Business Times

Timeframe needed for large state enterprise turnaround:CCC chief

By Jagdish Hathiramani

Since some larger state-owned enterprises are continuing to rack up ‘massive’ losses, a timeframe is needed to chart their proposed transformation by the government; according to Dr. Anura Ekanayake, the re-elected Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

He added that "more radical plans be considered in the national interest", should the government’s proposed transformation fail. Speaking at the 171st Annual General Meeting of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in Colombo this week, at which he was re-elected for another term as the organisation's chairman; Dr. Ekanayake also stated that, while the government had given indications of greater engagement with the private sector, "the stance of the government of holding on to remaining state owned enterprises and the trend towards state institutions acquiring large chunks of shares of private businesses appears to give a different message".

He also noted that rising labour costs along with labour shortages would be a significant issue for local businesses in the medium term and proposed early corrective actions for this encompassing education, labour law, land ceilings and pension policies; all geared towards greater productivity.
Meanwhile, adding to the current discourse on constitutional amendments, Dr. Ekanayake urged that continuing peace and stability along with transparency and consistency in governance be given top of mind in whatever changes are made.

Also speaking as the event's chief guest, the High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, Ashok Kantha, suggested that, while India had investment outflows of US$ 15-20 billion, Sri Lanka could get could lure a bigger portion of this investment portfolio with the right comprehensive framework.

He further added that there were a lot of misconceptions regarding the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and Sri Lanka, most by those who had not read it. He further noted that so far Sri Lanka had benefitted a lot by trade with India. He also highlighted the examples of SriLankan Airlines having over 100 flights to India and 70% of all trans-shipping to Sri Lanka's ports originating from India, while Colombo Dockyards repaired a significant number of Indian vessels.

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