Rienzie urges private sector to lead nation’s future development

Tuesday, 8 March 2011 00:38 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

* Shares useful insights to ideal way forward for post-war Sri Lanka in his last review in HNB’s 2010 Annual Report

Soon to retire veteran banker Rienzie T. Wijetilleke is urging the private sector to lead Sri Lanka’s future development and prosperity by embracing positivity and entrepreneurial spirit.

This clarion call by Wijetilleke is contained in Chairman’s Review of Hatton National Bank’s (HNB) 2010 Annual Report released yesterday.

Noting that in 2010 the country witnessed an encouraging economic rebound, Wijetilleke said there was no doubt that Sri Lanka is on the throes of economic resurgence with surety of economic boom evidenced through positive indications prevalent.

“Most importantly the future outlook for the nation is brightened by the strategic approach to national development adopted by the Government, an approach that was amply demonstrated by the government’s budgetary proposals for 2011,” said Wijetilleke who retires later this month from HNB after a 34 year service of which the last 24 years was as Managing Director and CEO and as Chairman thereafter for seven years.

In what will be his last comments in an HNB Annual Report, Wijetilleke said that pragmatism and a concerted strategic approach are indeed the tools with which Sri Lanka can once again rise above and overcome the drudgery of economic underachievement that was imposed on the nation through three decades of conflict.

He noted that the Government has perceptively accepted that progressive and sustainable national development can only be achieved through private-public sector partnership.          

“This I concur is a robust and sustainable foundation for the future is a call that must be heeded by the nation’s business community to collaborate as integral partners of national development.”

He has expressed the belief that the national outlook in the medium and long term will be the outcome of remedial steps undertaken through such a partnership.

“Indeed the private sector has the experience and far more success stories as implementers of strategy. Thus it is critical going forward that we transfer this available expertise to realise more potent outcomes through the collaboration of private initiatives with public resources,” he emphasised.

Recalling that the late Sir Arthur C. Clark shared a nugget of wisdom that “the private sector must not only do well but also do good, Wijetilleke said that this statement truly resonates his sentiments on the need for “private sector leadership for our nation’s future development and prosperity.”

“Of course for national progress to be realised we as a nation must also accept that transparency and governance in every institution – be it private or public – must be upped to that of global standards.  Bureaucracy has to be curbed with the public sector machinery becoming more efficient and agile. The private sector needs to embrace positivity and be corporate that truly demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit and leadership,” Wijetilleke has pointed out in HNB Chairman’s Review.

The importance of allocation of resources of the state as well as the private sector to rural communities was also stressed by him stating that it was imperative for equitable wealth creation, wherein perceptible evidence of growth in rural Sri Lanka should be the fulcrum of the drive for development. He added that HNB has demonstrated over the decades that growth can only be sustained through wealth creation that is far reaching and equitable.

“Whilst the Government must be recognised and given due credit for taking the appropriate measures towards controlling inflation, stabilising the exchange rate and curbing domestic interest rates, we need to accept that these measures will be conducive for short and medium term progress,” he said.

According to Wijetilleke for long term economic stability the creation of incremental wealth therefore, is imperative. However he added that “there is undoubtedly room for growth. The nation’s critical sectors – tourism, construction, agriculture, health, education, infrastructure and industry, are all presently under capacity.

“As a nation we have enormous scope for capacity building in a foray of sectors,” Wijetilleke added.

He said that going forward the government and the private sector need to come together as partners to identify and hone sector specific growth strategies, demarcating the most feasible opportunities from a growth perspective and invest decisively with the intention of reaping long term returns. “Our forward march as an economy too should be one that imbues solidarity and friendship with nations across the globe,” HNB Chairman added.

Focusing on the financial services sector Wijetilleke said that the past few years have seen tighter regulation. He said with the adoption of global standard Basel 2 by the financial services sector, industry players have progressed towards meeting risk and capital management requirements to ensure adequate protection from overexposure to lending, investment practices and challenges of the operating environment. In addition rigorous regulation and supervision by the Central Bank have brought greater stability and transparency to the sector. “However it is equally important that the same ethical standards and levels of governance are applied to public sector financial institutions especially since they enjoy a significant share of the financial services sector and all of us are part of the same playing field,” HNB Chief pointed out.

In his review Wijetilleke also said that HNB has always been a leader and proponent of national priorities and it will continue to play a catalyst role in achieving economic objectives of new Sri Lanka. He added HNB will continue to align its business strategy with the achievement and implementation of national goals and strategies. “At HNB we are confident of what our nation can achieve and committed towards playing a vital role in achieving economic success,” he added.

In what could be described as his parting words from HNB after serving for over three decades, Wijetilleke concluded his review in the 2010 Annual Report saying “I have watched with much satisfaction the great value addition that has occurred to our organisation over this long period. This has been mainly due to the prudent management, efficiency and transparency displayed by the Board of Directors in enthusiastically formulating and directing policy for the organisation. As I bid goodbye to the Bank, I am quite pleased to leave behind lasting memories of my long stay with an abundance of hope and faith on the excellent prospect that HNB has for further growth and rapid progress in the future.”