July 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka has soft-launched an international support call for its export-led industrialization initiative, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.
"The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is in the process of developing relevant policies conducive for export led industrialization as envisaged in the Vision 2025 of the government," Minister Bathiudeen said meeting with a European Union delegation last Thursday (July 05).
Minister Bathiudeen, joined by his top officials and Secretary General of the Bridging the Gap Foundation Asia and the former Director and Chief Economist at UNESCAP Dr Ravi Ratnayake met with a team of EU officials led by the Ambassador of the Delegation of EU to Sri Lanka Tung-Lai Margue at the Ministry office.
The meeting was held in view of Minister Bathiudeen's submission of UNIDO collaborated proposal calling for assistance to support export-led industrialization in Sri Lanka to the EU Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue and EU delegation at EU-Sri Lanka working group on Trade and Economic Cooperation Relations.
Addressing the EU delegation, the Minister said the government's vision includes establishing new industrial estates and modernizing new ones.
"Both developed-advanced and developing economies used industrialization as the engine of growth and development. They adopted appropriate industrial policies and strategies to guide their industrialization. Currently, Sri Lanka does not have such a policy document. A clear indication of this absence is the declining share of manufacturing in GDP which is stuck at 16.7%-well below South East Asian countries such as Thailand where the share is 27%. Though there were past attempts to revive industrialization in Sri Lanka a proper industrial policy and comprehensive strategy for its implementation are yet to be developed. The importance of such a policy has been recognized in the new Trade Policy recently approved by the Cabinet. It is also the action-plan for 2015-20 of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce," he added.
Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue responding to Minister Bathiudeen said it is a very ambitious project. "While these proposals are pro-development, it is important that they are well aligned with vision 2025," he added.
"The value chain integration suggestions here too are useful. We also suggest Sri Lanka to integrate closer with value chains of South Asian region, as a start."
Head of Asia Trade Division of European External Action Service (EEAS) Brussels Peter Bersz said the discussions were important. "We will go back to Brussels to take a closer look at the proposals and see how to respond. At this moment this is very much of a Sri Lankan internal document but we believe engaging a broader stakeholder base such as other governments, export and import companies, traders and manufacturers can enhance this even further, and this is a good and much needed start for such a level of engagement. Also this policy paper appears to be an industrial strategy too, which is another interesting aspect."
Unlike previous industry development policies, the comprehensive set of proposals submitted by Minister Bathiudeen on 5 July packs, among others, steps on increasing Sri Lanka's competitiveness for production and trade promotion, formulation of intellectual property policy and on geographical indicators, consumer protection, transforming industrial estates to drive SME development for export growth, enhancing capacity and competitiveness of SMEs in export-oriented value chains and even proposals to improve national quality infrastructure.