12 August, 2020

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So Now We Know The Truth About EU GSP Plus

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

This week, the Government of Sri Lanka admitted for the first time, the financial losses that the country has been subjected to as a result of losing the European Union (EU) GSP Plus facility in 2010. At the time that we bartered away this facility, what was told to us was quite a different story. Shrugging off prophecies of severe impact on the apparel industry, ministerial spokesmen boasted that Sri Lanka did not actually need this facility and that its removal would not cause major financial impact.

A curious question           

Now we hear the truth, albeit dragged out unwillingly from none other than the proverbial horse’s mouth or in other words, from Minister of Investment Promotion Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena in Parliament in response to an opposition question. In brief, the loss of this facility ‘has caused the closure of 25 apparel factories, forcing almost 10,000 people out of work, with the total loss to the country exceeding Rs. 782 million from apparel exports’ (Daily Financial Times, 24th October 2013).

To a casual observer, it may be a curious question as to why the government would dig in its heels in refusing to honour preconditions laid down by the EU which were applicable to all interested countries, not only Sri Lanka. Was this part of a grand Western plan to subordinate the country to vested interests, one could ask? Was Sri Lanka being asked to perform to impossible standards, to satisfy unreachable goals as part of a scheme designed to humiliate the country for having won the war against the Tamil Tigers so as to speak?

Forsaking a sensible approach

The reality was very far from this case. At that time, talk of international conspiracies and a Tiger hiding behind every bush had, true enough, not been rubbished so thoroughly as now. These games became particularly ridiculous after the impeachment of the country’s 43rd Chief Justice when even the Chief Prelates, senior clergy of the Congress of Religions and industry leaders were accused of being conspirators when they rightly voiced their perturbation.

This is not to deny that the propaganda network operated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or its remnants after the 2009 military defeat is certainly highly skilled in its functioning. Yet the best way to meet that propaganda would have been through reasoned debate. Rather than this most eminently sensible approach, every dissenter was labeled an international conspirator to the extent that government propaganda backfired, making its progenitors look remarkably silly. Such counterproductive rantings were evidenced in respect of all critiques made of government action, national or international, constructive or abrasive. To make matters worse, this was complimented (if one may call it that) by uncouth and abusive government supporters traipsing the halls of the United Nations tasked with the sole objective of harassing and humiliating critical voices. This crude behaviour got to be so problematic that even those United Nations diplomats who tended to be partial towards Sri Lanka on the basis that the country needed more time to recover from a decades-long conflict, stood back appalled. It is encouraging to see that in the past year, such asinine behavior in international fora has changed to some extent though much of the damage has already been done.

Uncanny foreshadowing of the LLRC

But when the EU GSP facility was under reconsideration three years ago, this propaganda attack was on in full throated fury, regardless of anxious interviews to the newspapers by EU representatives who almost imploringly yet vainly called upon the government to yield a little. And what exactly were these preconditions for the GSP Plus facility? Did they involve the country’s national security or the integrity of the State?

The converse was the case. In fact, in an almost uncanny foreshadowing of later events, much of what the EU said reflected what this government’s proudly homegrown Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) itself said a few years later. And in an aside, it is vastly amusing to recall that, true to form, the lunatic fringe Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) went so far as to allege that the LLRC had betrayed the country.

Brushing this aside, detailed examination of commonalities between the EU’s recommendations and what the LLRC recommended would be an interesting effort for another occasion. Suffice to say for the moment that the politicization of the police investigative function, the need for an independent National Police Commission and the separation of the military command structure from the Department of the Police were important common points. Needless to say, this demand cannot be met by a farcical Ministry of Law and Order operating under a political authority which remains linked to the military.

The practical manifestation of the absurdities that arise consequently was seen very well this week when the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence severely castigated the North’s Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran for asking that police powers be effectively devolved. It may well be asked as to how the Defence Secretary can make these statements when the Department of the Police (or so we are informed) has been moved to a new Ministry. This clearly shows the command responsibility still exercised by the Ministry of Defence over the Police.

Losses to the country due to braggadocio

Let us be very clear on this in the final result. The EU GSP Plus facility was not extended to Sri Lanka in 2010 because the government refused to take certain steps for the betterment of its own people. This call was not part of a grand international design to humiliate Sri Lanka. If the country had a Minister of Foreign Affairs who was less cravenly servile to the Rajapaksa administration, this would have been apparent at that time itself.

Instead, what we saw unseemly braggadocio. Years later, the government now admits the negative impact of the loss of this facility on apparel industry workers who form part of our society’s underprivileged. These matters are however inconsequential for the politically privileged who luxuriate in their expressways and mushrooming five star hotels. Unfortunately, this continues to be the common tale of woe of post war Sri Lanka’s poorest sectors, majority and minorities alike.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Lying to the public is nothing new for the Rajapaksa regime. It is actually a part and parcel of its governance. I wonder when the people are going to wake up and realise that heir country is at the edge of an abyss.

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      Piranha,

      Lying is a standard practice of the governments, if advantageous.

