Indrajit Coomaraswamy on Weliweriya factory closure
November 23, 2013, 8:49 pm
Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy
Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, former Director of Information at the Commonwealth Secretariat, last week said that Sri Lanka currently had the best development prospects she had had for over 50 years with the country enjoying excellent bilateral relations with China and in close proximity to India.
"The country cannot realize its full potential without export growth. It is not possible to attain the target of 8% growth on a sustained basis in a market of 21 million people through reliance on the growth of domestic demand. At present exports account for only 17% of GDP. Against this, Thailand had 68% and Malaysia and Vietnam 75% each. It is also important to recognize that FDI will have to play a crucial role in boosting export performance," he said at a news briefing on Tuesday summoned by Dipped Products PLC to focus on the implications of the closure of its factory in Weliweriya.
Coomaraswamy said that he had two reasons for participating in an event on a sensitive and contentious subject. DPL had made a robust case for re-opening the factory. He had heard this issue discussed at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Central Bank’s Monetary Consultative Committee and was convinced that the manner in which this dispute was resolved has national implications which is also of national importance.
He stressed that the health and the safety of the people is of paramount importance and should not be compromised under any circumstances. If there is ever an issue affecting the health of the people, it must be investigated rigorously and, where necessary, tests conducted expeditiously.
"However, once these are completed, it is important that swift action is taken on the basis of the results of the tests. Otherwise, very negative signals will be sent out that are not in the country’s interests," he said.
"For instance, the closure of the DPL factory on an arbitrary basis will not only send negative signals to local businesses but in today’s globalized information system, the news will also be flashed around the world through agencies such as Bloomberg and Reuters. The impact would clearly be undesirable."
Coomaraswamy made the further point that the country currently enjoys the best development prospects in over 50 years and with war over there were no drags on Sri Lanka’s economic prospects at this time.
"In addition, the economic geography is highly favourable for Sri Lanka at the moment. The center of gravity of the global economy has shifted to Asia. Sri Lanka is not only located in Asia but enjoys excellent bilateral relations with China and close proximity to India," he said.
With infrastructure development improving connectivity, the FTA with India and the soon-to-be-signed FTA with China, together with the Free Port and Bonded Area legislation, a framework that has the potential to be game-changing will be created.
‘If this factory is closed down despite the scientific tests demonstrating that its effluents do not reduce the pH levels of the water in the Rathupaswala area, a very negative signal will be transmitted to potential investors both domestic and foreign as well as exporters," he said.
"It would be difficult to attract investment to a country where a factory can be closed down without any reason for it."
Coomaraswamy also said that DPL was not only a significant exporter, but it produces value added exports, some patented due to R&D done here. We therefore had the template for an ideal export for a country like Sri Lanka.
"The closure of the factory at Rathupaswala will deal a significant blow to the country as a destination for investment and as a source of reliable supplies for global markets. It is important therefore that the awareness of the people is raised to understand the full implications of this issue," he concluded.