Vote with Your Rupee
People are the sovereignty of a nation. As such, people have more political clout than most realize. Their day-to-day decisions thus have a huge impact on their country. However, contrary to the popular belief, people need not wait for the next election to stand up for their policies.
In fact, every time we select one brand over the other, we are in essence supporting a policy that is important to us. Often it is the assurance of quality or affordability that motivates us to build a brand loyalty. Every time we make that purchase, we are actually supporting our motivating factor. It is our motivating factor that has made us loyal to that brand. If that motivating factor is removed, then we lose our loyalty to that brand.
Increasingly, developed societies are using this buying power to send strong messages to their governments and to the industries. For example, choosing organic food sends the message to the agricultural industry your stand on chemical fertilizer. Buyers are also increasingly boycotting products from countries notorious for worker exploitation and sweatshops.
How can a “Vote With Your Rupee” campaign benefit Sri Lanka?
Almost all industries in Sri Lanka are facing a huge crisis currently due to the liberal policies adapted by the incumbent government. This government in a bid to level the playing field is removing all safeguards the local industries currently have in place. Most unfortunately this government does not factor the support other governments give to their industries in terms of subsidies as well as the economies of scale larger countries enjoy that we cannot afford. This gives an unfair advantage to the foreign companies that are importing their goods to Sri Lanka. With the recent signing of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the situation grows worse for not only the production sector, but also to the service sector. Hence, the Sri Lankan industries are fast approaching their last line of defence and that is the consumers’ choice.
However, it will not suffice simply to embark on a “Be Lankan, Buy Lankan” kind of campaign. On its own, this kind of campaigns comes across as very superficial. It lacks the depth to take it beyond a fizz. This kind of campaign is better as a spinoff of a more in depth program that undertakes to educate the consumer the importance of supporting local industries. The consumer thus needs to first understand comprehensively the importance of local industries to the country and its economy in which the consumer too is a stakeholder.
This is the hour for Sri Lankan industries to come forward and explain to the Sri Lankan consumer important facts such as,
- the impact its existence have on the workforce (the number of people employed and the number who would lose jobs if the industry collapses)
- its contribution to the economy (the forex brought into the country, the money that gets circulated in the country, the contribution to the treasury in the form of taxes etc)
- work ethics, quality assurances, etc that makes a proud Sri Lankan product
- the lateral business entities that depend on the industry (eg suppliers) and the measures main players in the industry take to pass technology know-how, upgrade standards etc to their external entity network
The consumer is thus asked to support the industry for these specific policies, which that industry pledges to adhere to and deliver.
At the same time, it must be explained to the consumer the reasons to avoid or at the very least minimize purchasing imports.
- A good chunk of our forex is being earned by Sri Lankan workers in countries with atrocious human rights records. They are being exploited beyond any acceptable norms and are often subjected to many hardships. As seen in many cases, they obviously have no legal rights to defend themselves and are thus only marginally better off than slaves. Therefore, we have a moral duty not to waste that hard earned forex on something like imported confectioneries.
- If the forex keeps draining out of the country, we obviously become poorer.
- If the industries collapse, its consequences will bounce on the consumer as well with loss of employment opportunities, less money circulating in the country etc
- When we become more and more dependent on imports, we will have less say on pricing and other important issues such as the quality standards, ingredients used etc,
In the wake of the liberal market policies that are being adapted by the incumbent government, the consumer has become the last barrier before local industries’ existence. However, it is neither feasible nor fair to ask the consumer to buy a product just because it is being produced or serviced locally. The industries must come forward and explain to the consumer,
– how the existence of the industry positively impacts Sri Lanka – economy-wise, community- wise etc
– the policies of the industry to ensure distinguishable quality of product or service
– the opportunity cost we all have to bear if the industry collapses
– the moral obligation we have towards our own society.