      See below, and WMD, etc. etc. The Sri Lanka Govt. is not much different…DeJa Vu…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Gary_Powers

      When the U.S. government learned of Powers’ disappearance over the Soviet Union, they issued a cover statement claiming a “weather plane” had strayed off course after its pilot had “difficulties with his oxygen equipment.” What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact, and the Soviets recovered its equipment. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in espionage.[5] The incident set back talks between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. On August 17, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage against the Soviet Union and was sentenced to a total of ten years, three years in imprisonment followed by seven years of hard labor. He was held in Vladimir Central Prison, 100 miles east of Moscow. The prison contains a small museum with an exhibit on Powers, who allegedly developed a good rapport with Russian prisoners there. Some pieces of the plane and Gary Powers’ uniform are on display at the Monino Airbase museum, close to Moscow.

      On February 10, 1962, Powers was exchanged, along with American student Frederic Pryor, in a well-publicized spy swap at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany. The exchange was for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher (aka Rudolf Abel), who had been caught by the FBI and jailed for espionage.

      • 0
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        The example you have given relates to spying and that involved the cold war America was fighting with Russia. The case in the above article refers to the government lying to its own people, hiding how its actions had very adversely affected the people’s (workers) livelihoods and the country’s economy.

        Rajapaksa and his merry men in the cabinet continuously lie to the people to hide their gross misconduct and mistakes. This regime, more than any in the history of Sri lanka, has resorted to duping the public by its lies and that is a fact.

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    Lying is a standard tool of all politicians. It is the most often committed unwholesome action by almost all people, no matter how good they pretend to be. In fact the human-world functions on lies. Politicians simply use it more effectively to move the glib masses. Sad!

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      Mahason:
      While your statement is essentially true, what you have failed to mention is that, in democratic countries, there are checks and balances to ensure that when politicians act against the public interest there is room to, at least, expose their dishonesty and duplicity.
      In Sri Lanka, what little existed in that area has been deliberately and effectively removed with such as the 18th Amendment and what prevails is now the (cannibalistic) freedom of the wild ass.

  • 0
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    Recover this money from the resources in the north.

    Start the KKS cement factory and export cement to China.

    Cut school and university funding to the north. Problem solved! :)

    But our Rajafucksa fools can’t think.

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      Fathima:

      I salute your exalted national and patriotic instincts and I have a better idea – since this transpired from the GSP plus issue, why not you just don’t dress yourself anymore? You see, if you do this and also pass the word to all your patriotic friends, then SL can save a lot on spending on clothes and dresses. Think about it.

      • 0
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        jansee LOL!
        but, you forget Fathima (Lorenzo) has already exposed his nakedness!

  • 0
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    Bangladesh offer cheap labour; In fact wages there is less than half that of sri Lanka. Naturally then low cost garment manufactures would have shifted to cheaper locations like Bangladesh. Sri Lanka government want only high end business here. Remember, government encouraged Sri Lanka businessmen to start garment factories in Uganda when Ugandan President was here on a goodwill mission.

    The Secretary General of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), M.P.T Cooray said, today, Sri Lanka has around 350 factories. He said apparel industry is in a competitive environment and companies have their own marketing strategies and are doing well. Even with the recession in the EU and The US, JAAF is confident that they can achieve $5 billion exports by 2016.

    Most of the said 350 garment factories are not in EPZs but in rural locations countrywide. And those factories pay higher than the minimum stipulated wage and better perks and benefits. Otherwise factories cannot attract labour for there is labour shortage problem. In front of every factory hangs vacancy notices. How could that be the case if 25 factories are closed and 10,000 people were forced out of work with no job like Pinto imply. Economists call it shifting or movement of labour.

    Factories that cannot improve or modernized to pay on going wages of a country should be allowed to close or shift to cheaper countries. Labour have to be moved to more efficient and more competitive factories or retrained on another industry. What neo-con’s GSP tries to do is to keep us in bondage. They want us to dance to their whims and fancies. Its not amazing Pinto and her type keep singing hosannas to them.

    To say it all in short, garment industry in Sri Lanka is not dying, on the contrary it is thriving. Otherwise, how come there coming up a huge new garment factory in Udumulla junction in Padukka.

    • 0
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      Patriot,
      Please read again
      Are you saying Yapa is lieing again?

      Please refer to MAS and Brandix Annual Reports of 2 years ago.

      • 0
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        Chandra,
        I am not saying Minister Yapa is lying or 25 apparel factories have not been closed and etc. All I am trying to point out is inefficient factories must be allowed close down and efficient ones must be encouraged to come up in its place. And that is what has happened in every industry and in every successful country including the UK and Germany. They no longer manufacture cheap cars etc but sophisticated ones with high tech production lines. The shogun (montero) I use is manufactured in the UK. They have got India, Brazil and other countries to manufacture their cheap and old models. Needless to say Japan also does the same. And Korea and Taiwan is not lagging in this tactic. I am not in the garment business, but if we do not follow the same in the business Sri Lanka is mastering right now we’ll simply fail. Obviously this lady Pinto either want Sri Lanka to fail or does not understand the complicated business strategies.

