2 and 11 – Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and Aitken Spence, Harry Jayawardena – Chairman
Venerable Clergy, Hon Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition, Madam Wickremesinghe, Hon Members of Parliament, Mr and Mrs Mathi Parthipan, my colleagues.
Ever since this competition was launched, my company has always been in the TOP 10 before and now in the TOP TWENTY. About five–six years ago, when our present President was the Prime Minister he also participated as the chief guest. He made a comment at the time that he will always consult the private sector, get advice from the private sector and will always take decisions for the private sector for the benefit of the people.
Today, it is very heartening to note that the Prime Minister of this country, mentioned in his speech that the private sector is the engine of growth. All what the private sector – unfortunately he has left – is asking for is an equal level playing field. I am sure all the captains of the industry, who are here, not only those in the TOP TWENTY this time but those who have been winning awards over the last so many years, have contributed in great numbers to the benefit of the country and the economic growth.
Look at India and their entrepreneurs. After us, their public sectors were first privatised and to what extent these entrepreneurs have gone and acquired large companies in the world. Have we been able to do that? Why?
Look at Cambodia, Laos and Burma today, they have all realised the importance of the private sector. They are opening their arms, in leaps and bounds, inviting investors with all their resources, giving them all benefits immediately after the debacles in their own countries.
What have we done? We are going forward, the Government changes, another policy comes forward, then again a change and another policy is changed. We are at crossroads, or facing mixed signals. Therefore I appeal to the Government, whoever the Government that comes in, that there must be one coherent policy. The Indians have been able to achieve as they are not changing their policies; either the public sector or the private sector, they continue with one vision. They may have failures, but they are learning from their failures. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do that. This is the best opportunity for us, after the war has ended, we must thank His Excellency for that achievement. You can’t find another opportunity.
All the investors are looking at Sri Lanka. Why have we not been able, like in Vietnam, immediately after the war where all the big players have gone? Why have they not come here? These are matters one has to examine and see where we have gone wrong, or whether we have made any mistakes or whether the positions that we have taken and explained are not clear.
The world is very big. Europe and America are in trouble – this is the best time people are looking – and part of the Middle East is in trouble. This is the best time, best opportunity for us to go and see in these areas, what is available for us.
We at Aitken Spence have done that. So I urge the captains of the industries and the leaders here today, Sri Lanka is a small country and the world is a big market. The market has to be the world, not Sri Lanka. Once you have that ambition, once you have that motto, I am sure you can achieve. You must think big to become big. If you only confine yourself to this country it is not going to work.
We have to have bigger markets, we are only thriving on our tea, rubber and coconut. These are also not performing at the moment and we cannot live from those industries alone. We have to go and see our workers and the amount of foreign exchange they bring in every year. These are the small workers who go and work. We, the captains of the industry, have a bigger role. We should go and acquire those businesses. If you cannot you must always make a joint effort with all your other colleagues and I am sure, if we do that, we will achieve the best results.
I must thank you Mr Mathi, for continuously and single handedly appreciating the private sector. You are the only man in Sri Lanka who is giving this recognition to the private sector, continuously year by year.
I wish you all the success and I must thank the Hon Leader of the Opposition and Mrs Wickremesinghe to have been with us today, to share our thoughts with and I congratulate all the winners. I wish you a very nice evening, thank you.