Over 500 bribery cases currently pending
There are over 500 bribery cases pending without means to investigate them and, as such, it is necessary that Sri Lanka’s Bribery Commission be re-activated, according to written submissions made to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Chairman Dr. Anura Ekanayake.
It was also suggested that this situation would “definitely” lead to further erosion of both local and international investor confidence in the country. The CCC document also revealed data outlining “cost of conflict” including an estimation of its total cost to Sri Lankans, from 1984 to 2009, being “at least the entire (Gross Domestic Product) of the nation for four years”.
It also emerged that, in 1983, the country’s defence budget was 1.4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and that this was increased to 4.32% of GDP, a level maintained every year since. It was also argued that, in the absence of conflict, Sri Lanka may have achieved double digit growth and could have been “at least as prosperous as Malaysia” where the present GDP per capita (US$ 7,000) is three and a half times Sri Lanka’s (US$ 2,000) and the incidence of poverty (3.8% of the population) is one fourth that of Sri Lanka’s (15% of the population).
Additionally, the document noted that public investment was 15% of GDP in 1984. This “dropped sharply” as a result of conflict and has recently been at 6% of GDP. Also stated was Sri Lanka had welcomed 400,000 foreign tourists in 1982 while in 2007, the year before the worldwide recession, the country had only managed to attract 494,000 visitors, or 23% growth. On the other hand, during the same 25-year period, Thailand had grown its share of the inbound tourist market from 2.5 million to 14.5 million, an increase of 580%.
The CCC submission also indicated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sri Lanka was 1.3% of GDP in 1984 while, on average, FDI was 1.24% between 2001 and 2009. In the meantime, it had reached 2.95% in China and 4.55% in Vietnam. In the meantime, GDP shareof the Northern Province fell from 4.4% in 1990 to 2.9% in 2009.
Further, the CCC also suggested that the government invest more in the country’s road and railways while also improving its educational capabilities as well as simplifying its civil and business affairs ad limiting “political patronage”. The need was also stressed for improving access to finance for small and medium enterprises and young entrepreneurs as well as removing legal barriers to using land as collateral.
The CCC also recommended the urgent resettlement, along with necessary infrastructure and livelihood support, of conflict affected persons in their previous residences and as a consequence the quick release of land in high security zones to its rightful owners; reintegration of the ex-combatants, including child soldiers; and the acceleration of civil administration in the North and the East supported by a transparent political processes in establishing local government.
Also advocated was the lifting of Emergency Regulations as a move towards establishing “normalcy”.
Support was also needed for the families of armed forces, police and civil defence personnel affected by conflict, especially programmes for war widows who needed gain their economic independence, according to the CCC.
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