A comprehensive piece of legislation which will consolidate various legal controls of the Gem Industry into one has been proposed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The Prime Minister, who addressed the opening of the FACETS International Gem and Jewellery Exhibition at the BMICH yesterday, noted that the multiple laws and regulations imposed by various authorities only sought to stifle the industry and its progress.
The industry, he explained, had stagnated since 1990; a time when President Ranasinghe Premadasa had chosen to launch exhibitions such as FACETS to promote the gem and jewellery as a major foreign exchange earner in the country.
“Since then, we lost our momentum. If we had maintained it, Sri Lanka would have been a prosperous country not only in terms of gems and apparel but also other sectors,” he said.
“The Government under President Maithripala Sirisena has the opportunity to relook at economic development.
“For me the criteria for development is trebling foreign exchange earnings, ensuring more people are employed and ensuring that the Government’s revenue is not in any way hindered,” the Prime Minister said. He asked export industries to take the opportunity and increase their trade. The Prime Minister asked the stakeholders to concentrate on the jewellery industry more and take into account environmental concerns when developing gem mining.
“Many of our traders travel out to bring gems to Sri Lanka. Many countries like Hong Kong, which are not even connected to gems, are now major trading hubs. Sri Lanka too has this opportunity, the Prime Minister said.
He suggested that at least another 100,000 more can be employed in various other areas in the gem industry and that during the first phase, a goal of USD 1-1.5 billion be targeted as foreign exchange earnings.
The Prime Minister said the Export Development Board, National Gem and Jewelry Authority, Finance Ministry and the National Policies and Economic Affairs Ministry, would work together with stakeholders in the industry to achieve the goal.
He invited proposals from the Sri Lanka Gem and Jewelry Association to improve the industry.
“All this time, we were looking at debt which many people said we wouldn’t be able to solve. So it took a lot of time. But now we are looking to expand that economy,” the Prime Minister said.