53rd Annual General Meeting of The National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka Address by Asoka Hettigoda, President

Speech made by President, NCCSL -"Our Chief Guest, Hon. Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs & Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Community,Government Officials, Past presidents, office bearers,members, Staff of the Secretariat, distinguished invitees, ladies and Gentlemen.

"Ayubowan, good evening. Let me extend a warm welcome to all of you to the ceremonial sessions of the 53rd Annual General Meeting of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. 
Our Chief Guest, Hon. Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs & Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Community,Government Officials, Past presidents, office bearers,members, Staff of the Secretariat, distinguished invitees, ladies and Gentlemen.
I consider it to be a great honour and a privilege to address you at this 53rd Annual General Meeting of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. Let me firstly, thank the member of National Chamber for the confidence placed on me and re-electing me as the President for another term. 

NCCSL Heritage

National Chamber was established in 1948 as a forum for the Sri Lankan business community to interact with the Government Policy makers to represent the national interests. A group of Sri Lankan Business leaders, such as Mr. Robert Senananyaka, Sir Cyril De Zoysa, Mr. Faleel A Gaffoor, Mr. N. Sellamuttu, and Mr. Roland Wanigatunga established National Chamber. Many leading businessmen have lead the Chamber over the years and continue to make a tremendous contribution to the National economy while supporting its membership. Today, the National Chamber has a corporate membership of over 587 companies including Sri Lanka’s best blue chips and a SME membership of over 2500, who come from all parts of the country, representing all sectors of industry and commerce. 

My Workplan for last Year
In the brief address I made at the last AGM, my workplan focussed on three key areas, namely, Skills Development, Improving Trade and Investment in the Asian Region, and Promoting Sustainable development. 

Year 2011, was a very successful year for the National Chamber as we managed to do many activities that were considered as “First Ever” for the Chamber.

  • Visit of His Excellency, Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, as the Chief Guest of Ayurveda Expo 2011 which also became the most successful event in the history of Chamber
  • A National Chamber delegation was welcomed by His Excellency, Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam
  • Established a Sri Lanka Bangladesh Business Council
  • Inaugurated a Certificate Course in Entrepreneurship Management Course with University of Colombo
  • Launched a Website with the partnership with Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK to find employment for British qualified Sri Lankan graduates who  live in the UK

Are some of the highlights of 2011. You will find all the details in our newly formatted Annual Report and the newsletter, "Voice of Business". Let me briefly mention some of the other activities of 2011. 

Many seminars, workshops were held, such as Import and Export Procedures, Taxes for 2011, Simplified VAT, Relaxation of Foreign Exchange Regulations, Investing in Shares, EPF & ETF guidelines, Analysis of Budget 2012, etc

  • Held SME Seminars with Dr. P. B. Jayasundera in Colombo and in Kandy
  • Distributed grants to SME’s with the participation of Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development
  • Jointly organised the Sri Lanka – Vietnam Business Forum
  • Held many bi-lateral Trade discussions with Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Canada, Pakistan, Germany, France, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Russia and Korea.
  • Discussions were held with all the new Sri Lankan Designates
  • Signed MOUs with American Chamber and Vietnam Chamber
  • Organised Sri Lankan Business Delegation visits to China and Vietnam 

In the area of Sustainable Development and promotion of Business Excellence, National Chamber became the first Chamber in Sri Lanka to be certified as “Carbon Neutral”. We also conducted the most sought after Business Excellence program in Sri Lanka, “National Business Excellence Awards” for the 8th consecutive year recognising the best private and state sector entities.

 My Workplan for this Year

 With two consecutive years of high GDP growth – over 8% in 2010 an 2011, Sri Lanka has shown the world its capacity and strength to become a middle income nation faster than expected. Tourism, agriculture, fisheries, transport, banking, manufacturing, and construction sectors recorded higher growth rates during the year 2011. Single digit inflation, low interest rates and improving customer demand have certainly helped these growth rates.

 Under these circumstances, I would like to propose to continue focussing on the three areas which I mentioned during my speech at the last AGM as it is quite evident that our progress towards becoming a middle income nation is irreversible and the importance of Skills Development, Trade & Investment and Sustainable Development and Business Excellence are even more critical to sustain the GDP growth rate of 8% for the year 2012. 

 Skills Development

The importance of skills development in a globalized economy is a well known fact as increasingly organisations emphasize competence development and lifelong learning. To cater to the needs of a middle income country, I propose to set up a 180-seat fully equipped Auditorium on the fourth Floor of National Chamber to conduct skills development and training programs and to make the National Chamber the centre of Excellence in this regard. This will be the biggest development that the Chamber would have undertaken since setting up office at D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha in 1995.

Improving Trade and Investment with Asian Region with a focus on SME

With two largest populated nations in our region, we will continue to focus more on trading with Asia while creating more business councils with Asian countries.

