- Assures Liabilities Management Bill in Parliament soon
- Asserts President won’t take over ministries for economic management
- Ravi K’s fate to be decided at UNP Working Committee meeting
By Skandha Gunasekara
National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva yesterday came out fighting for the United National Party’s management of the economy, insisting that the party had managed to stabilise the economy over the last three years while asserting that the reins would not be taken over by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Addressing a media briefing at the UNP headquarters last afternoon, the Minister said that one of the main tasks of the current Government was the repayment and management of national debt.
“We will be bringing the Liabilities Management Act soon. This will significantly assist us in the management of debt repayment. We have a strategy to reduce the issue of debt bunching,” he said, referring to the number of loans that needed to be repaid between 2019 and 2025, adding that the Government plans to extend the debt repayment period.
“The Liabilities Management Bill must go through Parliament to ensure that the Act is used exclusively for Liability Management,” he said.
In addition, the Minister pointed out that the incumbent Government was in the process of establishing a State Asset Registry.
“In 2003, it was proposed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that a state Asset Registry be established but from 2005 to 2015 former President Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to do so. He was the Finance Minister. However, from 2015 we began formulating an Asset Registry,” he said, while noting that the Asset Registry would be completed within a period of five years.
Thereafter, citing recent comments made by President Maithripala Sirisena, the Deputy Minister said that the President had no intentions of taking over any ministries.
“If the President wanted to take over our ministry he would have done it by now. The President did not mean he will take over ministries when he said that he would take control of the nation’s economy. I met him just minutes after he made that statement and he told me that he was referring to the encroachment of foreign companies into our market and the problem of taxes and high inflation.
What he meant was that he would take control of the National Economic Council.
“A single person cannot manage the economy. A policy must be in place to do so. What were the economic policies of the former regime? It was to distribute seeds in the hopes of reviving the agricultural sector while isolating our country from the rest of the world. Exports went from 33% to 13% during the Rajapaksa Government,” he said, affirming that Sri Lanka must be a player in the global marketplace if the country was to prosper and pointing out that at present it had been able to regain GSP and the GSP+, increasing national exports exponentially.
“This Government has managed to reduce inflation. From January 2017 to January 2018 inflation was 5.8 % and we hope to bring it down to 3%. We have added 463,380 jobs since 2014. All those who say the economy is worse under us are only making false political statements. Lies will only work if there is no data but we have the data to show the positive change we have made,”
Furthermore, when journalists inquired as to whether it would be better if parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake was removed from the UNP completely, the Deputy Minister remarked that the Marapana Committee had recommended only removing Karunanayake from his position as the Party Assistant Leader.
“We will adhere to the recommendations of the Marapana Committee. There is a UNP Working Committee meeting scheduled for mid-February where we will decide the fate of MP Karunanayake.”