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Sri Lanka’s first ‘People’s Economic Forum’ launched

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The forum, sponsored by the EFFECS (SANASA Entrepreneur Financial Expertise Centre) and implemented by the Development International Desjardins (DID) under the funding arrangements of the Global Affairs of CANADA.

The former Governor of the Central Bank, Prof. W.D. Lakshman, who was the Chief Guest said, “Over the last 75 years Sri Lanka has used almost every development model, tool and strategy, within many different frameworks. Due to some social democratic strategies the country has advanced on social indicators, but we have not been able to develop the economy to reap benefits from these social achievements,” he observed.

He further said that “an accelerated economic path cannot be obtained without large, private sector and state sector enterprises creating wealth,” but pointed out that if there is to be a more egalitarian economy there has to be an effective distribution mechanism.

The cooperative sector, which represents 25% of the population, can play a big role in this, he said.

The EFECS Project Director Pierre Markowski welcomed the initiative and reaffirmed DID’s commitment to building awareness about the cooperative enterprise model. He also explained the role of DID in building the SME sector through Entrepreneur financial centres in the developing countries and stated that EFECS, the centre which was developed with SANASA International, will continue building cooperative enterprises and support the growth of local value chains.

Trevor Ludowyke, Senior Development Officer, High Commission of Canada in Sri Lanka, highlighted that the People’s Economic Forum was a much-needed initiative and emphasized that the establishment of the SANASA Entrepreneur Financial Expertise Centre (EFECS) is an innovative approach that aims to facilitate sustainable growth and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) through a value chain approach.

Upali Herath, the former Regional Advisor on HRD and Consumer Cooperation at the ICA Regional Office for Asia & the Pacific, who held many senior positions in the cooperative sector in Sri Lanka, spoke on how member-controlled enterprises such as cooperatives differ from other enterprises and explained why cooperatives are relevant today. He pointed out that cooperatives have better outreach to communities, they serve the growing demand for elderly care and childcare, they can protect smallholder farmers, and local food production and food distribution systems, and shorten supply chains by establishing direct purchasing lines between producer and consumer cooperatives, reducing the risk of inflated food prices. All this can help transform economies in the medium and long term towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns aligned with Sustainable Development Goals 12

Speaking on “COOP Enterprises in Sri Lanka – Potentials and Prospects”, Dr R.M.K. Ratnayake, the former Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives, said “as the world, today faces unstable financial systems, increased food supply insecurity, growing inequality worldwide, rapid climate change, and increased environmental degradation, it is increasingly compelling to consider the model of economic enterprise that cooperatives offer.’ He offered that the cooperative sector, especially in developing countries, also presents itself as an essential element that can contribute to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

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