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PM invites private sector to join Govt.’s efforts to develop Sri Lanka


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  • Urges businesses to harness political stability and policies towards a highly competitive market economy
  • Assures engagement with private sector, calls for investment in response to business tycoon Harry J. remark Govt. hasn’t taken 
  • private sector into confidence 
  • Premier says, “I want Sri Lanka to be competitive; keen to achieve a 7% growth next year” 

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By Nisthar Cassim

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe last night invited the private sector to join the Government’s effort to develop Sri Lanka by investing for growth, harnessing political stability and policies towards a highly competitive market economy. 

Speaking at the Business Today Top 30 Awards ceremony, the Premier said the Government is willing to work together with the private sector and he would invite them over to discuss their ideas. “Let us work together,” he said. However Wickremesinghe insisted “nothing for nothing” and that he will listen only when the private sector put their money into investments.

Wickremesinghe’s remarks were partly in response to business tycoon Harry Jayawardena’s comments at the awards ceremony urging the Premier to take into confidence the private sector, for example the Top 30 listed firms recognised at the annual BT Awards. 

“The Government must take them (Top 30 companies) into confidence. This is not happening,” he said, to audience laughter. 

“These companies have what it takes, if not they won’t be recognised. The Prime Minister must listen to them to broaden the vision for the country,” added Jayawardena, who is the Chairman of Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka, figuring among the Top 10 firms.

In his speech as the Chief Guest, the Prime Minister, identifying Jayawardena as a friend who has been with him through during difficult times, took a jovial dig at the business tycoon. Wickremesinghe recalled that former President J. R. Jayawardena’s favourite song was Frank Sinatra’s ‘My way’, eliciting more laughter in the audience. The Premier also recalled how former Indian PM Narasimha Rao had told him that he didn’t listen to the private sector yet India prospered during his tenure. 

However on a serious note, Wickremesinghe told the packed BT Awards that it is indeed “Our way” - referring to the current unity Government comprising of the UNP and the SLFP.  Political stability, the Premier said, was key to ensure rapid and sustainable development. “We have no intentions to part ways,” he said, noting that after the current term ends the two parties may contest separately but their policies won’t change. The Prime Minister also said that when it comes to economic policies he isn’t the sole decision maker and that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs comprises members from both the UNP and SLFP.

“We are working on macroeconomic stability with the help of the IMF and others. From an open market economy of J. R. Jayawardena, we will make Sri Lanka a highly competitive open economy,” the Prime Minister pointed out. He also said that Sri Lanka must benchmark itself against ASEAN standards and not South Asian standards.

The Premier briefed the BT Awards ceremony about the Government’s plans to expand the market for both Lankan enterprises and global firms, using Sri Lanka as a hub to 3 billion via four FTAs and regaining of GSP+ by next year. “As we get access to other markets, gradually, we have to give access to our markets... because I want Sri Lanka to be competitive,” he said, and urged the Lankan private sector to venture out as well.

He also referred to several proposals including incentives to the private sector and foreign investors announced in 2017 Budget towards this goal and efforts underway to make Sri Lanka a logistics hub, expand manufacturing and tourism, the digital economy, infrastructure and rural economy. Government plans on creating the South-West Corridor encompassing Kandy and the North Western provinces and North-East Corridor covering north, north central and east were also highlighted with Trincomalee earmarked for development with Japanese, Singaporean and Indian investments.  

Efforts on the offshore International Financial Centre in Colombo, new industrial zones and reviving Hambantota port and airport under a new agreement with Chinese parties and building a special economic zone were also shared by the Premier.

Wickremesinghe said that the Government will expedite new investment proposals via a single window approval arrangement soon.   

“I am keen to achieve a 7% growth next year as opposed to the Central Bank forecast of 6% because that will spur the required momentum,” said the Premier, adding, “It is a make or break time for us.”


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