|Sri Lanka apparel firms mull investments in former war zone|
|Tuesday, 27 January 2009|
(LBO) - Sri Lankan apparel exporters said they are considering expanding into the former war-zone in the island's north and east from where Tamil Tigers have been driven out.
Ajith Dias, chairman of the Joint Apparel Association Forum, an industry umbrella body, said the government is trying to encourage apparel companies to set up plant in the north and east to give employment in communities disrupted by war.
"There are huge expansion opportunities in the eastern province and now in the north," Dias said.
"The government is pushing hard for us go to the east, where three factories have already been set up.
"There are 13,500 young widows who need to be gainfully employed," Dias said. "These are opportunities."
Government forces last year ousted Tiger rebels from their jungle lairs in the east where conditions are slowly returning to normal.
The security forces have also made significant gains in their campaign against the rebels in the north.
Troops over the weekend captured Mullaithivu, the last remaining big town under rebel control on the north-east coast.
The Tigers have been confined to a small pocket in the island's north-eastern corner and the army has said it is confident of being able to crush the rebels soon.
The government has said it wants to attract investors into the north and east to revive their long-dormant economies and provide jobs for youth to prevent them going back to insurgency.
Dias said the apparel industry was facing difficult times because of a sharp slowdown in demand, with many factories likely to close and others merging with each other with a resultant loss of jobs.
But the industry nevertheless would try its best to expand to the east and north as it wants to increase exports and export earnings, he said.
"Today the garments industry is struggling," Dias said. "There is not too much surplus cash, if any at all, for expansion. We suddenly find our profits and cash flows are in bad shape.
"We have already been expanding, so there's not much cash left to go east or progress in our present enterprise."
But he said the industry recognised that there was an urgent need for investments in the conflict affected regions to provide employment.
"Not everyone would be brave enough to wander off to the eastern province and start a factory but some have."
The JAAF, with support from the US agency for international development, has set up a training centre in Sammanturai, in the eastern Amparai district to training factory workers with another one being called for in the neighbouring Batticaloa district.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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