To support SME development and investment, National Chamber will lobby the Banking Sector to improve long term low cost lending to SME’s and Traditional and non-traditional exporters who add value. 

NCCSL will continue to hold international Trade and Investment events such as Arogya 2012, International Medical Exhibition and Symposium in August and other trade and investment activities throughout the year.

In the Area of Sustainable Development and Business Excellence

We as a nation, have to be competitive and sustainable while exhibiting excellence in all business activities we do as it essential for the survival in today’s globalised environment. Such development balances the environment, economy and our culture, and brings real benefits to all citizens of our country. 

Certain countries have introduced a carbon tax on merchandise with high carbon levels and products coming from countries that refuse to contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. Further, the use of certain chemical pesticides and fertilizers and poor labour conditions, are factors considered by certain countries in controlling imports. 

As we target to generate more export revenue, sustainable & excellent development practices will give us the competitive advantage we are looking for. This year, National Chamber will focus on Green Building strategies and Carbon Neutral practises and hope to form a separate committee to focus on Organic farming. We will also promote the National Business Excellence Awards to all parts of the country especially to the North and the East, as sharing these excellent practises will benefit the whole country.


Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion, my team and I will assure you that we would do our utmost to make our business community competitive, productive, sustainable, and play a key role in equitable development of Sri Lanka working with all the stakeholders. However, lower growth rates in our trading partners such as US and EU, Unrest in Arab countries, rising labour costs and other internal and external factors present us a challenging year ahead. And I believe, if all stakeholders work together, achieving this momentous growth will be within our reach.

Thanking People who helped

Cathy Freeman, the first Aboriginal to win a Gold Medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Australia, said,“You got to try and reach for the stars or try and achieve the unreachable”

National Chamber will fully support the vision of His Excellency, the President, Mahinda Rajapakse, to make this country the “Wonder of Asia” with the support of Sri Lankan Companies in the driving seat. This is also the mandate of the National Chamber. 

Firstly, I must thank my father, Deshabandu Dr. Victor Hettigoda, for allowing me to spend many days of the week at the chamber and my mother for looking after the grandkids, and my two sisters, Vidyani and Lankani, who have always been an invisible strength to me, and lastly, the most important figure in the my life, Anusha, who has given me all the freedom to focus on my business and chamber activities and my two forgiving gems Vinuri and Akila, whose favourite phrase “are you going for a meeting again” … Thank you to all my dear family members.

I would also, like to thank my colleagues of National Chamber Office Bearers, Sunil Wijesinha, Thilak Godamanna, Sujeiva Samaraweera, and Ananda Wehalle for all the advice, support and assistance given to me during the last year. 

I also wish to thank E.M. Wijetilleke, Secretary General and the staff of the Chamber for the tremendous support and co-operation extended during the last year. The contribution of all chamber Standing Committees, District & Regional Chambers, Associations and Business Councils deserve special acknowledgment."   

Thank You 
Asoka Hettigoda - President NCCSL


Treasury Secretary Addresses the Business Community in Kandy

Dr. P. B Jayasundera, Secretary to the Treasury was the Chief Guest at the seminar on “Budget Proposals 2012 for SMEs” held on 25th November 2011 at Earl’s Regency Hotel Kundasale, Kandy. Dr Jayasundera explained the benefits and incentives offered to the business community and the public from the budget 2012. Others present were Ms Dammika Gunathileka, Tax Adviser, Ministry of Finance & Planning. Dr Neville Gunawardene, Director General, Dept of Trade & Tariff, Mr S.R. Atygalle, Director General , Public Enterprises Dept and Mrs Mallika Samarasekera, Deputy Commissioner, Inland Revenue Dept. More than 200 participants mostly SMEs, from Kandy, N’Eliya, Matale, Kurunegala and Kegalle districts participated.

Sri Lanka Bangladesh Business Co-operation Council (SLBBCC) Launches Website

Mr S. Wickramarachchi, Deputy President SLBBCC. At a distinguished gathering of Council Members, invitees, guests and the distinguished Guest, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, His Excellency Mahbub uz Zaman, Patron, of SLBBCC the website of the Sri Lanka Bangladesh Business Co-operation Council (www.slbbcc.com) was launched at a Get together of members at the Golf Club Colombo recently. Patron members the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Patron member Mr Asoka Hettigoda, and President of Sri Lanka Bangladesh Business Co-operation Council Mr Asela de Livera addressed the gathering. The members interacted with each other and showed their interest to promote trade and strengthen bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A Trade Delegation to Bangladesh has also been planned towards end December 2011 to coincide with a leading Trade Exhibition scheduled to be held in Dhaka.

