - people work for a short while and move on
very fast. A Sri Lankan employee stays with a company for a fairly long
time. They are skilled, and our attrition rates are low.
Thirdly, we can use of our âHubâ status. Very few people have thought
of exploiting that. We have the capacity to be a hub for South Asia. We
are just 25 miles away from one of the biggest emerging markets in the
world. And not very far away from the East Asian markets and the markets
of China and Japan.
What other country can boast, of being mid point between the Middle
East and the Far East; or if you take going northwards, we look at the
markets of India, Pakistan and now the growing markets of central Asia.
I want to thank Ravi Karunanayake for having the good sense to
support Free Trade Agreements; to promote those Agreements with India
and Pakistan. We should think of widening such trade cooperation to
other South Asian countries which would include largely Bangladesh, as a
We have special tariff concessions within the European Union. Only
last week I was able to speak to Margot Wallstrom, Deputy Chairman of
the EU, who knows Sri Lanka very well, and she assured me she will try
her very best to continue with those tariffs which only Sri Lanka has
won in our Asian region.
Due to various political and other factors, while limitations are
placed on exports from China, at least in the near future Sri Lanka will
be the beneficiary of those overt and covert constraints that are put on
trade with the big developing industrial countries of China and India.
We are in a very pivotal position. But that is not enough. We must
learn to exploit every single advantage that exists in this country.
There is a saying by the Chief Minister Battarcharjee - Leader of the
Communist Party of West Bengal. His slogan is âReform, Perform or
I very often wished that our Leftists would also adopt this policy.
Many of them are following only the perish policy. But as a country we
cannot accept that. We have to accept the policy of âreform, perform or
perishâ, as in China and West Bengal.
I have told the BOI that we must think big and I have set them a
target of US dollars 2 bn in the near future and in a couple of years US
This is ambitious but I think is quite achievable. The BOI should go
for big ventures like this one. I am glad to say, we have the assurance
of an Oil Refinery from the Middle East which will cost US dollars 1 bn.
There is also a Chinese offer of a coal power plant on a
private/public sector partnership which will be approximately US dollars
1 bn. There are many other ventures. Only last week I had negotiations
with Croatia which is keen to establish a ship-building centre in Sri
Hambantota must be projected as a mega construction zone and
industrial port. That is how we want to think big. With Power plants,
Oil refineries, with Ship repair and building and with mega projects
which will bring it in line with the tendency for mega projects all over
the world. That is the only way in which countries can now survive in a
highly competitive economic situation.
This idea is something that is very modern. If you look at the
objectives of companies in America and Europe, a major one now is to cut
costs and to compete.
If you canât cut costs, you canât consolidate, you canât get your
product dispatched on time to you markets, and then your company
shareholders are going to be very worried and very angry. So every
enterprise today is looking minutely as to how they could cut costs and
make more money for their enterprises.
That is keyone of todayâs competition. Without competition the
worldâs industry will not move. Otherwise you might have a situation
which America is facing today.
They are undertaking large imports from big countries like China or
their own funds are flowing into China for manufacture and a huge
Balance of Payment gap has arisen. It is reminiscent of our own Balance
of Payment gap.
America is having a huge balance of payment gap. And they are now
wondering how to use fiscal policies to narrow this gap because like Sri
Lanka, the US is also living beyond its means.
So, this is a time we have to fight for every Dollar. The Sri Lankan
public is not aware, that, for example, the cost of living is largely
caused by the falling Rupee. And why is the rupee falling? Because we
donât attract sufficient foreign investment and foreign currency into
the country. Itâs as simple as that.
We have to buy more and more rupees to by less and less dollars. So
naturally we have to spend more rupees to buy those dollars.
If their is an influx of dollars or foreign currency then the rupee
will get stabilised as we found during the tsunami when there was an
inflow of foreign currency. Then we were naturally able to stabilise the
rupee and I was given the credit as Minister of Finance.
But, it is very necessary that our country positions itself, uses its
hub status, uses all those very favourable factors that we have to
attract the highest amount of foreign investment, foreign trade and
foreign inflows of capital which will then strengthen the rupee and
thereby even help alleviating the cost of living.
That alone is not enough; we have to manufacture more, we have to be
more imaginative in our enterprise; I want to say that I am particularly
glad that this is a private sector operation.
Global Consolidation Parks, Parks like this, have to have substantial
private sector thinking. I am going to have close by, in 22-acres which
belongs to BOI, a Techno Park, where all the big IT investors will come
in initially and start their operations.
One lesson that we have learnt from India is that we must not think
that these investors will come and establish their own campuses, their
own research centres, initially.
In India, they came into these parks, worked in those buildings, got
to know the country and at the next stage, set up their own campuses and
So, Techno Parks, and Global Parks like this, where you consolidate
activities, is the them of the future. We can use our Hub status, our
availability of land, Initiatives of our people, to align ourselves with
this growing concept.
That time has come and this is an example of what we can do. And we
have to do much more if this country is to prosper in order to give our
people a standard of living that they richly deserve.
I want to thank every one of you and to wish that this enterprise,
this gigantic structure, which I think is the biggest in South Asia,
will be full of orders like from Marks & Spencer, for consolidation.
Marks & Spencer has shown the way, others are also welcome I believe,
to use these facilities and this will spur our airports and harbours
also to expand.
As you know, we are undertaking large expansion projects, in the
airport, and in the port in Colombo, we are thinking of the Industrial
Port in Hambantota; so all these are integrated and as an important
component of this integration, I want to thank each and every one of you
and want to tell you, particularly, our foreign friends, that the
Government of Sri Lanka is committed to helping you.
We welcome you and we are greatful to you for co-operating with us
and being a partner in our growth process.