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SLFP backs National Economic Council


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  • Says it will be a win-win for Unity Govt. but unclear on how it will exist alongside CCEM
  • Establishment of NEC an “evolving” process, suggests CCEM will not be needed  

By Himal Kotelawala

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) yesterday expressed confidence that the recently approved National Economic Council (NEC) will help facilitate a win-win situation for the two parties in the ruling coalition.

However, SLFP ministers were unclear on how the council will exist alongside the existing Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Speaking at the weekly SLFP press briefing, State Enterprise Development State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena implied the CCEM would not be needed once the council is established. 

“A CCEM won’t be needed when an NEC is present,” he said, adding “the CCEM was something that wasn’t established through an act. The NEC will have both the Prime Minister and President in it, among others.”

Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama said now that the Unity Government has reached the halfway point of its five-year term, the proposed NEC will help implement and speed up the economic activities already initiated by the Government.

“We are a Coalition Government in which two parties have come together. This is a first-time experience on this scale. There have seen various coalitions in the past but never on this scale. Political parties have their own philosophies, their own approaches and it is necessary that we engage in discussions and arrive at a win-win situation,” he said.

“Both parties must hold discussions and come to an agreement so that all will feel they can participate in that decision,” he added.

Explaining the structure of the NEC, Dr. Amunugama said it will comprise President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy and the respective secretaries to the President, the Prime Minister and the Treasury. Once the committee has been established, he said, the services of reputed economists will be co-opted.

“It is an evolving process. We may have to bring in gazette notifications, which will be done in the near future,” said Dr. Amunugama.

According to Dr. Amunugama, the NEC will be an apex body dealing primarily with policy matters in order to ensure a cohesive front with no room for misunderstanding with regard to Government policy.

“One unfortunate thing we have seen in the recent past is that Cabinet and other ministers, and sometimes party officials, have all been giving their own views and versions [of policies], which is not in keeping with the principle of Cabinet Government, which is Cabinet’s responsibility,” said Dr. Amunugama, recalling famed academic Sir Ivor Jennings’ pronouncements on the executive being built on the Cabinet and its collective responsibility.

“Once a decision is made, it is expected all participants stick to that decision. This is called democratic centralism. That is what we’re going to do,” he said.

Under the NEC, the Minister said, both the fiscal and implementation aspects will be represented. Generally, the Finance Ministry deals with the fiscal aspect, while the Planning Ministry oversees implementation.

“I only mention the core participants that were identified in the Cabinet paper. But as we go along, we may have to add more people. That’s up to that council,” he said.


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