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Sunday, 3 August 2014

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'CCC spearheaded development projects'

Our brands, Sri Lankan brands, are on the shelves around the world and components made by our companies are in high demand. Many Sri Lankan firms have a strong regional presence while some have a global footprint, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) President Suresh Shah told those present at the 175th anniversary celebrations of the chamber recently.

Excerpts of the speech.


CCC President Suresh Shah

"Our CEOs are speaking at global business fora and our thought leaders and diplomats are welcomed at the world's leading universities and institutions.

We have technology and trade partnerships with many countries and they help our companies get the best from global networks.

Sri Lanka is the investment destination of choice for those seeking South Asian market access thanks to its top 10 position in the doing business rankings, its quality of life and its deep economic ties with the SAARC countries especially India. Colombo is a preferred location in Asia for commercial arbitration. SME's are as much a part of the development story as the large firms.

Nexus

The country's infrastructure is on a par with the rest of Asia. The deep South is a thriving manufacturing and logistics hub with many local, regional and global firms taking advantage of the port-airport-industrial zone nexus in Hambantota.

Information technology and the public service have become intertwined. Sophisticated tax intelligence is in play and revenue is on the rise without penalising entrepreneurship.

The Government uses big data to help understand everything from traffic trends, to dengue risk locations and crime hot spots. Public services are accessible via the internet. Government officials are skilled and well paid and the services they provide to the people are efficient, effective and free of inducement.

Our inherent talents have been advanced through an education system widely respected as being among the best in the region. All communities have gladly marched together towards prosperity.

All Sri Lankans have reached an acceptable minimum standard of living. They thrive in the meritocracy that is Sri Lanka.

This is but a glimpse of what Sri Lanka could be 25 years from now when on an evening like this, the Ceylon Chamber will celebrate its 200th anniversary.

Sri Lanka has the resources and the competitive advantage to reach this or similar milestones on its journey to prosperity. Strategic location, the many tourist attractions, a literate population, fertile soil, minerals, ocean resources that are as yet untapped, an FTA with India and one soon with China are some of these advantages.

Essential elements

The world's best tea and the world's most exquisite blue sapphires are also Sri Lankan. It is said that from Sheba to Princess Diana - and now The Duchess of Cambridge - many queens and princess through the ages have had the privilege of wearing a Ceylon Sapphire.

For Sri Lanka to reach her abundant promise, we need to deliver on - among others - four essential elements: First, the public and private sectors must work together in genuine partnership. If the private sector is the engine of growth, the public sector is the driver of the engine. Thus it stands to reason that the two need to work together and head in a common direction.

Second, Sri Lankan firms must not fear competition at home. Our economic prosperity is linked to success in overseas markets. To win overseas we must first win at home. Let's not fear FDIs, FTAs, CEPAs and imports. There may be a case for some protection during formative years but it must not be open ended.

Subsidies

Third, we must create a culture of meritocracy and aggressive intent, not one of dependency. Today, 45% of our labour force - those in agriculture and the public sector - contribute a little more than 17% to GDP.

Subsidies and the promise of a secure job keep them there. The country and the people would be better served if these resources were to be re-deployed in exportable manufacturing and exportable services.

Fourth and lastly but most importantly, Sri Lankans must share a common vision of a flourishing future. Simply put, united we win, divided we fail.

These are not responsibilities for government alone. That would be unfair. We are on a journey together with a host of stakeholders and the private sector must play its part.

As the Ceylon Chamber's history suggests, it is uniquely positioned to represent the private sector as Sri Lanka strives for prosperity. It was a strong advocate for the construction of the Colombo Port and the Colombo-Kandy railway.

It played a pivotal role in setting up the Ceylon Tea Auctions in 1898 and to-date - along with the CTTA - remains responsible for its functioning.

It was also the founder of the Employers Federation of Ceylon, the Mercantile Services Provident Fund and the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors.

While the Chamber's beginnings were linked to the plantation community, today it represents a membership drawn from all business sectors of our country.

Tribute

Three businesses have been members of the Chamber for over a 150 years and 26 others for over a century. This evening we celebrate with them our shared journey and thank them for the tremendous contribution they have made in the past.

The Chamber's pre-eminence today is a tribute to those who have led it in the past. Business leaders of vision, served with commitment and dedication, some as chairmen and others as members of the Committee. We are privileged to have with us this evening a number of past chairmen and we remember with gratitude the contribution they made. Those who have staffed the secretariat past and present have also played their part.

Expectation

Today we leave behind a journey of 175 years and look forward to the future. We do so at a time of great expectation and anticipation in our country. The cessation of terrorism five years ago, the investments in infrastructure and rising incomes have all built a sense of hope for a better tomorrow."

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