Northern & Eastern Provinces Are Nowhere Close To Middle Income Category

By C.V. Wigneswaran

C.V Wigneswaran

From an economic standpoint today’s is an important rendezvous for our investors, entrepreneurs, provincial administrators and Governmental authorities. We are gathered here today to conduct the Northern Entrepreneurs Awards Ceremony 2014. It is the first awarding programme for the entrepreneurs of the Northern Province with the object of recognizing, motivating and rewarding the Northern Province based entrepreneurs who have contributed to the National wellbeing.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Yarlpanam has been involved in various activities to improve existing industries and has facilitated to establish new ventures such as a loan scheme called Youth Business Sri Lanka for young entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises. It has taken steps to hold International Trade Fairs with the object of targeting appropriate technology transfer and product improvement to the Industries of Northern Province. We find over 150 private organisations from different sectors have their membership in your Chambers. They all contribute to the business improvement of the region.

I do not want to make a long speech. Let me refer to a few important policy decisions on our part as the Northern Provincial Administration and then refer to our concerns.

Firstly we are aware of the shortcomings our Central Government faces in fulfilling all its obligations towards a war torn society in the Northern Province. It must be flagged that even though Sri Lanka has been characterized internationally as a Middle Income Country the Northern and Eastern Provinces which have borne the brunt of the war recently are certainly nowhere close to such middle income category.

We are below par. We need to be helped to reach economic par in the first instance before we could speak of development at a National Level. Our infrastructures have been dismantled; our people are subject to psycho-social issues; our institutions need to be revamped. Education, Health sectors need to be improved; Local Government institutions need reorganisation and reform. As I said earlier the Central Government is hard pressed to help us. We are fortunate to have a Government whom we ourselves helped to install who are not averse to private investment and to the dynamic functioning of Non Governmental Organisations. We therefore welcome the role of the Private Sector and the Non Governmental Organisation Sectors in our economic regeneration. We also have the benefit of a sympathetic and resourceful diaspora who could be tapped.

It is our expectation that adequate co-ordination and co-operation should be ensured among these various sectors to bring about the regeneration of our area which had faced a brutal war. The Central Government, the Provincial Government, the Private Sector, the NGOs and the Diaspora could together pull our people out of the morass into which they have slipped and fallen into.
I like to refer to a few reservations, concerns and expectations on our part as those representing our people at the grass root level.

Firstly we like to proclaim that ours is a society essentially agricultural and fisheries’ oriented. We like to continue to be so keeping our traditional life styles and cultural ambience but improving our economic well being through adequate small and medium enterprises. Large scale Industrialization does not suit our terrain nor our people nor our cultural grain.

Secondly, we are conscious of the fact that all the improvement of infrastructure undertaken in the past by the Central Government such as construction of trunk roads and official buildings were more often with the aid and input from Southern Companies and Institutions. Neither our labour nor resources were given adequate consideration.

Thirdly we are aware of the large scale ravishing of our natural resources by extraneous forces more often with the aid and accommodation of the armed forces.

Fourthly we are also conscious of the security based mind set of our Central Government in dealing with the North and East instead of the human security based approach expected six years after the war.

Having referred to these let me outline the parameters that should be kept in mind when investors and NGOs seek to help us.

Firstly we expect the amelioration of the lot of our local people when investors seek to identify possible investments.

Secondly we expect the enhancement of the capacity of our people in this regard. Therefore investors must precede their investments or concurrently arrange for the adequate training of local personnel who would help them in their investment efforts.

Thirdly we prefer SMEs as a mode of economic recovery, due to the character of our terrain, nature of rainfall, background cultural ambience and the traditional way of life of the people of these areas.

Fourthly we look forward to co–operation and co–ordination among the various sectors – The Central Government, the Provincial Administration, the Investors, the NGOs and the Diaspora. We are of the view that in the light of such co–operation forthcoming on the basis of a pre-planned programe of work, transformation of the badly lagging-behind Northern and Eastern Province is not difficult.

Though Sri Lanka is now considered a Middle Income Country that is not so as far as the Northern and Eastern Provinces are concerned. I reiterate we are below par. We need immediate help.

Let me take this opportunity to emphasise the fact that we are not averse to any investment and/or cooperative effort between the various stakeholders so long as we could ensure safety, wellbeing and economic regeneration of our people. I am sure your Awards Ceremony 2014 event would be a focal point to bring into recognition the various stakeholders who are interested in the economic regeneration and wellbeing of the people of this area. I thank you for your patient hearing.

*Text of the speech made Justice C.V.Wigneswaran – Chief Minister, Northern Province