Sri Lanka’s leading business chambers, which issued a meek statement on Saturday after meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss the controversial assets bill, changed tack on Tuesday and urged that it be deferred until there was wider public participation in its process.
“Considering the likely negative impact of the proposed legislation and the widespread negative publicity it has received, we urge the Government to defer this Bill until it is subjected to wider public and stakeholder discussion and debate,” the six chambers said in a joint chamber.
On Saturday, the President told chamber representatives that he was going ahead with the bill but promised the business community that it was a one-off piece of legislation. Following the meeting, the chambers said in a statement that the President had given these assurances. The chamber response was criticized by many organizations as a weak response to a bill that has been described as ‘draconian.’
On Tuesday, hours after the bill to revive 37 enterprises which are ‘underperforming or underutilised’ was tabled in parliament and declared by the Supreme Court as not unconstitutional, the chambers issued a fresh statement.
“.. we believe that the proposed Bill may impact investor sentiment negatively and will thus be counter-productive in an environment where the country seeks investments in excess of US$15 billion per annum from the private sector, both local and foreign. Further, the expeditious manner in which the legislation is being enacted is likely to heighten such negative sentiments.”
“Considering the above circumstances and to mitigate the associated risks, the business chambers have jointly submitted a series of proposals to the Government. In addition, the business chambers have urged that operating entities which are going concerns and land if any that is privately held be excluded from the schedules. The Government has provided the business chambers with certain assurances, the details of which were intimated previously.”
The chambers are the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL), National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), National Chamber of Exporters (NCE), Chamber Of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) and Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF).