Omega Line Ltd, owned by Italy's Calzedonia Group, responding to calls from the Sri Lankan government to help support the once conflict-affected north of the country has opened its seventh factory in Sri Lanka's northern town, aiming to provide employment to 3,000 war-affected youth. So far, 350 youths from the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities have been recruited.
Along with economic opportunity, the factory has opened avenues for harmony among different communities. Unlike most towns in the north, Vavuniya remains a multi-ethnic society.
The factory, which will manufacture garment products to be sold in 11,000 outlets worldwide, represents a foreign investment of SLRs 19.8 billion ($150m). Calzedonia group founder Sandro Veronesi said.
At the factory's inauguration, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the government's focus was to rebuild northern infrastructure and develop all areas of the country equally.
He said several other large scale local and international business ventures were nearing completion in the North. "These too will be opened shortly, heralding new livelihood opportunities for the people of the north," the Sri Lanka Daily News quoted him as saying.
He noted that at 22%, the north's economic growth rate far exceeds the national average (8%).
Investment Promotion Minister Lakhsman Yapa Abeywardane said the government has invested SLRs 47 billion ($355m) for post-war northern development.
"We want to improve the quality of life of people affected by the war. There is an industrial zone being put up in Jaffna," Abeywardane told Khabar. "The railway line is being reconstructed. By mid next year, all the railway projects will be completed."
A 43km stretch of the northern rail network, from Medawachchiya to Madhu (Mannar) was inaugurated May 14th. Work to extend the Kilinochchi line up to Jaffna and Kankesanturai is expected to be completed in mid-2014.
"Unlike the war time, people have better connectivity with the south and better access to healthcare. Also, there is electricity to bring benefits to industrialists in the area," Abeywardane said. "This factory in Vavuniya will boost the local economy. Youths will get jobs, addressing a major area problem.
"It is always better for them to have jobs in their own localities rather than seeking employment in shops and factories in Colombo amid difficult living conditions," Abeywardane said. "Our aim is to take development to the village."