Drill bit, made in Anuradhapura
I’m on the train back from Anuradhapura. Spoke to a member of the Chamber Of Commerce there, Mr. Amal Piyathilake. Young guy, quite energetic. He said they planned to bring the capital back to Anuradhapura in 2020, in all seriousness. He mentioned one issue they were having there which I thought I’d relate. Apparently, and a few chaps told me this, it’s very difficult to get deeds for land. They calculate that the documents have to pass across 48 desks, and there are significant conflicts between the Provincial Councils and Colombo. The end result is no land, no collateral, and no capital for local business. Which is bad.
What is good is that the business people are intelligent, innovative and even charming. I met a Mr. Fonseka, originally from Jaffna, who designs and manufactures his own machinery for making papadum, processing pol thel, spices, etc. He also does training for young people in this manufacturing trade, helping them with tools and knowledge. Like Mr. Piyathilake, he said his main problem was access to land.
Partly because of these restrictions, most of the 118 members of the Chamber are traders. Because manufacturing and other industries are difficult without land. Also, ‘Colombians’ as they call us come in with capital, set up factories and take the money out. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing business in other parts of the country, but the locals are capable and should have a fair shake.
It seems that this land issue is largely because much of Anuradhapura is cultural and historical land and falls under the ‘Crown Lands Law’ (I think that’s the name). The business people there don’t seem to want the law changed so much as the amount of desks paperwork has to pass across reduced. They said 24 people, two times each. There also seems to be a conflict in authority between the Provincial Council and Colombo, and it’s small business peeps who suffer.
That said they’re enterprising, innovative and they’re organizing. If they can get access to their own land and capital I think there’s a lot Anuradhapura can do.