Govt. will gazette MLA amendments soon: Eran

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 02:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Says President’s call to have amendments studied by expert committee will be considered 
  • But Finance Ministry will proceed to gazette proposed amendments within next few weeks 
  • Says changes possible after document presented to Parliamentary Committee on Public Finance
  • Latest Enterprise Sri Lanka exhibition to kick off in Anuradhapura this week 
  • 55,000 Enterprise Sri Lanka loans worth Rs. 88 b disbursed  

 By Uditha Jayasinghe  

Despite concerns expressed by President Maithripala Sirisena on the proposed amendments to the Monetary Law Act, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne yesterday said it will be gazetted in the next few weeks to start the process of tabling it before Parliament, parallel to broader consultations suggested by the President.    

Earlier this month, President Sirisena, in a memorandum to the Cabinet, said that before the Amendments to the Monetary Law Act (MLA) are submitted to the Legal Draftsperson, it must go through a broader stakeholder dialogue and consultation process.  

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne – Pic by Sameera Wijesinghe 

The President had recommended the National Economic Council convene a committee of experts to study the provisions of the proposed MLA and submit a report to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration. He had also suggested that the flexible inflation targeting system may not be suitable for Sri Lanka. 

Responding to questions on the sidelines of a press conference yesterday the State Minister of Finance noted that the concerns of the President will be accounted for and the Finance Ministry will follow due process in moving the proposed amendments forward.  

“We will take the President’s concerns into consideration. The proposed amendments will be gazetted soon and then it will be sent to the Committee on Public Finance. From that point onwards if there are any changes that need to be made, they can be included in the amendments before it is tabled in Parliament. This is the standard process,” Wickramaratne told Daily FT. 

The proposed amendments to MLA has also gained the support of Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy who last week backed the proposed Amendments as essential to stop governments making the Central Bank print money, which undermines macroeconomic fundamentals essential to strong growth. 

Dr. Coomaraswamy stressed on the importance of allowing the Amendments to the MLA to go through at a panel discussion organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) last Thursday to promote ethnic harmony. He noted that Sri Lanka’s economy has historically been undermined by undisciplined Budgets that have prioritised fiscal policy, resulting in high Budget deficits, high interest rates, high inflation and an overvalued currency.  

The Governor pointed out that East Asian countries that grew faster than Sri Lanka did the opposite, and the country is still in danger of getting sucked back into this cycle. To prevent this, amendments to the MLA were proposed, which makes the Central Bank more independent. 

Minister Wickramaratne was attending a press conference to give details about the latest Enterprise Sri Lanka exhibition to be held in Anuradhapura from 24 to 28 July. The event will be attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and will have over 500 stalls. The exhibition, which is the second in the series with the first being held in Monaragala, expects to attract over 500,000 people and encourage entrepreneurship. 

“Less than 3% of Sri Lanka’s population are entrepreneurs. However, in many other countries a far larger percentage of the population are entrepreneurs. We need to move away from this attitude of demanding public sector jobs and encourage people to embark on their own businesses. The Enterprise Sri Lanka exhibition is being held with this aim. So far under the Enterprise Sri Lanka program 55,000 loans worth Rs. 88 billion have been disbursed,” Wickramaratne said. 

The State Minister also acknowledged Rs. 492 million had been allocated to provide publicity for the Enterprise Sri Lanka and ‘Gamperaliya’ programs. The cost of the Anuradhapura exhibition is estimated to be about Rs. 225 million, with most expenses to be met through sponsorships, officials present at the press conference said. 

“The Enterprise Sri Lanka exhibition is an opportunity for the existing or potential entrepreneurs to engage with successful entrepreneurs, attend workshops, get investment advice and talk to banks about financing. This is open to everyone. The Government hopes to create 20,000 new entrepreneurs through this effort,” Wickramaratne added.