Northern Investment Forum:
Responsible development urged
Jaffna back to business
By developing the North you not only reap profits but contribute
actively in the development efforts and provide employment to the
unemployed, said Mayor of Jaffna Yogeshwary Patgunarajah addressing the
BizPAct Investment Forum in Jaffna themed ‘Invest in Peace - Responsible
Investment opportunities in the North.’
This is a good opportunity to attract the communities in Sri Lanka to
invest in responsible development in the North and East regions.
A total of 178 delegates including representatives from 15 companies
in Colombo, 30 entrepreneurs from Jaffna and 20 overseas delegates as
well as government officials and the media gathered at the historic
Jaffna Library on January 6 to create a platform for responsible
development of the North. The word responsible was stressed by most of
the speakers. The natives of Jaffna encourages development but it should
blend with their culture and not harm the environment.
At present there are 200,000 unemployed persons which include 3,000
graduates of various disciplines in Jaffna.
Chairman Chambers of Commerce and Industries of Yarlpanam K.
Poornachandran said that the market is full of sea food which is just
sent to Colombo and nobody has thought of processing and exporting.
The agriculture produce is expected in the coming Maha season
therefore there are many opportunities for value addition and exports.
He said that SMEs should start ventures for the unemployed who are
increasing daily with IDPs coming from Vavuniya with a mere Rs. 5,000 in
their hand. He was confident that except for textiles and electronics
everything else can be manufactured in Jaffna. President Ceylon Chamber
of Commerce Dr. Anura Ekanayake said that investors as well as the
chambers are not fully aware of the potential in the North since the
available information is old.
He said peace is a must to discuss economic development.
Though the war has stopped to enjoy the full freedom of peace there
should be economic development with the introduction of new technology,
linkages, an enabled regulatory environment, goodwill, trust and
infrastructure. He said that infrastructure is not the only thing needed
It is expensive and takes time to build while all the other factors
are less capital intensive compared to infrastructure. Therefore let us
start with the less capital intensive factors for a start.
Plight of the palmyra
The palmyra tree considered as the multipurpose tree that grows in
Jaffna and other places in the North and East has seen many changes.
Prior to the war there had been over 6 million trees in the Jaffna
District of which one million has been destroyed.
According to a spokesman it is very difficult to improve this
industry as it comes under the cooperative sector. Therefore, they don’t
come in close contact with the private sector. Another factor hindering
the development is the difficulty to obtain funds.
At present around 45,000 people are involved in this business as
small and medium businesses.
Managing Director Uthayan Publications E. Saravanapavan was of the
view that banks are not interested in developing the region. Instead
their only interest is mobilising deposits. When a person wants a loan
they ask for security which discourages the people.
The managers are reluctant to give loans as it is additional work and
they discourage the entrepreneurs who come to the banks with proposals
to establish businesses. He said that most of the time the customers
cannot get the funding as they cannot fulfill the requirements. The
banks need government servants to sign as guarantors and since the war
has just ended this is a difficult task.
Chairman Chambers of Commerce & Industries of Yarlpanam K.
Poornachandran in his address said that the Central Bank has given the
approval to open 67 bank branches in Jaffna. Already the banks have
started to open branches. The HSBC will open a branch in the second week
of the year while the Bank of India too will open a branch very soon.