After years of being ravaged by the war the North-East is set for more Booms. But this time we are hoping for a good boom. As in an economic boom.
With the opening up of the territory, firms have already begun to show interest in expanding into the North East. The obvious beginning would be to start with production, like agriculture and fisheries. Once these base industries are developing then there will be more room and demand for industries such as banking and telecommunications to enter the fray.
Tourism is looking positive with firms like John Keells, Softlogic Holdings and some foreign parties expressing interest to invest (FT). Although we will still be under the gloomy canvas of low tourist turnover due to the global financial crisis there should be enough demand to justify large investment in North-Eastern tourism.
Marketing will play a big role in making tourism a success and this is the perfect time for the industry to seize a chance for a comprehensive international campaign. Tourists are more picky with their destinations and will need a lot of convincing to invest their money in a particular alternative, the SL industry must fight now to create the worldwide buzz and top of the mind awarenss of a top tourist destination. I blogged about another possible marketing angle here.
Other industries set to boom include construction and engeneering consultancies. There will hopefully be a lot of inflow of funds with China and Iran already pledging some USD 1 billion and 1.9 billion respectively (FT). Construction funds must be used wisely and wherever possible, local firms should be enlisted to contracts in a way that efficiency is not compromised.
On the topic of efficiency, everyone is now worried about corruption and the mishandling of development funds by corrupt government officials. Of the tsunami aid scenario was anything to go by the Rajapakshe administration will have to ensure that none of that occurs this time around. But this may be asking for too much.
Government revenues are dropping, while expense is set to increase a lot according to Dr. Srimal Abeyratne senior econ lecturer at the Colombo University speaking to the Financial Times. The governments expected revenue increase of Rs. 200 billion is said to be too optimistic as the industries on which it relies on for tax income are suffering too much as a result of the global crisis.
The government needs to ensure optimum efficiency gains and ensure it uses its current strong position to make some concrete changes in the public framework that will improve the government services sector. This includes cutting staff and saying no to loss making departments. '..In the long term, these painful changes will strengthen the government's traditionally weak financial position' says Dr. Abeyratne.
A mini credit crunch in the local banking system is not helping anyone either. With the central bank's reduced interest rates not being translated into cheaper commercial lending rates. leasing companies have jacked up their deposit requirements and the velocity of money is down because of high saving rates and low consumer spending. This needs to be eased up.
Whether these changes happen or not, it is apparent that we may have a shot at having a better chance of riding out the ill effects of the global financial crisis if we experience (and more importantly, take advantage of) a mini boom in Sri Lanka. Hopefully when the boom begins to subside the global system would have reached a more stable position, helping to prolong it.