A worthy example
There are those who believe that Sri Lankans cannot
undertake any major project without foreign expertise and
funding. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thinking that could
keep us stagnant in the development sphere. This Government has
undertaken several projects which do not depend on foreign
expertise or assistance. The Moragahakanda irrigation project is
one of the largest such projects.
This Government succeeded in liberating the North and the
East from the LTTE, another task that many believed was
impossible. Now it faces the Herculean task of reconstructing
the two provinces. This is much easier in the East, where most
areas were under Government control in any case. The North,
however, is a different story. There is virtually no
infrastructure in many parts of the North, which bore the brunt
of the 30-year conflict.
One of the earliest casualties of the war was the Northern
Terrorists blew up the track and the Yal Devi train in the
mid-1980s, thus cutting off rail access to Jaffna. The trains
operated only up to Vavuniya. With the liberation of the North
and the restoration of peace, there is an urgent need for
re-starting train services to the North. The Government has
already started work on the project.
What is significant is that most of the infrastructure on
this line is being built with local funds and expertise. For
example, the Social Services and Social Welfare Ministry has
undertaken the construction of the Omanthai rail station at a
cost of Rs. 26 million. This is incidentally the first ever Sri
Lankan railway station to be built with public funding and
As befitting a building designed and built by the Social
Services Ministry, the station will have a myriad of facilities
for the disabled and the elderly.
Another unique feature is that it will not draw electricity
from the national grid. Solar power will be used instead. The
Ministry has another proposal which should be emulated - the
public can contribute labour towards the project. Construction
professionals can also share their expertise. Monetary donations
are welcome, but in our opinion, labour contributions will be
even more valuable.
This is an eye-opener for the entire Sri Lankan society. The
lesson here is that nothing is beyond our reach if we pool our
resources. The defeatist mentality that Sri Lankans cannot
launch major projects without foreign help should be quashed if
we are to progress rapidly.
A better future for garment
Sri Lanka's garment industry is a mainstay of the
economy, earning billions of dollars in foreign exchange and
employing a large number of youth. The industry has
traditionally depended on a few key markets including the
European Union and the USA to sell several product lines.
Sri Lanka has enjoyed duty concessions and 'quotas' in some
of these markets. But with Sri Lanka's ascension on the economic
ladder, these facilities may not last forever. There is
speculation on the extension of the GSP+ facility by the EU.
Again, it should not be regarded as a permanent lifeline.
What matters is that our garment industry is stable at the
moment. Quality, not quantity, also matters in the garment
industry especially in order to compete with other garment
producers in the Asian Region. Superior quality, innovation and
labour standards (aptly exemplified by the tagline Garments
Without Guilt) will be even more important in a post GSP/Quota
It is also important to introduce new product lines and find
new markets. No industry can survive in the long run by
depending on a few markets. The authorities should also assist
small and medium garment industrialists to reach a bigger
market. The handloom industry, which was revived after a
near-collapse, too must be given concessions and incentives with
an eye on exports.
The Board of Investment must encourage more investors to set
up garment factories in areas other than the Western Province.
The economies of the North and the East are being rejuvenated
after their liberation from the LTTE. It is thus heartening to
note that a new garment factory employing 1,000 youth is being
opened in the Eastern Province today.
There is no doubt that the North too will get similar
factories in due course. With the competition getting tougher,
the onus is on the industry to push the boundaries and emerge on