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Business focus shifting in a more favorable direction


By Sanath Nanayakkare

The Global CEO Forum Sri Lanka held at the Galadari Hotel on Thursday showed a clear shift of discussion topics by Sri Lankan business leaders compared to what they were talking about just a year ago.

Completely deviating from airing worries about how to run their businesses amid economic turmoil, business leaders including Unilever Chairperson Hajar Alafifi, Managing Director Brandix Lanka Ltd , Hasitha Premaratne and General Manager, Design and New Construction at Colombo Dockyard Thimira Godakumbura were heard discussing ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times’ and ‘Shaping the Future of Business’ in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, the Governor of the Central Bank, the chief guest at the event who listened to a number of such speeches before it was his turn to speak, appeared to have taken great comfort from this development.

During his speech the Governor said that he was delighted to see that many business leaders who came to him griping about fuel shortages, power cuts, US dollar liquidity issues and uncertainties in executing export orders on time and so on just a year ago, were now talking about robust corporate leadership and innovative ideas for the growth of their companies.

“This in itself is a great transformation. A year ago, some of you here came to me seeking solutions to a list of pressing issues. Today you have gathered here for a completely different mission. Your topics today didn’t include any concerns about acute shortage of foreign currency in the banking system or how badly you are affected by fuel shortage, long duration blackouts or the situations in which your businesses face risks that couldn’t be foreseen or measured.

“I think this signals that the country is moving away from the deep worries of economic turmoil towards macroeconomic stability where risks that can be really difficult to navigate for the business community are no longer there.” However, the Governor pointed out that it was high time for a major export-drive by Sri Lanka’s manufacturing SMEs.

“Very little is known about our SME manufacturing intended for international markets. As Sri Lanka is going to open its market in the near future at a higher level of productivity and competitiveness, protectionism of local businesses wouldn’t secure the operation your businesses unless you scale up your game and enter the global value chain. So, explore ways to connect to international trade rather than competing among yourselves to capture a share in the domestic market. Insulate your businesses to be globally competitive as the market opens for global players,” he warned.

Dr. D.M.A. Kulasooriya, Director General at the National Institute of Business Management (NIBM), the knowledge partner of the event said Global CEO forum Sri Lanka would facilitate invaluable dialogue and collaboration among top business leaders from around the world.

“This forum could serve as a platform for discussing critical global challenges, sharing best practices and fostering innovation. It would enable a CEO to collectively address pressing issues like climate change, economic inequality and technological disruption. By bringing together these perspectives and experiences, Global CEO Forum could generate fresh ideas and solutions that transcend borders.

“It would also promote responsible business practices and ethical leadership setting high standards for corporate governance and social responsibility on a global scale. However, it is crucial to ensure that that such a forum remains inclusive and transparent, representing the interests of not only large multinational corporations but also small and medium enterprises while considering the needs of various stakeholders including employees and communities,” he said.

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