Sri Lanka Retailers Association (SLRA), the apex body of Sri Lanka’s Organised Retail Sector (ORS) consisting of last mile retailers, met Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on June 30 to address the issues and difficulties they are faced with due to COVID pressures in the country. Representatives of SLRA also requested Hon. Prime Minister to institute relief measures through the Ministry of Finance for their sector’s smooth functioning in the COVID environment.
During this meeting which was also attended by the representatives from Sri Lanka Apparel Brands Association (SLABA), Hon. Prime Minister requested all Lankan industrialists and business enterprises not to retrench their workers and staff but to safeguard them.
Representatives of SLRA and SLABA apprised Hon. Prime Minister of the various issues the sectors are faced with including obtaining of bank loans, opening Letters of Credit, vaccination of apparel and retail workers, and difficulties they face with EPF and ETF payments. SLRA members also requested permission to re-open FMCG vendors, supermarkets, clothing, fashion, jewelry, footwear and accessories outlets, household and consumer durable shops, e-commerce vendors, healthcare, wellness, entertainment, food, restaurants and fast food outlets, and shelter housing providers’ outlets, with COVID control measures. Sectoral representatives informed Hon. Prime Minister that they have faced various business setbacks in the 24 months since the Easter bombings and the COVID outbreak and therefore called for relief measures for their sectors from the Ministry of Finance.
Hon. Prime Minister was joined at the meeting by Hon. Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa, Hon. Minister of Labour Affairs Nimal Siripala De Silva, Hon. State Minister of Batik, Handloom and Local Apparel Products Dayasiri Jayasekara, Hon. State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senarath, Prime Minister’s Additional Secretary Chaminda Kularatne, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Batik, Handloom and Local Apparel Products Sujeeva Palliyaguru, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, and officials from the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with Hon. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. We thank him for giving us an opportunity to discuss these concerns and we appreciate his openness in listening to our grievances. We were also informed that moratoriums on bank loans will be granted to the business community which we are a part of and for which we extend our highest appreciation. We also appealed to reduce or postpone utility payments which would reduce our cost burdens as they constitute a significant expenditure for us. Sri Lanka’s Organised Retail Sector is a critical ecosystem in the wellbeing of Lankan customers, families, and livelihoods. It accounts for around one-third of the GDP and over 15% of employment in the country. The FMCG and fashion sub sectors have become key channels of employment for the country’s youth and the entry point for them in modern trade. We are confident of relief measures so that a consumer crisis would not take place”, Mr. Hussain Sadique stated.
Among members of SLRA are FMCG vendors, supermarkets, clothing, fashion & jewelry, household & consumer durables, footwear & accessories, e-commerce, healthcare & wellness, entertainment, restaurants and fast food sellers, and shelter & housing providers.
ORS plays a significant role as a collective voice within the Sri Lankan market, SMEs and employment provision. It accounts for around one-third of the GDP and over 15% of employment in the country. The FMCG and fashion sub sectors have become key channels of employment for the country’s youth and the entry point for them in modern trade. ORS’ vibrant retail ecosystem is an essential part in the robustness of the Sri Lankan economy since the retail sector value chains’ trickle down effects extend to the very grassroots of the supply chains such as farmers, livestock breeders and SME suppliers.