In the picture from left to right are:

Mr Asoka Hettigod, President NCCSL & Patron member SLBBCC, H.E. Mahbub Uz Zaman, the High Commissioner Bangladesh, Mr Asela de Livera, President SLBBCC,



National Chamber Delegation Meets the Vietnam President in Hanoi

A seventeen member business delegation from of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) led by Mr. Asoka Hettigoda the President of the Chamber, met His Excellency Truong Tan Sang, the President of Vietnam at the Presidential Palace during their visit to Vietnam from 13-18 November 2011. Mr. Hettigoda explained to His Excellency Truong Tan Sang the current economic conditions, improved business and investment climate Sri Lanka enjoys presently. In return His Excellency the president informed the Sri Lanka delegates about  the very high potential both countries have for bilateral trade development and investment. Mr. Asoka Hettigoda, further said that Sri Lanka presently exports products such as woven fabrics, residues of milling industry, crepe rubber, oil seed, tea packets and tea bags etc., to Vietnam while at the same time Sri Lanka imports processed food, agricultural products, reception apparatus for televisions, agricultural machinery, cotton, marbles, man-made staple fibers, etc., from Vietnam. Present trade volume between Sri Lanka and Vietnam ranges from USD 80-100 million. It is expected to improve the existing business areas and expand in to other areas as well.

 Mr. Asoka Hettigoda also said that the NCCSL will work very hard to achieve USD 1 billion target set by the President of Sri Lanka and Vietnam when the Vietnam President visited Sri Lanka  few weeks ago.Members of the Sri Lankan delegation were keen in exploring business and investment opportunities in Vietnam in the areas of apparel and textile, electrical cables, gem and Jewellery, agricultural machinery, rubber and related products, animal feed and agro products. Both parties were interested in developing a strong relationship with regards to exchanging agricultural technology for mutual benefits. Other areas of interest were minerals & chemicals, non asbestos roofing products and medical related equipment. The representative from Sri Lanka Export Development Board explained to the Vietnam Business community about the Sri Lanka “Expo 2012”, the major exhibition of Sri Lankan products to the world. Many Vietnamese businessmen assured their participation at Sri Lanka “Expo 2012”.Apart from the meeting with the H.E President of Vietnam, the delegates also had detailed discussions with the senior officials of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry  (VCCI), Foreign Investment Agency (FIA), Ministry of Trade and Investment and Vietnam Small Medium Industries Association. The delegates also met representatives of over 100 Vietnamese companies and had one to one business meetings.

One of the most important activities that took place at the headquarters of the VCCI was the signing of a  MOU between the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka and Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry to promote business relations, trade and investment between the two countries. The MOU was signed by Mr. Asoka Hettigoda, President of NCCSL and Mr. Hoang Van Dung, First Vice Executive President of VCCI in the presence of H.E Dr. Ivan Amarasinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Vietnam.We are thankful to H. E Dr. Ivan Amarasinghe ,Sri Lankan Ambassador in Vietnam who gave excellent corporation from the day the NCCSL initiated to organize the visit,  up to the departure of the delegates from Vietnam. Dr. Amarasinghe extended his fullest support by attending in all the meetings the delegation had with the private sector as well as with the government officials.

 Another important aspect of the visit was the meeting of the Sri Lankan Expatriates living in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi cities by the delegates where the delegates had an opportunity to obtain first hand experience in doing business with Vietnam.The Sri Lankan delegates included: General Rohan Daluwatte - Chairman/CEO, National Gem & Jewellery Authority; Mr. Shantha Fernando - Deputy Director, Sri Lanka Export Development Board; Mr. H M Nandasena Herath - Chairman, Hadabima Authority Ministry of Agriculture; Mr. Geeth Kumar Dayananda - General Manager, Aitken Spence Plantations; Dr. A.S. Sabaratnam - Managing Director, A.S. Agri Exports (Pvt)Ltd; Dr. A.H Cader - Chairman/Managing Director, Medilab Lanka (Pvt) Ltd; Mr. Thusitha Jayawardene - Chairman/Managing Director, Dip Products Katuwawala (Pvt)Ltd; Mr. Suren Madanayake - Managing Director, ACL Cables PLC; Mr. M Balasubramaniam - Group Executive Chairman, Jay Jay Mills Group; Mr Ranjan Buell - Vice President Operations, Star Garments Ltd; Mr. K F J Macdonald Perera - Managing Director ,Coir de Lanka Exports (Pvt) Ltd/Association of Small & Medium Enterprises; Mr. Jude Xavier - Proprietor, Western Traders; Mr Champika Karunaratne - Director, Karunaratne Sons (Pvt) Ltd; Mr. A Gangatharan - Managing Partner, Kannan & Co; Mr. Asiri Dayan Merenchige - Director Lanka Wasana Motor Co (Pvt.)Ltd; and Mr. Bandula Dissanayake - Deputy Secretary General, NCCSL ( Coordinator  of the Delegation ) representing various sectors such as apparel, gem & jewellery, chemicals/minerals, agriculture, medical equipment, and import/export sector.