Sri Lanka to Set Up Dedicated Sector-based Industrial Parks – IDB Chair
Industrial Development Board (IDB) Chairman Upasena Dissanayake emphasised that the Government should prioritise local small and medium scale industrialists in its procurement process.
He made these remarks in a special interview with Ceylon FT.
“Billions of rupees are exchanged during the tender process annually by Government agencies and their subsidiaries.
The local manufacturer received less attention during the previous government in the tender process. Various regulations precluded their participation in the tender process,” he pointed out.
He added that the IDB hopes to categorise industrialists using a standardised mechanism and create a background where they can have a greater impact on the State procurement process.
Therefore, he emphasised that the government would be introducing a proper system with a proper plan, eliminating unnecessary regulations to uplift COVID-19 hit local industrialists.
He said the appointment of state ministers to represent smaller sections of the economy is a positive sign in this regard.
The Industrial Development Board is currently preparing its own corporate plan for the next five years, he said, adding that steps will be taken to implement most of it through next year’s budget.
He said the forthcoming budget would be a one that would bring relief to industrialists affected by the pandemic and include measures that would save money and bring in more foreign exchange.
He said, a concessionary loan scheme was launched recently in collaboration with the People’s Bank for COVID-19 stricken industries and it is now being implemented successfully.
Industrial Development Board (IDB) is the prime State Organisation established for the Promotion and Development of Industries in Sri Lanka.
They cater mainly to Sri Lankan Enterprises and individuals and institutions in this field.
Following is the full interview:
How would you describe your current role as Chairman of the Industrial Development Board?
-The current role is full of challenges and many opportunities.
-The new Government has created many opportunities for the industrial sector.
-This is the time to build the country by creating a strong industrial culture.
-It is not too difficult to re-organise things as the country is rich in natural resources. The only thing needed is an efficient mechanism to utilise their value.
-IDB is already a well-established and has 50- year history.
-The COVID-19 outbreak has brought challenges to the whole world including Sri Lanka.
-Along with the Government, the IDB plans to remodel the country towards sustainable economic growth.
What are your key industry sectors?
Mainly in the manufacturing sector engineering is the key area needed to be developed in the industrial sector.
Building materials industry
What is the potential of the industrial sector?
The sectors are- Agro based industries (including spices), footwear and leather, Ceramic and Clay, Fish-based industries, Tourism, Natural resources such as minerals, boats, yachts, ships, Building Constructions
What are the weaknesses or areas that need to be improved?
As a country, we have to manufacture at least simple raw materials which could be used for industrial purposes. There was no such initiative in the past. That’s why our President included it in his policy to control imports and the need to initiate import substitutes in the country.
Marketing facilities need to be introduced and financial assistance is a must.
What are the opportunities?
The geographical location of Sri Lanka, socio- cultural features and engineering graduates have more opportunity to contribute to the industrial sector
What are the possible obstacles?
Thhe attitude of the people. Labour issues- as changes in agriculture and industry sectors brought about a decline in the relative importance of plantation products among exports and food commodities where imports were concerned.
The Government being the major player of the economy, what can be done to give more weight to local industrialists in the tender process and to upgrade the quality of products?
As State institutes are the major players, they should give priority to local industries in the procurement process. Coordinating with stakeholders, state institutions to improve the ease of the doing business of industries through interrelated institutional growth. This means the need to identify State institute’s and review the quality of these products.
What steps are being taken by the private sector to work hand-in-hand with them for the betterment of the small and medium scale sector in the country?
IDB plays the role of an intermediary in linking public and private sector organisations.
Through building public and private partnerships smoothens the supply chain of the country.
There are some initiatives taken by the IDB to work with the private sector. One example is our food laboratory that is working with SGS Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, to give better laboratory service to customers.
What are the services/support provided by the Government to your institution to encourage the industrial sector based on an import substitution policy and an export incentive policy?
Our Ministry is the policy maker and IDB is the implementing arm, always bonding with the Ministry of Industries to execute policies.
We encourage local industries to produce import substitutes through facilitating technical training, financial, marketing, and quality assurance programme.
The need to introduce appropriate technology to improve quality and the need for awareness of standards.
We are planning to initiate this concept as soon as possible.
What are the pros and cons proposed to be provided in the future in relation to industrial estates and the finance sector for land and capital which are hindering the progress of the industrial sector?
One of the major constraints in setting-up industries in the rural sector has been the difficulties experienced in finding suitable locations. To facilitate industries, Industrial Estates have been set up throughout the country. At present, the IDB has 16 industrial estates. Selection and availability of accessible land is a key challenge.
What are the steps IDB can take to combine marketing and other product designs with the latest technology to create markets suitable for industrialists locally and internationally?
We are planning to establish an Industrial Technological Hub at Katubedda, an Advanced National Tooling centre, a
High tech food laboratory designed according to international standards.
Metal testing laboratory services,
Introducing Digital marketing training facilities with practical laboratory facilities and engineering services and workshop facilities
What are the special programmes used for infrastructure development in the industrial sector?
Plans are on to set up dedicated sector-based industrial parks in the country.
There were proposals to relocate industries that could pose a threat to the environment, such as leather industries. What are the proposals to create such eco-friendly industries?
Proposals to move from adding to waste, towards a zero waste concept, adopting modern technology methods to mitigate with such issues.
What are the remedies for the shortage of skilled manpower in certain sectors of the industry?
Government Institutes are working in isolation and there is no proper coordination. So, this is a challenge. We have to work towards solving these shortages.
Has any programme been implemented in collaboration with vocational training institutes to direct more of the country’s labour force to the industrial sector?
We are working to give industry exposure and on-the-job training to University Engineering graduates. The IDB has already initiated work with the relevant Universities.