‘Ceramics blooms to 50 bn rupee industry’


By Steve A. Morrell

The local ceramics industry has grown to a 50 billion rupee concern and it would not be long before, given current progress which was an on – going phenomenon, the industry would soon grow to 100 billion rupees. The private sector was involved in the industry and had enabled it to progress to its current stature. Additionally, it sustains the employment of about 22,000 workers, said Minister Sarath Amunugama, at a ceramics and glass symposium last week.

The minister added, ‘The ceramics industry, is one that makes use of natural resources. It is now clear that there is research into the use of clay available in other parts of the country which in effect could be exploited to advantage.

‘Many years ago there was a study by a geologist from India. Mr. Wadiya. He was here to do a study of our geological resources.

‘When Mao Tse Tung became the leader of China,the first thing he said was’ ‘we must have a geological survey. We do not know what we have and what our potential can be’.

‘Similarly, we have our potential, and we should take serious note how to maximize such potential; how to cut through red tape, and ensure this God given gift is converted into a base of a new industry. Particularly, the mineral resources in the Eastern Districts of Sri Lanka. We have no laboratory that analyses the type of mineral resources we have, that is one area where the government must move faster.

‘Secondly, there must be closer dialogue between the people who do, and the bureaucrats. As they say "people who do, do, and those who don’t, become bureaucrats". One of the problems of growth in this country, is to cut down the time taken between discovery of a new idea, new potential, and its realization. We spend much more time talking about it, and going through many layers of approval, and by the time we go into operation time has been wasted.

‘When I was Minister of Finance we setup clusters who could interact with the government. To make suggestions to government as to what should be done. The idea was that we should listen to the people in the field.

‘There are some good signs now. The restoration of GSP+, is now beginning to have its impact on the garments sector, fisheries; that’s the sort of intervention government could come in; so that the private sector could make good use of those decisions.

‘The experience of the early ceramics sector was a clear example of government ineptitude. At first government tried to set up a ceramics sector by itself. They conceded when they said this is not going to work. They were Marxist ministers at that time. Then they decided to go into a joint venture. For instance, Noritake became our partner. It has had a long, and I hope fruitful relationship with Sri Lanka. It started with two sites. It was then that we realized this industry could be continued on a serious footing.

‘This leads to another subject, the emphasis on paddy production. The wet zone areas, production levels are so low, compared to about 90 bushels in the dry zone. Government has spent billions on irrigating the dry zone.

‘We have to innovate, quick thinking , and a government that could move fast and skillfully is needed.

‘For example, Jeffery Bawa used local materials in his designs.

‘Similarly we have a group of people who are innovators in this country. Quite like Mahes Amalean, and Sanjay Tiwari, who are with us this evening.

‘They have been the innovators who have made an impact in the ceramics industry, their example should be emulated.

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