Stop turbulent politics for rural economy to stay its course
A top agriculture trade official urged political parties to put the brakes on turbulent politics for at least 10 years to allow the rural economy to grow in a sustainable way.
"If all political parties in Sri Lanka could agree to give the private sector a 10-year break from 'the politics as usual environment' a sustainable rural economy could be just one of the rewards for everyone," said Mario de Alwis, Chairman of the National Agribusiness Council (NAC) at last week's opening of the Ag-biz 2007 Profoods Propack exhibition.
It is the seventh agribusiness event being hosted by the NAC.
He said the agribusiness and farmer communities have worked together to keep the nation fed through good times and bad. "We have provided cost effective food to the nation's workforce so that our manufacturing industries and service providers could be more competitive in the global market place. We have provided safe food so that our rural children could grow up and join the migrant labour force in Central Asia which is the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. So as much as our direct contribution we also contribute indirectly," he said.
However, he noted, that the weakest link in the food chain is in the vast informal sector of growers, intermediaries and transporters where there are difficulties in connecting the formal and informal sectors in the supply chain.
He said private investment in the rural economy could not be sustained without the full corporation of the political establishment. "We need political support to bring in the informal community from the cold. The long term benefits will be good for the economy. For the informal agribusiness sector we ask for a brake (suspension) of 10 years from the revenue system," he said.
De Alwis said in addition to infrastructure problems, stringent environmental controls, tough labour laws, land issues, excessive relocation costs, corruption within line institutions and low levels of consciousness among rural communities, it would be unrealistic to expect investors to heed President Mahinda Rajapaksa's call for more investment in rural areas if there wasn't better political commitment.