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Private sector renews call for stability and policy consistency from next political leadership

First Capital Holdings Director/CEO Dilshan Wirasekara presenting his views at the panel while (from left)  Oxford Business Group Regional Editor for Asia Patrick Cooke, Dialog Axiata Chief of Digital and Commerce Nushad Perera (second  from right), Colombo International Container Terminals CEO Jack Huang, and  Stax Inc. Managing Director Ruwindhu Peiris look on

Notes that politicians have failed to execute and that task needs to be assigned to bureaucrats and technocrats

Says regulatory frameworks and legislations should be reviewed, particularly concerning data privacy

 

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam

Sri Lanka’s private sector, which has been repeatedly affected in recent times due to lack of stability in the operating environment, presented their ‘wish list’ for the next political leadership yesterday, ahead of the next presidential election, which is due by end of this year.

 
As policy measures had frequently come under harsh criticism in the recent past, private sector representatives across diverse sectors called for significant efforts to rectify the situation from the future political leadership. Speaking at a roundtable discussion moderated by Oxford Business Group (OBG) Regional Editor for Asia Patrick Cooke, First Capital Holdings Director/CEO Dilshan Wirasekara, Stax Inc. Managing Director Ruwindhu Peiris, Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) CEO Jack Huang, and Dialog Axiata Chief of Digital and Commerce Nushad Perera pointed out that policy consistency and swift implementation of policies remain key to creating a conducive business environment.

 

What we want is policy consistency and it must be ensured that it is carried forward. What is required is also execution of policies and action plans,” stressed Wirasekara deliberating the discussion themed ‘How can Sri Lanka enhance competitiveness in the age of disruption?’
“This government has failed to execute. We need to take such responsibilities away from the politicians and give them to bureaucrats and technocrats. If we can manage that, we can make this country a much better place to live in,” he added. A key issue that is acknowledged as a major deterrent to progress across industries was Sri Lanka’s archaic laws.
Dialog Axiata Chief of Digital and Commerce Nushad Perera stressed that going forward all regulatory frameworks and legislations need to be “relooked at”, especially in the area of data privacy.

 
“We are living in a modern world, but the data privacy regulation is ancient,” he pointed out. Meanwhile, CICT CEO Jack Huang stressed that it is wise not to expect much from the government, regardless of the regime, and capitalise on the policies that are already available.

 
“We always have big expectations, instead why don’t we use what is available. The Colombo and Hambantota ports being free port is one example. The issue is that not many know what is made available for them. The government is not promoting it. So, make the most of what is available there,” opined Huang. Stax Inc. Managing Director Ruwindhu Peiris said, “The world cannot be at a better time right now. Data indicates that it is the best time in the history of humanity.”

 
Stating that a little can be done to the political climate that has direct implications on the operating environment of the economy, he quipped that politicians need to manage their greed and enjoy it while they can.
“I am aware that those who are in power will not know what we are talking about. And that is because their relevance is going to expire very fast,” he expressed.

 
The OBG in their 2019 Country Report on Sri Lanka highlighted that political tensions that surfaced in the latter part of 2018 slowed down the momentum of Sri Lanka’s economy, weakening the gains made earlier that year.

 
Despite the challenges that lay ahead, OBG stated that Sri Lanka is on track to achieving fiscal consolidation and improving economic outlook under International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidance.