Labour reforms a dire need
Urgently-needed labour reforms and an employment policy geared towards
meeting specific needs of Sri Lanka's job markets are likely to be in place
in the next three to six months, official sources said.
Labour and Employment Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, said an employment
policy – once approved by cabinet – and seen as the national policy on
employment, would be ready in three months.
"It would include an assessment of the unemployment situation in the
country, the number of school leavers and the skills needed for jobs among
other issues," he said in an interview.
Samarasinghe comments came as the new government got cracking on an
economic agenda with ministers connected with these subjects moving into
position, meeting all sectors involved, including the private sector, commerce
chambers, economists, trade unions and representatives of employees.
With the economy in shambles or "in the pits - the doldrums", according
to Samarasinghe, the government moved quickly on another front to bring
in reforms and take care of issues raised in the UNP's much-touted 100-day
Official sources said there are plans for secretaries to ministries,
appointed last Thursday, to meet together weekly with the first meeting
scheduled sometime this week – likely on Monday – and plan out the workable
steps in the 100-day work chart. Once these steps and targets are charted
out, the meetings will take the form of a monitoring mechanism to ascertain
what measures have been fulfilled and what not, and why.
The UNP had promised - in the first 100 days in office – to reduce the
cost of living, wipe out corruption in all public sectors, ensure non-interference
in the public sector among issues that have affected the economy, cost
of living and public sector confidence.
As expected, ministers in charge of finance, the economy and commerce
promised to effect quick measures to resolve some of the issues affecting
the private sector and bridge budget deficits, as seen in some of the interviews
published in The Sunday Times.
Finance Minister K.N. Choksy was quoted as saying he planned to present
a budget sometime in March and that a vote on account was not necessary
as originally expected.
The government is also likely to resume negotiations with the IMF on
key structural reforms, informed sources said as the government economic
planners took stock of the country's financial position. The IMF's Standby
programme is on hold and a second tranche has not been released until the
government signs a new letter of intent on budget targets.
Samarasinghe said with productivity levels low, the year 2002 is to
be declared a year of productivity.
"There is a feeling of hope that good governance measures would be put
in place so that the correct signals are sent to foreign investors so that
they need not worry about their investments," he said.
Samarasinghe is bringing together a group of experts including outside
consultants to draft a set of labour reforms, which would also be subject
to a rigorous consultative process.
Sri Lanka's industry is in crisis with dozens of firms crashing in the
past 18 months and people losing jobs due to a combination of factors including
a tottering economy and world recession.
"We need to increase confidence levels and send a correct signal that
the government means business and that we are private sector friendly.
But at the same time we have to ensure that the job security aspect is
protected, that employees don't suffer and their fundamental rights are
not taken away," he said.
Samarasinghe said he is reviving the National Labour Advisory Council
with all three groups together - the government, employees and employers
- in one forum, which would arrive at a consensus on all labour issues.
The first meeting would be held on January 2.
No laughing matter
Sri Lanka's LPG industry is embroiled in controversy again with accusations
and counter-accusations by the two main players. Shell on Tuesday accused
LAUGFS of breaking regulations by utilising LPG meant for the domestic
cylinder market from their autogas filling stations.
LAUGFS meanwhile complained to the Borella police of suspicious persons
photographing most of their installations.
According to LAUGFS, the complaint is under further investigation after
the police found that one of the vehicles which was used belonged to an
officer at Shell, who later had made a statement explaining why they had
Earlier in September, LAUGFS was awarded a subsidised price and exclusivity
to the LPG produced at the CPC refinery. Shell in turn complained of an
irregular practice in CPC's choice of LAUGFS and the short notice forced
them to source LPG elsewhere to fill the void, while having to take urgent
measures to adjust their supply chain.
Shell, in a bitter squabble with LAUGFS that has been seen across the
year which benefited consumers through incentives offered by both sides
to garner the market, wants the CPC to annul the agreement and invite bids
through a proper tender procedure.