Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, MAS Holdings Chairman Mahesh Amalean and Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera after unveiling the plaque.
Pic by: Pradeep Pathirana
Sri Lanka’s leading export entity, MAS Holdings (MAS), yesterday unveiled the plaque for its US$ 28 million MAS Fabric Park in Giriulla which will be manufacturing products for one of its key customers, the sports and lifestyle brand Nike.
“At MAS, we need to expand our capacity, and because of the proximity of this location to Thulhiriya and Pannala where we have manufacturing operations, this industrial site in Giriulla is ideally located for our expansion plans to export textiles and clothing,” MAS Chairman Mahesh
The new industrial park will manufacture knitted shoe uppers as well as sportswear and activewear products for MAS’ strategic partner Nike, and bring in US$ 65-75 million in revenue for MAS, according to him.
“We are currently the 2nd largest supplier of Nike Worldwide and one of their key supply chain partners. As Nike grows their business from US$ 30 billion today to US$ 50 billion by 2020, we see the opportunity to double our business with them,” Amalean added. MAS, which now has over US$ 1.6 billion in revenue, rose to prominence producing lingerie, and was dubbed as Victoria’s Secret’s secret in the Indian Ocean.
The Giriulla Fabric Park is located in the premises of the former Kabool Lace Giriulla, which had operated from 1997-2004, before being abandoned. Apparel manufacturing had begun at the location in 1974 with the establishment of the Mattegama Textile Mill, Amalean explained.
He said that over the next 12 months, MAS hopes to remove the old machinery, refurbish the old factory and set up new equipment according to MAS standards. Further expansions are also expected, with Amalean saying that the 50-acre Industrial Park will also be used as an entrepot logistics hub. The new facility, which would become the country’s second privately owned industrial park, is expected to replicate MAS’ Thulhiriya Industrial Park, which was the first of its kind.
Amalean said that the Thulhiriya facility was expected to employ 500, and generate US$ 100 million in revenue, but expanded to employ 5,000, and generate US$ 150 million in revenue, with an investment of US$ 170 million. The eco-friendly MAS Fabric Park in Thulhiriya sports sky lighting, water recycling and a 1MW solar power generation plant. MAS has over 84,000 employees worldwide, and has over 42 factories in the Asian region, of which in Sri Lanka, it employs 70,000 across 38 factories, including over 2,200 employed in a facility in the previously war-torn Kilinochchi.
MAS is also well-known for empowering its employees, most of whom are females from rural Sri Lanka.
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed that the formation of the unity government and its economic plans have been justified with the unveiling of two industrial zones yesterday.
The Premier’s comments come at a time when wide sections of society are criticising the unity government for making ambitious plans with no results since Maithripala Sirisena ascended to the Presidency two years ago, bringing Wickremesinghe also into power.
“We have come here to fulfil the promise that we have made. This industrial park will employ 3,000, and after regaining GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) Plus, it will employ 5,000,” Wickremesinghe said emphatically at the opening ceremony of the MAS Holdings MAS Fabric Park in Giriulla.
Yesterday also saw the opening of the Volkswagen factory in Kuliyapitiya, which the Premier also attended.
“We need to develop faster, bring more money, and educate your children better than during the Premadasa era. That is why we set up a unity government despite the differences between us (the two parties). Now that (development) is what is happening with the opening of this industrial park,” he said. The unity government’s economic plan aims to create 1 million new jobs by 2020, which Wickremesinghe recommitted to by stating that the country would become an export-oriented economy within the next 3 years by establishing export-oriented industrial parks which would create a surplus of job opportunities.
Wickremesinghe further added that the synergies within the two main parties of the unity government were also showcased with the unveiling of the MAS Holdings industrial park. “Minister Jayawickrama Perera and Minister Anura Yapa came from the two parties and worked to create 5,000 job opportunities. This wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t joined,” he said.
However, Institute of Policy Studies Chairman Professor Razeen Sally had in recent months warned that the differences between the two main parties have led to an inconsistent policy environment, and that the ambitious government plans have not translated into action.
Recent developments have also shown that there are major power plays within the leading party of the unity government, which have spilled out and created an unstable policy environment. Prof. Sally had also said that the Sri Lankan people are becoming disillusioned with the government, since it had not kept its promise of fulfilling the economic and social aspirations of the people. However, Wickremesinghe yesterday claimed that a stable environment for exports and investments was created following the parliamentary elections in August 2015.
Yet, the exports for the first 9 months of 2016 had declined 4.1 percent year-on-year to US$ 6.87 billion, while foreign direct investments had fallen 37.1 percent year-on-year to US$ 335.9 million after reaching a high of US$ 1.2 billion in 2014 during the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. The state had to show improvement in its books last year to obtain a US$ 1.5 billion International Monetary Fund loan to avert a major crisis, of which signs are still showing due to a steep fall in foreign reserves. Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe also added that the unity government has stabilized the economy and reduced government debt last year. He also assured that Sri Lanka would regain GSP Plus from the European Union, and that Rajapaksa had not listened to his advice immediately after losing the preferential access facility in 2010 to set up new laws to deal with human rights concerns.
Over 2,000 Sri Lankans were laid off due to the loss of GSP Plus.