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People’s Economic Forum 2023 concluded with a promise for a better tomorrow

The annual conference, PEOPLE’S ECONOMIC FORUM, organized by SANASA International (PVT) Ltd, unfolded successfully on November 23rd at the SANASA Campus in Kegalle. The event drew a notable assembly, comprising representatives from the public, private, and the cooperative sector. The theme of this year was “Building resilience towards sustainable growth”.

Dr. P A Kiriwandeniya, the founder of the Sanasa Movement, delivered the inaugural address on the title “What the risks as a community? What is sustainable growth? And What can communities do to ensure they are moving towards a sustainable future?”. Elaborating on the practical experiences he had gathered over a 5 decade long journey with people, having notable achievements resulting from the active participation of individuals, he delivered a very strong message that the people should be proactive and take leadership to build the tomorrow they aspire. Professor Ven. Vijithapura Wimalarathna Thero, the Vice Chancellor of SANASA Higher Education Institute highlighted the importance of cooperative enterprises when carving our path for sustainable growth. He stated that in a capitalist reading, the society consists of rational individuals who strive to get maximum happiness for him/herself. The focus is on individuals. For marxists it’s the class, not an individual. For cooperatives the unit of analysis is the collective. Also in a market economy there are state enterprises, private enterprises and cooperative enterprises. Over the years Sri Lanka has witnessed the state acquiring all the profitable private and cooperative enterprises and making them loss making enterprises. He said state should delink themselves from profit making and enable the private and cooperative sector to do that. The state should create an enabling environment for these sectors to do their business while ensuring that those who get left behind are taken care of.

Professor M T M Mahees, from Colombo University, shared his thoughts on “ What kind of a society can ensure that we move forward sustainably as a community, what are the risks, what can we do to minimize that?. He emphasized the importance of analyzing and fostering the social patterns that bind a society. For a society to progress it is important to respect ecological democracy and experiential learning as opposed to pure class room or theoretical learning. Professor M T M Mahees stressed on the importance of having a collective social consciousness for the nation, where the uncertainties and aspirations of youth, women, small income holders are equally understood and empathized with. He concluded that women should get involved in governance more and women should be recognized and provided with support as it will strengthen the society at large.

Speaking on “Nature and resilience, what is at risk? What should be our path for Growth?” Mr. Mahendra Jagath, Deputy Director – Disaster Management Centre appreciated the space created by SANASA to have a cross sectoral dialogue on resilience. Discussing on the numerous challenges faced by the country he said that Sri Lanka is prone to disaster and with the fragile economy and able human resource migrating and indigenous coping knowledge is depleting while new technologies are also not adopted well we as a nation are positioned in a very vulnerable situation . He proposed that we adopt nature based solutions and humanitarian development approach if we plan for a long term sustainable growth.

Speaking on the Role of the State to build more inclusive resilient and sustainable nation Mr. Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchi (Convener – March 12 Movement) asked the audience to think if we have a state? Weather we we differentiate state and governance? He stated that people often see state through the government. People have been changing government again and again but these governments have not been able to create a state that has a economic policy for the country. That is why we have to organize this kind of forums and talk about a peoples economy. Every succeeding government has failed to bring stability to economy. That is because neither the peoples representatives who are elected to the parliament, nor people understand the role of the state and the legislature. So if we want to build an economy and a country that is sustainable, both the political leadership and citizens who elect them need to understand the role of the government in building a resilient state. Mr hettiarachhci stated that there is a great responsibility by the people to ensure that we send to the parliament capable people who represent public interest and to make policies and laws and take decisions on the public funds.

The 2023 conference was attended by a significant number of young scholars who are studying rural development, poverty alleviation and regional planning and the event generated a discussion on future actions and way forward. In concluding the event, Dr. P.A.Kiriwandeniya invited participants to be more involved, and engaged to disseminate the ideas deliberated. The future of the nation is in the hands of its people and we must ensure that we engage to build it, without letting the nation delivered to us by the politicians and the market.

All in all the 3rd PEOPLES ECONOMIC FORUM 2023 ended with a hope for more positive tomorrow.

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