Fostering local industry vital for economic stability
by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London

From time immemorial the common ambition of man has been to progress in life. History reveals us that in every generation evolution in social standards, coupled with knowledge and education, have taken place. Parents are committed towards their children's education to make their second generation better educated and progressive individuals in life. This theme is not confined only to man but applies to countries, business houses, political parties and governments alike because no one likes to stay put all the time like gigantic mountains but likes to widen their horizons and grow like tress with new branches shooting up all the time.

A country’s progress is directly proportional to its strategic economic and development plans with positive and long term policies. What are the ingredients required for a country to be economically and financially advanced? To find answers to this question one does not need to be a professor of philosophy or an eminent economist, but the common sense will prevail. As much as a good foundation is needed to build a solid house, grass root policies of a country should be to identify and recognise the local talent and develop such genius into national industries. Simultaneously, it will be important to maintain an open-eye attitude on foreign and International market forces too. Combination of these two factors in this economic equation and balancing out the act will not only create employment opportunities but will open doors for more innovative and new ideas and local industries alike. If this concept is focussed on to Sri Lanka, and what do we see today? A handful of local industries and manufacturers have reached the industrial winning post in a very short period of time.

Orange, an ISO 9001.2000 company with a history of over two decades of innovation behind it, has been producing electrical wiring and accessories to SLS, BS and IEC standards. Having been subjected to a rough ride initially by an International industrial giant the company today has won its battle and shines as the ‘ Rising Spirit of Sri Lanka’ representing the best of Sri Lankan ingenuity and internationally recognised quality by becoming the number one. Orange has the expertise in local innovations and engineering capability in electrical, lighting and industrial integrated systems and Data Communications solutions. They are a distinctive example of an employment creator in the country both directly as well indirectly through their associated suppliers of raw materials, distributors, market researchers etc.

Can a local industry function effectively and profitably on its own? Definitely not, and it does need the fullest cooperation, support and assistance from the government as much as from the general public. Assistance from the Government should focus on cutting down of red tape in administration and duty in case of compulsory import of raw materials needed for local productions. A good transport network either by road or rail is vitally important in distributing functions. A minimum political interference by the Opposition political parties in these areas are paramount issues for a nation’s progress. By getting caught up in critical policy warfare rather than thinking positively on issues that affect the country will only make the whole nation suffer as a consequence. Therefore the underlying factors towards the progress of a country rests on the blessings of the government, collaboration of the Opposition and also the cooperation of the consumer in recognising local products and becoming one hundred per cent national minded in their purchases.

Advanced countries in Asia such as Malaysia and India are good examples to this effect. Their national policies being to recognise the local product, local industries and local manufacturers have successfully paved the way towards industrial expansion and helped them to build up a sound economy and become profound foreign Exchange earners simultaneously.

Therefore, as nationalists who are keen to develop our own affairs and economy we need to grasp the situation and understand the subtleties of foreign invasion. The Government and the Opposition alike have a major role and a bounden duty in this regard in backing up the local production to the extent even in imposing Law and Order on classified imports, if Sri Lanka has the qualitative local manufacture which could challenge any foreign produce.

The role played by the local manufactures in a competitive world is equally important in this regard. They need to be reasonable, rational and regularly responsibly in terms of quality control of their products with a fair pricing policy to give the consumer value for money. Short sighted policies of making a ‘ quick buck with one shot’ attitude or producing cheaper quality goods for bargain basements will only help them to ‘dig their own industrial graves’! Such foolish and selfish motives will only kill the local industry and encourage the local consumer to alienate from local products altogether and to seek solace on foreign imports.

As a nation Sri Lanka needs to be united as one in propping up and supporting her own national industries. Otherwise how can local manufactures survive? When there are internationally reputed industries in Sri Lanka such as Orange (among many others) with ISO 9001.2001 recognition, it would be crazy for people to think of any foreign alternatives from simple electrical sockets to the most intricate equipment that controls power supplies to cities! If people do not support their local industries not only they will aid a foreign Exchange drain out of the country but the backlash of such irresponsible moves may lead to the collapse of local factories, loss of employment and ultimately towards a national catastrophe. Another unfortunate factor that has been very successfully managed to condition peoples’ minds is that ‘foreign goods are much superior to any local product’, a concept which is far from the truth.

Today many foreign inferior quality goods entering Sri Lanka can be seen abundantly on high street payments. A typical example is the so-called energy serving bulb sold at cheaper rates which burns out immediately or within a day or two of burning! The danger of using such inferior quality electrical goods can be highly dangerous too, as the saying goes, one should not play with fire! False electrical goods can kill and there are stipulated Standards of either British or International as safety measures for this very purpose. The government authorities will become duty-bound in these areas to introduce strict controls on import of such inferior and dangerous electrical items.

If Sri Lanka is seriously thinking of attaining an advanced and progressive state, like her neighbours, Malaysia or India, then the government, politicians of all hues, local manufacturers and consumers alike need to work in unity and harmony. Local industries such as Orange, which produce quality goods and create employment opportunities should be recognised, encouraged and given the fullest support. Then local products will not only be adequately available in the consumer markets at reasonable prices but Sri Lanka’s economy too will start to boom with International exports. On that day a new era will dawn on Sri Lanka to be on a par in development with either India or Malaysia