Sri Lanka is reaching out towards regional gem hub status behind Bangkok by capitalizing on country`s gem wealth, ability in value addition and its geographical location, Entreprise Development Minister Mano Wijeratne said last week.
`We cannot overtake Bangkok but we can be next in line in this part of the world by liberalizing government policy (Regulations) on the gem trade`, he noted.
`By doing so I believe that the country could easily achieve the target of US$ one billion in export income from the gem trade in 2007, set by Minister Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development Dr. Sarath Amunugama`, he said.
The Minister is expected to meet with members of Gem and Jewellery Association on June 18, 2007.
At present there are 500 to 600 Sri Lankans who are engaged in the gem business in Madagascar but they are going through a lot of hardships, firstly due to not having even a Honorary Consul to look into their concerns, the Minister said.
`In consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we are trying to get a consul appointed`.
Secondly, it takes 20 hours or more to get to Madagascar by plane via Singapore or Dubai, Wijerante said. `We are exploring whether we could have a direct flight at least once a week`.
It has been found that most of the gems brought to Sri Lanka for re-Export after value addition locally are detained at the Airport by the Customs and forwarded to Gem Corporation for recording of statistics about the gems which process takes four to five days, the Minister noted.
In consultation with the Director-General of Customs Sarath Jayatilleke, we hope to set up a separate counter with an officer to appraise the gems on arrival, he said.
`In consultation with Minister Amunugama we hope to implement the new policy guidelines from the first of August, 2007`, Wijerante said.
`I am sure that the country could earn valuable foreign exchange in millions of dollars through value addition as it is well known the world over that Sri Lanka is not a gem consumer but a gem producer`, he said.
`My responsibility is to give all the assistance to those involved in value addition and ensure that these persons are given foreign exchange in liberal amounts for them to purchase gems in Madagascar legally instead of taking money in the blackmarket at very high costs, Minister Wijeratne noted.
`We should increase their foreign exchange allowances`
`We should not let our valuable expertise in creating the best designs in value addition go untapped any further. We must go ahead and liberalize our outdated policies for the benefit of the country and people`, he stressed.