Post-Eastern polls forecasts â€˜vibrantâ€™ economy
By Dilrukshi Fernando and Ravindu Peiris
The business community has expressed concern over who is to be appointed as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. â€œAs the Pillayan faction is reported to be armed, it is definitely not a positive sign. However, he did contest the electionsâ€ Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mahen Dayananda said while adding that opposing parties have complained to the Elections Commissioner about flaws in the Eastern PC polls, which is a sign for concern.
President of the Federation of the Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) Nawaz Rajabdeen stated that people should not consider Pillayan as a terrorist when allowing him to sort out the problems in the east. â€œIf you consider him a terrorist and draw differences, then you create animosityâ€ Rajabdeen affirmed. He pointed out that if there are internal conflicts in the east, it would not be a peaceful environment for the locals.
Rajabdeen further observed that although all politicians have their own personal agendas, they should set aside their differences and support the people. â€œHow many politicians visited the area when the tsunami hit? But for the Eastern polls all of them went there and promised various things,â€ he noted.
The UPFA won the election, with the Chief Ministerâ€™s position falling vacant for either L.A.M Hizbullah or Pillaiyan. Despite entering the democratic process, the TMVP faction still carry arms claiming it is for personal security purposes.
â€œInfrastructure leaves much to be desired. Electricity, water and basic requirements are some of the necessities that are in need of immediate action,â€ Dayananda said. He divulged that the Chamber had been supporting the East with financial assistance through their regional chambers particularly Batticaloa. â€œWe will continue to support them and if all goes well on a structured framework a noticeable change will occur in the economy with the East contributing. It will definitely be converted into a realm of possibility.â€
Rajabdeen in the meantime claimed that the private sector was positive about the elections in the East so long as development takes place.
They had established several â€˜Back to Businessâ€™ initiatives in the aftermath of the tsunami which had assisted those victimised entrepreneurs to get back on their feet. It was revealed that now that the elections have been held, the FCCISL is examing the possibility of commencing a similar project to this as well in addition to a project to boost the livelihood of women. Rajabdeen furthermore conveyed that if a conducive environment remained, investments were bound to increase. â€œPoverty alleviation is a priority. The government must think of this and also regional development and should especially support the agro based industry,â€ he stated.
Tourism foresees boost in benefits
Sri Lanka Tourism is anticipating a bright future with the Eastern Province contributing. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Renton De Alwis stated that the country should not rush-in for international tourism and that we should first boost the local tourism sector. When questioned if revenue from tourism will increase due to the recent political developments in the East, he said â€œCertainly it would increase but not as direct revenue to the government but as benefits to the local community.â€
He added that even before the elections, the government was attempting to promote tourism but now further stability was evident in the area. Delving into the programmes they intend to conduct in the area, Alwis said that they are going to build an exquisite resort in Pasikuda with the help of seven investors and the Institute of Architects. Sri Lanka Tourism plans to revive the areas of Kalkuda, Nilaweli and Arugam Bay. Other plans include steps to overcome the issue of shortage in accommodation through measures such as recreational vehicle parks (Caravans).
â€œThe East can help reduce the economic imbalanceâ€- Trade Minister
Commenting on the impact of the recent elections, the Minister of Trade Bandula Gunewardena sid â€œBusiness people cannot control terrorism, which is a huge obstacle to conduct business and trade.â€ According to Gunewardena, the elections were of high importance as it enabled the removal of terrorism, which was a high risk factor in the region. Liberating the East from LTTE control has opened avenues for the initiation of development projects relating to infrastructure and healthcare the Minister added. â€œNow the people have an opportunity to address their own issues. The â€˜Nagenahira Navodayaâ€™ programme of the National Task Force can now confer its power to the Provincial Councils because of election,â€ he added.
The province is rich in natural resources and contributes to the industries of agriculture and fisheries. â€œIf utilized properly the region can contribute to the increment of the countryâ€™s GDP, and work towards achieving a balance in the economic development,â€ the minister opined.
Entrepreneurs donâ€™t see any significant change for the futureÂ
Although the ground situation doesnâ€™t look as favourable, Anwer*, an entrepreneur from Trincomalee said the elections have not expressed the voice of the people. â€œIt was a government election. Initiated by them and finally carried according to their own advantage. Tamils are not happy with the result,â€ he said. Anwer divulged the plight of large scale businessmen who have to pay bribes to the TMVP in order to continue their business. â€œThe Stuffing of ballot boxes and obstructing voters were issues for us at the election but we are more worried about the consequences that will follow the election,â€ he said adding that the fear instilled in traders and civilians by the armed personnel have restricted the movements of the public. â€œHow can there be a change when the same government that ruled before the election will continue to rule hereafter?â€
In contrast was Haroun* from Batticaloa who is engaged in the agricultural sector said â€œwe are happy that the elections were finally held in the East after two decades. This will give us an opportunity to address several regional problems which have long been neglected by the central government,â€ he added. His optimism comes with hopes of expanding his business in the future.