Ruwan Edirisinghe is the newly elected president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC ICC), established to promote trade and industry among member nations.
RaajjeMV met Edirisinghe on Wednesday at Paradise Island Resort. Edirisinghe’s tenure in his new station started in March and he is to hold it for two more years. He talked about the future short term and long-term plans for his tenure and highlighted CCI’s focus on improving GDP in the member nations.
“In short term, what we want to do is business between our countries; trade and industrial development, and transportation problems and all that to sort out up to the maximum that we can do. And as long-term target we want to use the opportunities of South Asian countries; their economies, to bring up SAARC CCI as the best, vibrant chamber in the world by 2030”.
While explaining security and political barriers as the main challenges faced by South Asian countries Edirisinghe urged to celebrate the current successes instead of focusing on the issues. Because SAARC nations show the best improvement in terms of GDP growth which averages at over 6.5% which means “SAARC countries have the highest rate of growing economies in the world”. He also noted that the biggest economies for the next two decades are supposed to be from Asia, which is a vital opportunity for South Asian countries.
“When you take any country in the world, biggest economies in that area, the biggest country in that area is very concerned about it because the political unbalance is actually happening due to demand in the world”, said Edirisinghe while talking about India’s regional involvement.
“Political leadership is required for a country to have a sustainable growth in economy because if the political situation is unbalanced, business is affected, of course.”
Edirisinghe mentioned that political unrest is happening all over the world including Europe and America. Therefore, he recommends the business world to look beyond it and find solutions regardless of imbalanced political situations.
Answering a question about China’s growing influence in the region, Edirisinghe said that we should be able to look at that as an opportunity given their big population which provides a good market to tap into.
“When you’re doing free trade agreements, mostly what is happening is, underdeveloped countries are getting less benefits than developed countries because negotiation and bureaucracy in underdeveloped countries is very much weaker than strong countries”, he added.
Edirisinghe encouraged Maldives to be proud of having one of the highest GDP per capita income amongst SAARC member nations. However, given the small population of slightly over 300,000 people, he recommended Maldives to approach SAARC countries as well as countries from other parts of the world for trade opportunities in order to sustain our economy. Edirisinghe also mentioned to highly focus on our tourism and fisheries industries for economic sustainability.
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formed in 1988 and SAARC CCI came into effect in 1993. The eight-member nations of SAARC include India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.