SLRA displeased over double standards between supermarkets, other shops
“While over 90% of retail shops/kiosks are opened and operate freely, 99% of Super Markets are instructed to be shut down and this is creating a major discrimination in businesses,” said a senior member of the SLRA, the apex body of Sri Lanka’s Organised Retail Sector (ORS).
He said that it’s ONLY the Supermarket chains that sell items at the government-guaranteed price and these chains also 100% adhere to the health guidelines while retail shops/kiosks health precautions are questionable and supermarket Chains have gone out of their way and have even suffered losses to maintain government-guaranteed prices. “When the guaranteed price of ‘Nadu Rice’ is Rs 93 Supermarkets purchases it and Rs. 96 and sells it bearing a loss of Rs. 3 per kilo. “While most of the other industries implemented pay cuts and retrenched staff, Super Markets did not resort to this and safeguard them. We even went to the extent of recruiting new staff. Another member of the SLRA said that while the tourism industry and other industries enjoy special rebated tariff plans for the consumption of electricity the retailers are yet to receive such concessions. “This is very unfair and it’s high time Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa reviews this and introduces a new electricity ‘traffic tier’ for this segment.”
Meanwhile, the Association was also very critical towards the stepmotherly treatment meted out to their staff when it comes to the COVID vaccination process. “The BOI, Tourism Sector Staff has rightly been given priority in this area but unfortunately our staff has been overlooked despite making several appeals to top government stakeholders. Also, we pay VAT on turnover and this tax structure too should be revisited and a better method is introduced. We have to individually speak to PHI’s and MOH officers in this regard and there is no proper method in this.”
He said that there are over 30,000 employees in Supermarkets alone and over 75% of them are under 30 years of age and not being vaccinated. “When the Supermarkets do open the vaccination would be a critical factor for under 30 employees and an urgent solution is needed.”
He said that the supermarkets operate on these margins and the closure has resulted in a drop of revenue by nearly 45% and only the sales are keeping them alive. He also recalled that some of these issues were brought to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on June 30 to institute relief measures.
During this meeting which was also attended by the representatives from Sri Lanka Apparel Brands Association (SLABA), they highlighted several other issues including obtaining bank loans, opening Letters of Credit and difficulties they face with EPF and ETF payments. “We are still awaiting tangible results from this meeting.”
Sectorial representatives informed the Prime Minister that they faced various business setbacks in the 24 months since the Easter bombings and the COVID outbreak and therefore called for relief measures for their sectors from the Ministry of Finance.
“We also appealed to reduce or postpone utility payments which would reduce our cost burdens as they constitute a significant expenditure for us.”
Sri Lanka’s Organised Retail Sector accounts for around one-third of the GDP and over 15% of employment in the country. The FMCG and fashion sub-sectors have become key channels of employment for the country’s youth and the entry point for them in the modern trade.