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Sunday, 1 February 2015





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ESCAP to support new development phase in Lanka

The new Government has brought fresh hopes to all Sri Lankans. ESCAP is ready to help Sri Lanka, Director, Trade and Investment Division, ESCAP, Dr Ravi Ratnayake told Industry and Commerce Minister Richard Bathiudeen when he met the Minister in Colombo last week.

“The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific where two-thirds of the world's population live.

ESCAP is the most comprehensive of the United Nations five regional commissions," said ESCAP Director Dr Ratnayake, who was once an Economic lecturer with New Zealand's Auckland University.

"Sri Lankans need to be careful and not throw the baby along with the bathwater. The Government should fully abandon certain economic development concepts and projects launched by the previous regime overnight - infrastructure projects and the concept of five hubs and tourism strategy are examples.

"Sri Lanka's hub positioning is a great strategic asset and all ‘five’ hubs in the previous strategy need not be considered. At least three of them - commercial, knowledge and maritime - still hold promise and, therefore, could be leveraged in some way by the new economic vision.

"There was strong emphasis on infrastructure development during the past few years which was the fulfilling of a need but the process could have been more inclusive of the other relevant stakeholders, transparent and the projects directly linked to economic activities so that the masses would benefit.

"ESCAP is ready to help Sri Lanka in its new phase. We can help to build capacity in internal logistics, trade negotiations, and time and cost saving national single window for exports.

"For example, Singapore's new single window has reduced trade processing time from seven days to less than 15 minutes. At present, Sri Lanka qualifies well for our support but the call needs to be officially made to us so that we can extend assistance.

"We also strongly suggest Sri Lanka launch Business Process Analysis (BPA) across the export sectors and map the value chains, for which ESCAP can lend its support.

If BPA already done for certain sectors, they need to be promptly updated. The BPAs cover the entire process - from farm-gate to the ship loading point".

"It needs to be supported by the ruling government-political will is critical here. The value addition to exports by a BPA, on average, is four-to five percent but often could go as high as 15% and above. The gains for global GDP from new trade transparency in Asia Pacific could be as high as $500 billion,” he said.

Minister Bathiudeen said, “Export increase and recovering GSP plus are key aims of the 100-day program. I welcome institutional level support from ESCAP to increase our export targets. The EDB has been already partnering with Geneva based International Trade Centre (ITC) in formulating our national export strategy and vision - and the process is already under way."

"ESCAP's BPA too could be useful in strengthening this effort further at a time when we focus on diversification of our product basket and destinations as well,” he said.

ESCAP Director Dr Ratnayake said, “ESCAP too has been working closely with ITC in many aspects and I am pleased to hear that Geneva's ITC is partnering with EDB and your Ministry.".


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