The local business community is sleeping and not aware of the extent of damage done to the country by heavy imports. They should wake up and assist local manufacturers, Treasury Secretary, Dr. P.B Jayasundara said.
Addressing a large gathering of media personnel on the event of the release of the Annual Report of the Ministry of Finance and Planning for year 2011, the Secretary said that the country has got used to doing business, as what he termed as, ‘the easy way’, which is importing .
“We have international giants engaged in various types of businesses here and they should shift their focus on supporting the local manufacturers not merely by dumping imported goods in to the local market,” Dr. Jayasundara stressed.
He pointed out that US$ 411 million worth milk powder, US$400 million worth sugar, US$ 400 million worth pharmaceuticals, US$ 400 million worth cement, US$800 million worth food in addition to milk and sugar, US$ 2 billion worth textiles, US$ 70 million worth Bombay onions and US$ 5 billion worth of petroleum is currently being imported in to the country among others.
“Many of the players in the local business community are unaware of these facts, and I urge you to make them aware of this situation and help us to open their eyes to this reality,” the Secretary urged the media.
He further stated that if Sri Lanka reduced at least 50 percent of its US$20 billion imports (which would be US$4 billion) over the next four years, the depreciating rupee and all the other policy problems will fall in to place.
Another issue the Secretary addressed was the need to change the way money is disbursed among local producers by the banking system. “Credit to the plantation sector by the banking system is less than 3 percent while our plantation sector earns more than US$2 billion worth foreign income for this country. The credit lent to the fisheries sector is only 0.5 percent,” Dr. Jayasundera pointed out. He accused the Banking sector of taking ‘the easy way out’ and funding imports. “Banks need to rethink their trade-bias financing policy and shift it to a more production-bias one.”
“We have requested the CB Governor to initiate this as the banking regulator and at least increase lending to the local manufacturers by another 10-20 percent,” he said. Also touching on the recent tea exporting tussle, Dr. Jayasundera stated that he did not see the point of importing tea to for blending, but rather said the country should focus on improving the quality of local tea being exported.
He stressed that policy makers, the business community, banking sector and public as a whole should start strengthening local manufacturers. “This is the only way we can reduce our expanding trade deficit and strengthen the depreciating rupee.”