RW and MR meet at TT to discuss economic fallout after terror attacks

Tuesday, 4 June 2019 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe smiles as he listens to Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa during their meeting at Temple Trees yesterday


  • MR requests Govt. to provide broader relief package 
  • Wants tourism moratorium extended to other industries 
  • Calls for tighter anti-money laundering laws to prevent terror financing


By Nuwan Senarathna

In an unprecedented move, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at Temple Trees, for discussions on how the economic fallout from the Easter Sunday attacks could be best addressed by broadening the support extended to key industries. 

During the discussions, which were attended by Rajapaksa’s loyalist parliamentarians, the Opposition Leader requested that the Government look for avenues to provide a relief package for the larger business community that was affected following the Easter Sunday attacks.

 Pro-Rajapaksa parliamentarians Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wimal Weerawansa were conspicuous absentees from the meeting, which featured MPs Bandula Gunawardena, Udaya Gammanpila, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Gamini Lokuge, Susil Premajayantha and Dinesh Gunawardena.  

Accompanying Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Economic Reforms Non-Cabinet Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva. Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Senior Deputy Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga were also present at the discussion.   

Talks lasted for an hour, and the Opposition Leader presented to the Prime Minister complaints received by the Opposition Leader’s office, following the Easter Sunday attacks. 

Following a presentation by Finance Ministry Secretary, Dr. Samaratunga giving an over view of current state of the economy, the opposition members raised concerns regarding different sectors.  during the discussions, Finance Minister pointed out that that the Government has put together a proper relief package for the most affected sectors within the economy, but not all sectors will be eligible for the concessions. 

“Following the Easter Sunday attacks, the business community came to us and informed how they were affected after the Easter Sunday attacks. After listening to them, we have decided to request the Government to provide a relief package for them,” Rajapaksa said.

Rajapaksa, speaking to reporters after the talks, said that businessmen at all levels were affected by the terror attacks, which created more complex challenges for the economy. He said the meeting at Temple Trees was merely an opportunity to place these concerns before the Prime Minister and other key officials.

MP Bandula Gunawardena told Daily FT that the group had raised concern over challenges faced by tourism, construction, import and export, and small and medium-sized enterprises in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attack. 

“The tourism sector suffered a lot because of the Easter Sunday attacks, and that could affect the current account balance as well. There is danger of jobs being lost in the tourism industry, therefore we requested the Government to take immediate action to return the industry to normalcy, and clearly announce the steps they have taken, so people become aware of them and can obtain that relief,” Gunawardena said.

He pointed out that the construction sector was also affected, and argued that since the construction sector created jobs and attracted investment, that the construction industry should also receive some degree of assistance from the Government.

“Small and medium-size industries, wholesale markets, exporters and importers have also been affected as key sectors of the economy. Therefore the Government has to take action to overcome these challenges.”

Gunawardena said the Opposition requested the Government to broaden the existing moratorium for the tourism industry to other sectors. He argued that the Government should inform all banks of its policy decisions via circulars, to prevent lapses in communicating Government policy decisions to the banks, and by extension, to the public. However, the Central Bank has already informed the respective banks of the moratorium decision last month.   

“We request the Government to introduce a package to cover working capital of more businesses until they return to normalcy.” Currently, the Government has allowed the tourism industry access to a working capital loan with a cap of Rs. 250 million. 

The Opposition had also requested the Government to strengthen anti-money laundering laws to prevent terrorism financing. During the discussion, the Government had informed the Opposition on steps being taken to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

MP Gamini Lokuge, who was present at the discussion, said the Government informed them that more details of the existing relief package will be presented to Parliament this week.