Members of the Transparency international Sri Lanka (TISL) met with the Chamber of Commerce, Vavuniya to discuss the issues which affect owners of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the area on the 9th of March 2015.The meeting took place in Vavuniya.
This was the first step to find out the problems faced by proprietors of SMEs in the region. At the discussion one of the primary problems identified by the Chamber of Commerce was pertaining to the Agricultural sector.
The sale of crops is the main source of income for the large majority of the population in the Northern Province. Issues arise as crops are imported from India- since the labour cost and other associated costs are lower in India, crops can be produced at a comparatively cheaper rate. In order to compete, local farmers are forced to lower their prices, thus cutting into their profit margins and affecting their standard of living. These issues can be addressed by having a more transparent and flexible importation policy. However, while this was a policy level issue, other, more people-centric problems were identified.
The members of the Chamber of Commerce said that a major concern was the lack of business planning, financial knowledge and marketing sense among those engaged in SMEs due to a lack of awareness in relation to the same. This resulted in failure of the business and accumulation of debt.
Further they stated that there are employment issues due to the fact that the peoples’ skill sets do not match the jobs available, resulting in unemployment within the community.
When TISL made inquiries about the level of engagement with local authorities and whether they were aware of these issues, the members of the Chamber stated that there was little or no involvement with the local authorities. This would indicate that there is little opportunity for members of the public to interact with elected officials.
TISL hopes to look into the issues raised by the Chamber of Commerce in greater depth through the study.