Members of the Sri Lanka Retailers’ Association (SLRA) continue to raise growing concerns about the plight of the local economy and the impacts of the current economic conditions on the retail industry. They addressed their concerns and questions to a panel of experts at the recently concluded SLRA Members’ Forum. The SLRA Members’ Forum is an exclusive networking forum designed to bring together leaders in the retail industry with stakeholders in both private and public sectors of retail in Sri Lanka.
The event was organized by the Executive Committee of the Sri Lanka Retailers’ Association, and attended by Chief Guest Dr. Roshan Perera, an Economist, Public Policy Specialist and Senior Research Fellow at the Advocata Institute, and Guest of Honor Mr. Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Murali Prakash, President of the Sri Lanka Retailers’ Association, addressed the attendees on the SLRA’s strategies implemented to create a better understanding of the retail sector, its challenges, and the necessity for special support among the authorities. “We at SLRA strive to keep member interest at the forefront. Our strategy was to engage the authorities on multiple levels, to bring about an understanding of retail trade, thereby enacting retail-friendly action. While we’ve had some success on the way, given the current externalities and issues faced by the sector, we would collectively and individually continue to push for a greater understanding of the sector with policymakers. Retail is an ecosystem that spreads throughout the length and breadth of the country cutting across social strata and should be preserved for the greater good of the nation and its future”, he said.
Chief Guest Dr. Roshan Perera then addressed the audience about the economic challenges brought about by the prevailing economic crisis in Sri Lanka and how best to navigate through them. She highlighted the features of the crisis such as high inflation rates, unsustainable fiscal deficits, external sector pressures and more, which need to be immediately addressed in order to stabilize the economy. Dr. Perera also highlighted the path of economic recovery that the government has put forward and the targets they have set in the medium term.
“Over the past year, we have seen an unprecedented level of inflation. This is due to monetary supply, domestic shock due to agriculture, external shocks such as the depreciation of the currency, the war in Ukraine which impacted food and energy prices, tax increases and more. However, it is forecasted that the inflation rate will gradually reduce in the near and thus it was announced that the current level of inflation is to be maintained. Such has to be deemed a priority, as any gains from economic growth will dissipate due to the high living costs”, she said.
Mr. Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, also addressed many of the key issues brought about by the prevailing economic conditions, such as the increase in tariffs, tax changes and more. “The pandemic shed a spotlight on many countries like Sri Lanka who have had fiscal and current account deficits and are currently enduring similar economic struggles. It is important that we endure and overcome the current crisis for the betterment of the country. We have pushed reforms such as State-Owned Enterprise Reform, Land or Labor Reform and more. We need to hold our policymakers accountable for the process so that these reforms are taken forward”, he stated.