Prior to the opening of the economy, due to import restrictions local industrialists of all grades and descriptions revelled in the demand for their local products. The import restrictions in addition helped many technically skilled entrepreneurs to venture to fabricate machines capable of turning out spare parts in great demand for vehicles; wood-working machines; arc welding plants; generators; and other machinery and equipment for workshops. The selling prices were reasonably low and within the reach of modest income earners.
"Commencing of an umbrella turning out project in Hambantota with working females preferring several, umbrellas to match their dresses, the sales capability was not an issue"
Machinery and equipment that were fabricated for rice milling, prompted many local businessmen with capital to commence rice processing mills all over the paddy growing areas. Transport of produce improved with the importing of Lorries; perhaps on restricted basis. The local banks, with the two State Banks leading in their obligatory duty to help the local ventures, adopted a risk bearing approach to provide finance at reasonable rates of interest with Central Bank awareness.
Consumer preference over a period shifted to local products and-the price difference created a local product preference. Thus legislation alone cannot promote and protect local industry, unless with the promoted local production, the duties on imported items are increased limiting imports and a promotion of local product buying preference is also promoted. The previous Government at the peak of its popularity did not request its financially capable supporters to commence a few employment creating industries. Considering the female population in the Southern Province, commencing of an umbrella turning out project in Hambantota with working females preferring several, umbrellas to match their dresses, the sales capability was not an issue. Several other items relating to males and females, including cotton sarongs and footwear could have been commenced, thus providing employment opportunities mainly to the young in their home locations.
The present government too seems to have not canvassed the cash rich and capable persons to commence industrial units for items in popular demand. Both governments had cash-rich supporters who had earned from gambling and investment related pursuits and preferred State owned organizations and private organizations to serve in their directorates with a safe investment and with assured annual dividends, rather than venture to commence an industry in unknown locations, risking their gambling and investment related earnings.
"Legislation alone cannot promote and protect local industry, unless with the promoted local production, the duties on imported items are increased limiting imports and a promotion of local product buying preference is also promoted. "
Dr. Palitha Kohona, with his internationally-related knowledge in a lengthy article on Daily Mirror of October 26, has expressed his profound knowledge mainly in relation to legislative support desired for the protection of local industry. But a government cannot frequently release statements and expect a growth in local industrial investment without assured competitive import protection and preferential local goods sales and purchases promotion. Dr. Kohona had said, “The inadequacy of institutional support has been a major reason for Sri Lankan exporters being placed at a disadvantage” The institutional support could include government institutions and their officers and banks and their management and officers. For any support inadequacy of banks, the investor could seek Central Bank intervention not as a complainant, but where applicable to obtain redress. The institutional deficiency, specially relating to banks is a hackneyed thought of a few who are not directly involved in business ventures.
He had also stated that with a 1.2 billion population; “Securing effective market access to India is vital for Sri Lanka.” But it is a challenging confrontation, considering the Indian people’s strong faith in the desire to use products manufactured in India, and in his own belief that; “many developed countries straining to enter the Indian market place because of the undoubted potential it offers.” Thus the export growth of our products to the Indian market may confront many unanticipated hurdles. In attempting to access the Indian market, with various agreements, we may be blindfolded and open our market to India’s advantage and the promotion of local industrial production in medium ventures and rural level small ventures left to battle a challenge in marketing their products with India and China dumping their low production-cost goods. Steel Corporation’s ‘Lanlo’ spoons and other local items will feel the heat of Indian and Chinese competition. Locally manufactured dry cell batteries are not found in shops for sale, is the corporation closed? Instead of local green tea bags, some prefer imported green tea bags, a cash-rich house wives’ pride preferential.
"The present government too seems to have not canvassed the cash rich and capable persons to commence industrial units for items in popular demand"
A writer’s letter on ‘Preferential Purchasing’ published in the Daily Mirror of Sept. 28, referred to two local products; “Sometime in 2010, I purchased two locally assembled table clocks, and about a year ago purchased a locally-assembled mini-fridge, name indicating the reputed company but the recent newspaper advertisements of both institutions not reveal the availability of the two locally-assembled products.” Similar attempts made to assemble products locally may have been abandoned, due to the high cost of importing the necessary components.
The IDB made a noteworthy contribution. Often collaborating with banks and the authorities should prompt the IDB to take a more active role to promote new industrial ventures.