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      Patriot

      ” Sri Lanka government want only high end business here.”

      High end business requires complicated and advanced manufacturing and service industry. This country failed on all count, I am sure you know why.

      Stop blabbering and start learning.

      • 0
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        Do understand Mr Vedda. Here, high end business means, high end business in the ‘garment’ industry.

    • 0
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      ” And those factories pay higher than the minimum stipulated wage and better perks and benefits. “

      Wow..Lo!
      Smells like Unidentified Frying Objects

    • 0
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      “What neo-con’s GSP tries to do is to keep us in bondage.”

      biting the hand that has been feeding you for decades. The maximum exports from SL go to EU then US but not to porkistan or china (where you beg)

      Watch out patriot Gota may rim you sooner of later and
      if not you both have Voids between your ears.

      • 0
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        Javi,
        Have you read one of the biggest selling books, ‘the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ by John Perkins. You guys should read it to understand how the US was ‘feeding’ the third world countries for decades. Google and read at least some reviews before talking BS.
        thank you

  • 0
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    /* In brief, the loss of this facility ‘has caused the closure of 25 apparel factories, forcing almost 10,000 people out of work, with the total loss to the country exceeding Rs. 782 million from apparel exports’ (Daily Financial Times, 24th October 2013). */

    Where is our Central Bank accountant Cabraal?
    He was giving pora talks that our per capita income is going up and that we don’t need GSP+ any more. -:)

  • 0
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    “has caused the closure of 25 apparel factories, forcing almost 10,000 people out of work, with the total loss to the country exceeding Rs. 782 million from apparel exports”

    If you believe above statistics ,better start believing our super duper con artist Cabral’s artificially inflated figures as well. i.e per capita , GDP , inflation rate etc .

  • 0
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    remember first it was zero casualties , then suddenly it turned in to zero causality policy , then to a few hundreds and now few thousands , this tells the whole story of regime’s fabricated statistics.

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    One of the architects who misled the public saying that GSP is not needed as we are a developed nation under this regime was Treasury Secretary PBJ. He has become the main force destroying our economy by hiding the details of foreign loans taken by us, wastage of public funds by the government and painting a rosy picture. A person who has come from village is today blinded by the power and taking the country towards bankruptcy. State officials of this kind too should be made accountable like the politicians the day the tide turns.

  • 0
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    it was never that there would no economic loss , but if an industry is set up that does not have the resiliency to survive removal of concessions that industry would fail no matter what . Sri lanka is not ethopia to have to depend on the largesse of the west .

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      Abhaya Premawardena

      “Sri lanka is not ethopia to have to depend on the largesse of the west”

      Go check your export statistics.

      Read the Saman Kelegama’s presentation in which he has provided a detail analysis of Export over a long term period. Then we can discuss the nuts and bolts of this sector.

      Export Sector In Sri Lanka: Issues and Chalenges

      Presentation By Saman Kelegama
      10 January 2013

      http://www.ips.lk/staff/ed/news/2013/10_01_2013_annual_general_meeting/xeport_nce.pdf

      You don’t have to prove that you are somebody by being there in every nook and corner.

      You have no statistics nor an in depth analysis of export sector. All you have is blind loyalty to clan and plenty of time to waste.

      Are you trying to impress your partner?

      • 0
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        you wedda turd I have no loyalty to any clan prove is single thing handed to me by any current or previous govt . I am here in my real name not some fake taken name like yours .

        I dont have to say or prove I have been to every nook and cranny , may be that is your expertise . I post my view based on what I have seen and experienced . that is it no less no more !

      • 0
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        Abhaya ,

        ” I post my view based on what I have seen and experienced . that is it no less no more !”

        Grate Abhaya ,now we know why you commit on any thing and every thing , please don’t stop,keep up your good work!

  • 0
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    Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Cabral, Keheliya Rambukwella, all of them and including the President came out in the public and informed that the GSP Plus withdrawal did not have any impact on Sri Lanka. They have lied to the people and if this happened in any other democratic country these people would have resigned. We in Sri Lanka cannot even dream of such actions. What a shame on these people.

    • 0
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      Park, There was no money in garments for the politician. So why support this industry?

  • 0
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    Hi Kishali,
    In my opinion, it is better to lose this facility than be subjected to the dictates of the European Union on every other issue. SL needs to improve productivity with high end products and be competitive in the world market.

    SL should never ask for concessions from Europe or India. They are the ones who caused all our problems in the first place.
    We have to assert our authority and conduct ourselves with dignity.

    It is better to go hungry than follow the dictates of these treacherous countries.

  • 0
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    “If the country had a Minister of Foreign Affairs who was less cravenly servile to the Rajapaksa administration”. Let us put it more milder but factual terms,”If the country had a Minister of Foreign Affairs with less eagerness for sperms in his mouth….”

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