World Consumer Rights Day Forum

The IPS together with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCISL) organized a forum on Consumer Rights to mark the World Consumer Rights Day at the IPS Auditorium on 15th March 2012. The welcome and introductory address was delivered by Dr. Saman Kelegama, Executive Director, and Kumar Mallimaratchi, President, FCCISL. The keynote speaker at the occasion was Mr. Sarath Wijesinghe, Sri Lanka Ambassador to United Arab Emirates.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy, Former President of the USA, declared to the US Congress that consumers are the largest economic group affecting and affected by almost every public and economic decision, and yet they are the only important group whose views are often not heard. The sentiments expressed by President Kennedy are still valid in the present context and there is a crucial need for the civil society and legislative institutions and the consumer as a whole to organize themselves in the interest of the society.

Ashani Abayasekara, Research Assistant, IPS, presented the findings of a recent study on the costs to consumers as a result of low levels of trade cooperation in South Asia. Quantitative estimates reveal a minimum consumer welfare gain of approximately US$ 2 billion a year by way of savings on aggregate consumer expenditure on imported products in selected categories. This gain represents about 31 percent of total current import expenditure on the selected product categories. Additionally, a perception survey of some key stakeholders revealed a lack of attention given to consumer welfare impacts of trade by trade policy makers in the country. The primary reason identified is the deficiency of strong and influential consumer lobbies to push for consumer concerns. Another contributory factor is the ignorance of consumers themselves of the benefits of trade liberalization.

The key note address by the Ambassador was followed by a session chaired by Anushka Wijesinghe, Research Economist, IPS. Panelists were Dr. Malathy Knight, Research Fellow, IPS and Mr. Damitha Kumarasinghe, Director General, Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Ambassador Wijesinghe presented a copy of his book titled ‘Consumerism in Sri Lanka: Collected Articles and Consume Pages’ to the IPS Executive Director at this event.

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