Posted on November 16th, 2017

Dr Sarath Obeysekera 

Yesterday I was invited by EDB to the last public session in Galle Face Hotel where EU consultants have organized a forum for public consultations. Proposals to develop export strategy was mainly concentrated on   boat building, Wellness programs, selling spices etc  and changing the regulatory issues which is hampering development .

They were proposing to send EDB and BOI personnel for training in development of investment strategy, and involve universities and academia to research on new products.The state minister who mad the key note speech was trained in Harward and hopefully his young blood can infuse some sense to EDB and BOI,

What were  proposed were absurd and none of the highly paid EU consultants and EDB lasses and few young boys who were organizing the event had any idea what is priority .

On the same day I was requested by Sri Lanka Customs   to sign an agreement to import equipment and materials to build some boats for exports ( which has been also subjected to yesterday ‘s EDB exercise) .I had to  leave the forum ,anticipating to return in 20 minutes and it took 1 ½ hours waiting in Customs in the TIEP ( temporary import and export and  Permit) section to sign the agreement and they wanted me in person with the company embossed seal .Officers who were assigned were out and we were told to wait .Incidentally this is after 2 weeks from submission of the application following a letter of recommendation from ministry of industries,confirmimg that  our company has signed an export order with Male and the claim to import equipment and materials is genuine .I had to contact new secretary of the ministry on Industries to help to expedite approval ,and he aksed me to write a letter .I wrote the letter and so far to reply !

I had to use some of my close contacts to speak to Director of Customs to expedite signing and he was quite supportive and assigned someone else to sign on behalf customs to release me back to the EDB forum .

Back to approval from Ministry of Industries ,it tool 3-4 weeks since we made the application as they wanted to come and see the yard and after demanding a approval of the list of materials by an expert to confirm that the list is genuine . .I had to contact new secretary of the ministry on Industries to help to expedite approval ,and he aksed me to write a letter .I wrote the letter and so far to reply !

Bureaucracy is the state apparatchik is the biggest stumbling block for export .When I told that to the EU expert in Export and also mentioned the problems ,he was telling me that from 2018-2022 we will change !!

All these forms were talking about export promotion with no meaningful action proposed to get rid of bureaucracy nad corruption .One might argue that we should have been a BOI company which has a one-stop to help companies like ours ,but alas ,they are now a non-stop shop .

State  should consult people who worked under Premadasa who spearheaded export drive of garments for export ( opposition called the program a jungi” ( underwear) Export ,Today Amaleeen ,and the crowd are still bringing much needed foreign currency to our country  by selling Victoria Secrets ?

Country need a strong leadership which should take over EDB and BOI and drive the export in an aggressive manner.

Whole forum was a farce and I will go on my own crusade and export boats with my own tenacity and compassion .

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

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