June 07, 2023
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    Ceylon Chamber of Commerce issues recommendations to strengthen the national action plan against COVID-19

    March 21, 2020

    The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce yesterday issued immediate, short and medium-term measures to be included in government’s national action plan in fighting the COVID-19.

    Issuing a statement the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said that “We strongly believe that the measures taken by the Government have and will contribute significantly to prevent the virus spreading at a much faster pace. We are cognizant, however, that in spite of the best efforts taken by the Government of Sri Lanka, the risk of further escalation remains alongside the consequential disruption to livelihoods and medium to long term impact to the National Economy.”

    According to the statement, “Continue the containment strategy currently in place until Sunday (22nd) and review the need to extend it for a further period thereafter. The strategy should include the identification of key hotspots through the use of Geographical Information System (GIS) tools combined with Big Data Analytics. Further, the strategy should include: - Stoppage of all foreign travel to and from the country virtually shutting down the airport and port for passenger travel. - Suspension of all non-essential businesses other than those engaged in essential services and in the supply of food, medicine, fuel and banking services. This will compel citizens to stay at home curtailing movements except for essential purposes.”

    The statement furthered, “Implement a unified and central system for publication of information on the current and future actions. A 24-hour Media response center should be established to respond to false reports that create fear and concerns among the general public and employees. An update could be provided at a pre-determined time and at 12-hour intervals. In order to ensure that there is no disruption in the supply of goods to retail stores with special emphasis on food and medicines, the government should have special procurement measures so that the private sector is able to source from different sources such as economic centers. Special attention should also be given to the smooth running of logistics during the period of containment. Border agencies should provide uninterrupted services albeit with a skeleton staff and maximum precautionary steps taken to ensure their safety. To facilitate this process, customs and border agencies should deploy a less stringent regime with respect to examination checks - for example, reduce referring the cargos to grey lines 1 and 2 or red channel and so on. Priority should be given to the facilitation of local production of essential safety items (such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer liquid) to meet the demand. In this respect, it is recommended that the government waives or relaxes the licensing requirements placed on the importation of raw material required to produce such items. Safety of all employees in essential business services (such as healthcare, pharmacy and retail) be mandated via the compulsory adoption of safety measures including the use of masks, gloves, thermometers.”

    “For worst affected industries like Tourism and Construction, the government could consider in consultation with the Banks to look at short term working capital loans to ensure payment of wages etc. The criteria for working capital loans could include demonstration of a certain threshold of orders/business lost due to COVID-19. The working capital loans should be time bound so as not to have an overall impact on the financial sector and fiscal position of the economy. For the industries affected the most, the government in collaboration with the EPF and ETF could consider a three-month moratorium on EPF and ETF contributions. The safety and well-being of the tourists who are presently in the country should be looked at by the relevant tourist authorities so as to ensure there is no negative impact on the image of the country.” the statement furthered.





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