Changing attitudes towards global integration and removing barriers to trade are important if Sri Lanka is to realize its ambition of becoming a logistics hub for the Indian Ocean region, a government policymaker said.
“Unless we integrate Sri Lanka with the world we have no future – politically and economically,” said Harsha De Silva, deputy minister of national policy and economic affairs.
The country cannot fight with international bodies like the United Nations, India and others and oppose free trade and expect to be a logistics hub, he told the 2017 International Conference of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT).
The conference, focusing on the impact of disruptive technologies on logistics and transport, discussed how new trends like robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, block chain and artificial intelligence and big data affect the sector.
Sri Lanka cannot expect to trade with the booming southern Indian states while fighting with the central government nor can it fight with China and expect to work in partnership with Chinese companies, De Silva said.
The government policy of going from disengagement to engagement was working as seen from the restoration of the GSP Plus trade deal allowing duty free exports to the European Union.
Integrating with the rest of the world through trade was important, De Silva said, in order to revive exports whose share in the economy had fallen sharply in the last decade.
“If we need to have containers on ships, for containers to go from this country, containers must come to this country,” De Silva said.
“Import is good if you are talking of trade. We got to move beyond tea, rubber and coconut. If you want to become a trade logistics hub, then you’ve got to change your attitude about global integration and trade.”
A free trade regime was one of the prerequisites for businesses to operate.
De Silva said the government had decided to eliminate restrictions for exporters and importers that can make Sri Lanka the hub of the Indian Ocean.
Although it was a politically difficult decision, the government was determined to implement it, he said.
(COLOMBO, October 13, 2017)