International Symposium on Polymer Science and Technology 2012

Speech by ADB Sri Lanka Resident Mission Country Director Rita O'Sullivan on 2 November in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am very pleased to be here today at the inauguration of the first International Symposium on Polymer Science and Technology 2012,and have this opportunity to address you at this occasion.

Sri Lanka is at an important milestone, having reached middle income status recently. The economic performance over the last two to three years has been impressive and the country has clearly achieved a high growth trajectory, with falling poverty, and an improving business climate. The country is looking at maintaining this growth momentum and reaching the next phase of development. The private sector has to lead the way to achieve these goals and industries need to position themselves to create higher value addition and more advanced products.

This symposium brings together different stakeholders of the polymer industry and I wish to reiterate the importance of building and strengthening linkages between all stakeholders. The interaction between private sector as producers and marketers, academics as researchers, and the government as facilitator of the enabling environment to develop the industry are all critical players in the progress of the industry. It is an important step that has been taken today by bringing all relevant parties together to deliberate on innovative solutions for the development of the industry. I also note that there is a workshop for Advance level students and a session on job market aspects and applaud the attempt to open up opportunities for students to learn about the industry and create a path to ensure sustainability in terms of human resources within the industry.

As you deliberate on technical aspects of the industry and look for innovative solutions, I hope you will also keep in mind the importance of marketing aspects to promote your products and expand the market share. In today’s context, how you present your products and your ability to reach consumers in an increasingly competitive global market is critical in maintaining an edge. Therefore marketing and packaging aspects also need to receive attention and the industry needs to develop these skills as well.

The industry may also think about setting standards and ensuring the quality of products so that low quality products will not hamper the image of the industry. This is vital in establishing a global presence and retaining market share. At a time when industries focus on consumability, it is necessary to go beyond conventional measures of standards and look at providing consumers with a product that addresses the advanced needs and tastes of consumers.

At a time when Sri Lanka has reached middle income status and looks at moving towards the next stage of development, the industrial base needs to expand. Industries need to innovate, diversify and move towards higher value added products. Therefore the private sector has a critical role to play in sustaining Sri Lanka’s development momentum. This target has to be reflected within the polymer industry too, as it is an industry that has vast potential, especially with the advancement in technology. The private sector needs to take the lead in developing the industry, while closely collaborating with the government and academia. It is the private sector that can identify market conditions, assess the nature of consumer, and employ resources efficiently to expand and diversify the industry. Sri Lanka’s private sector certainly has the potential to compete in the global market and has many strengths that need to be identified and developed.

There are also foreign investors that are interested in investing in Sri Lanka in this sector. ADB has been approached by such potential investors that look for avenues and guidance for such investments. They come to agencies such as the ADB as there is no clear focal point, and the investors lack knowledge of a relevant authority or industry representative that they could go to in order to convey their interests and facilitate investments.  The industry needs to build up the industry group that could play a facilitating role for these potential investors. It is useful, indeed necessary, in today’s world, to have a web presence that would be a tool to facilitate foreign investors. This is a wealth of resources that needs to be tapped in order to strengthen the industry. The business climate also needs to be improved to ensure foreign investors choose Sri Lanka as a preferred destination.

I like to mention here that ADB is focusing on private sector development under our new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), approved last year. ADB’s thrust on private sector development focuses mainly on three areas; i) creating an enabling environment for business, ii) generating business opportunities in ADB financed public sector projects and iii) to catalyze private investments through direct financing, credit enhancements, and risk mitigation instruments. These thrust areas of ADB cover four priority areas at operational level: a) governance in the public and private sectors; b) financial intermediation; c) public-private partnerships (PPPs); and d) regional and sub regional cooperation.

While focusing on infrastructure development through support to the government’s development plan under the first pillar of the CPS, the second pillar, focuses on increasing the effectiveness of public investment and catalyzing private investments. ADB will assist by institutionalizing PPPs through early and sustained engagement in (i) developing a suitable enabling environment for PPPs; (ii) early identification of PPP candidate projects, concept development, and pre-feasibility assessment; and (iii) project structuring by assessing commercial, technical, environmental, and financial viability. ADB will help the government strengthen the policy, legal, and regulatory framework for fostering PPPs, including improving the institutional framework. Constraints in the financial sector limit the potential to secure long-term domestic funding for private sector infrastructure projects. ADB will support stakeholder consultation and create public awareness on the benefits of PPP projects. ADB’s involvement in viable PPP infrastructure will provide synergies between the first and second pillar of the CPS. ADB will also provide nonsovereign loans to reforming state-owned enterprises to expose them to alternate sources of finance.

Under the third pillar, human resources are identified to be a critical constraint as demand grows for an educated and skilled labor force. Under human resources development, ADB plans to support secondary education, technical education and vocational training, and to develop a science park to strengthen innovation and research over the CPS period. ADB will assist to improve the quality of secondary education and to provide equal access to education through the 1,000 school concept island-wide.Quality of education will be improved through teacher training, curriculum development, greater use of information communication technology, and improvement in science and technology facilities. ADB will support the skills development program by expanding and improving the quality of technical and vocational institutes and related infrastructure. ADB will help build government capacity over a wide range of activities that are likely to be critical in the next phase of development.

Conclusion

Within the current context, the need is for your industry to diversify, innovate, and to reposition the industry as a higher value added industry. This is vital as theprivate sector is in the driving seat to lead Sri Lanka’s next phase of development.  Your success in innovation and high productivity is the key to enable Sri Lanka to continue the current trajectory of high growth.  I trust that you will meet the challenges that you face successfully and play the vital role that is required of you to take Sri Lanka towards a high income country.  I wish you well in all your endeavors.

Thank you!