Blog: Leonie BarrieEastern promise

Leonie Barrie | 20 October 2003

Despite earlier reservations about the objectivity of my trip to Sri Lanka, and doubts that I would really get a true perspective of conditions in the many factories I visited – fears which I was gently reminded of when I met with senior industry executives last week – I have to admit that I stand corrected. The openness and forthright honesty of everyone I spoke to was refreshing beyond compare, as was the determination with which businesses are steeling themselves to face the post-2004 challenge.

My over-riding impressions of this Indian Ocean island where textiles and apparel make up more than half of total exports? Well, in addition to an emphasis on specialisation and adding value through design and marketing, two things stood out. The first, an unprecedented number of partnerships between seemingly competitive firms, all working together to mutual advantage. And secondly, a genuine commitment to employee welfare and the realisation that workers are not a disposable commodity but a value-adding resource.

I am indebted to the Sri Lankan Export Development Board for making the trip possible and also setting up numerous meetings with everyone from government ministers to trade chiefs to manufacturers. The findings of my visit will be published on in the coming weeks.


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