First Ever Regional Chamber Presidents Conference in Sri Lanka

To achieve the broader perspective of promoting and developing the rural economy, specially the SME sector and to achieve the primary goal of trade and industry chamber movement to facilitate commerce and industry in general, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in collaboration with the Asia Foundation coordinated with the Regional Chambers to organize the Regional Chamber Presidents’ Conference and the first such Conference was held in Anuradhapura on the 11^th October, at the Central Bank Auditorium. Berty Premalal Dissanayake, Chief Minister of Central Province was the Chief Guest at this milestone event.

Opening remarks were by Kosala Wickramanayake, President, FCCISL and the welcome address was made by the President of the Host Chamber Amal Piyathilake, President, Anuradhapura Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

The prime objective of the initiative is to assure fast growth, infuse vitality and strengthen the inter linkages among Regional Chambers and development of Chamber movement in Sri Lanka which would automatically ensure the development of the economy of the country, with special emphasis to rural economy.

This idea was mooted by the Anuradhapura Chamber of Commerce and Industry where all the Presidents of the Chambers affiliated to FCCISL numbering to more than 30 would attend this important conference. Kosala Wickramanayake, President, FCCISL said that the Chamber Presidents’ Conference will become another vital item in the calendar of the FCCISL and they plan to conduct the Conference once every year.

Samantha Abeywickrama, Ex. Secretary General/CEO, FCCISL said that the conference is all about bringing up regional business and economic issues, to deliberate and collectively bring to the notice of the policy makers. At the end of the event a declaration would be prepared as an outcome and brought to the notice of H.E. the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and the provincial authorities. The main areas of concern such as regional infrastructure, business environment, peace and security and various other issues would be taken into discussion during this one day conference.

He further said that the FCCISL, as the creator of the Regional Chamber Network in Sri Lanka, would facilitate this initiative in order to develop vertical as well as horizontal linkages between regional business community and authorities both at national and regional levels. The conference was be attended by all 28 Regional Chambers of Commerce in Sri Lanka.

Amal Piyatilleke, President, ACCI said that this was a much awaited event and a dream come true, as a platform to discuss longstanding issues with fellow Presidents of Regional Chambers. The ACCI as the initiator of this important event is proud to host the inaugural conference in Anuradhapura, a city which played a significant role in the country’s History. He further said that it would be an important step in creating awareness with the local authorities the underlying concept of the Chamber Movement in Sri Lanka.

The outcome thus is for a stable economy where various interventions are undertaken to strengthen the individual chambers. Individually operated chambers have created a Chamber-wide network by now. While each Chamber creates a local impact, the expectation of the Conference is to create a viable and strong mechanism to integrate the Chambers with each other.

The specific purposes of this exercise were: a) to showcase the collective strength of the chambers; b) to create an opportunity to broaden expertise, forge new ideas and relationships; c) to create a venue for peer learning skill sharing and knowledge exchange; d) to create an opportunity to open up a dialogue among core people who are the flag bearers of chamber movement around the country; e) to identify overlapping issues affecting business community to create a platform for lobbying and f) to explore pooling of resources for economy of operations.

The Conference session gave the participants hands-on and conceptual experience.

Future summits would be organized in the regions chaired by the Presidents of the Chamber where the sessions are held, and they are expected to be held annually on rotation basis.