His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka, His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, Mr. Sumith Abeyasinge, Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers, former Secretaries to the Ministry of Finance, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen, my colleagues in the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury, I have the rare privilege to welcome you all to Miloda – our in-house training centre.
This moment is a very happy and proud occasion for the Ministry of Finance and Planning. This occasion is to formally declare the opening of Miloda, the Academy of Financial Studies which is primarily designed to build our in-house knowledge and skills to perform our job well.
We believe that the knowledge we command is much less than the knowledge that we don’t command. We also believe that sharing what we know with others to enable them to understand what we are doing better and also benefiting from their knowledge for us to understand them better is essential in enhancing value addition of our work. The Miloda will set that platform.
This is a long-overdue need of this Ministry and we thank His Excellency the President as the Minister of Finance and Planning for his uncompromising encouragement to fulfil this need. The name Miloda was given by late Kalasoori Arisen Ahubudu. He explained to us that this name means the facilitation of generation of financial resources. We need special knowledge to facilitate the process of generating financial resources indeed. We remember him with gratitude. May he attain Nirvana.
Heritage building with modern facilities
This seven-storey building which houses Miloda is influenced by 19th Century European architecture. It is deserving of a heritage building status. Our challenge was to transform this building into a modern training facility, while preserving its old charm and 19th century grandeur. The academy has the state-of-the-art facilities to develop not only our in-house knowledge, but also to share with others. We propose to conduct joint programs with finance ministries elsewhere, particularly in our region and use this Academy for international financial studies and workshops.
The state of-the-art information technology used in the premises is meant to stimulate the interest of both lecturers and learners. The ‘Intelligent Digital Lecture Theatre’ located in the centre of the third floor is a virtual classroom, presumably the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. The facilities which are used to generate critical thinking are comparable with those available in institutes of global repute such as the Harvard University in USA. We have invited Vice Chancellors of our universities reflecting our desire to partnership with them as well and to urge them to recognise Miloda as a high learning institution and work together to realise a knowledge society vision of our President.
We have in this audience our development partner representatives from international financial institutions comprising the IMF, the World Bank, ADB, UNDP, JICA, USAID, etc. We intend making this facility available for their use for staff conferences, conventions and regional gatherings. We will request them to give consideration to select Miloda, as a regional centre for conducting a wide range of training programs mobilising participants from other countries to Colombo using vast global experience, finance and knowledge base of such institutions. All these initiatives will provide greater opportunities for our multi-disciplinary staff to develop themselves by mobilising globally reputed scholars and experts in Colombo.
We have invited our trusted lead development partner – the Government and the people of Japan ably represented by His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan who has committed to help us to build this institution and its capacity to international ranking. I am personally grateful for his inspection visit, a week ago to evaluate the facilities of this place. The participation of Mr. Akio Hosono, Vice President of JICA with short notice, encourages our journey.
I will fail in my duty if I don’t recognise the immense contribution extended by the ADB, through its Fiscal Management Reform Program. From the third row onwards, we have here the representatives of labour unions, private sector, self employees, women organisations, professionals, bankers and media. They all have been our partners in progress and more importantly active partners in policy consultation that has made us to take well informed decisions. Thank you all for joining us at this hour of joy. This occasion is to share this wonderful moment in the Ministry of Finance with all of you who represent a vast array of stake holders in the march towards a prosperous nation which all of us can be proud of.
Appreciation of former Secretaries of Finance
Your Excellency, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen. We have lined up two important items in this program. One is to appreciate all former Secretaries of Finance. This is on a suggestion of His Excellency the President himself. Thank you, Your Excellency, for this valuable guidance. Mr. Mahadeva regretted his inability to come, as he is not well. We wish him early recovery. We regret we could not contact Mr. Paskaralingam. We have here Dr. W.M Tilakaratne, Mr. C. Chanmugam, Mr. N.V.K.K. Weragoda, Mr. A.S. Jayawardena, Mr. B.C. Perera, Mr. Dixon Nilaweera, Mr. Charitha Ratwatte and Mr. Sumith Abeysinghe. Thank you sirs, for accepting our invitation and join this happy occasion. Your presence is an encouragement to all of us.
We place on record our appreciation of late Mr. C.E. Jones, late Mr. T.D. Perera, late Mr. A.G. Ranasinha, late Mr. L.J. Seneviratne, late Mr. S.F. Amarasinghe, late Mr. H.S. Amarasinghe, late Mr. H.E. Tennekoone, late Mr. H.J. Samarakkody, late Mr. M. Rajendra, late Mr. C.A. Cooray and Dr. Lal Jayawardena. All these distinguished personalities have contributed immensely in their terms of office well and become strategic partners in nation progress.
I am sure each one of the late former secretaries and each one of former secretaries had to manage difficult if not unmanageable and thankless tasks. I am not surprised if you didn’t get blame from someone including sometimes your own colleges, friends and relations for all what was happening around our economy. I am not surprised if no one has appreciated you at all, when you were in office for all difficult work you have done probably at a tremendous personal cost.
In this context, this initiative is a reflection that you are well respected and appreciated for the responsibilities you have carried out on behalf of the country for a worthy cause. We are grateful for all of you and for your families. In a while, His Excellency will personally extend the nation’s gratitude to all of you who are present.
The next item is to launch a coffee table book that captures key milestones in our post independent journey as a nation. This book captures a bird eye on policy regime shifts, journey through a costly terrorist driven conflict, transition from poor country to a middle income economy and a vision to graduate to an upper middle income country and a brief overview of our international relation and Miloda itself. I leave you to judge the value of this publication, which you will get a copy in appreciation of your presence this morning at Miloda.
Our staff proposed to me that this document should be handed over to His Excellency the President, in appreciation of his contribution as Minister of Finance and Planning since 2005, transforming the nation from conflict to peace and poor country to a middle income society.
The journey has been bumpy. The future will be equally bumpy as the challenges are enormous. As shown in the document, the country has been positioned on a path of high economic growth with a sustained reduction in unemployment, inflation and poverty. These outcomes need to be repeated in the years ahead of us.
As Minister of Finance, he has been successful in reducing fiscal deficit to a lowest level witnessed in the past 30 years. It is not by accident but by carefully designed plans and strategies. Those achievements are results of bold corrective decisions having engaged in a wide consultation process. They involved balancing hard choices. More such plans, strategies and consultations will be required to address remaining financial imbalances particularly in state enterprises.
We believe His Excellency deserve credit and appreciation for all these bold moves. We as officials of the Ministry remain firmly committed to provide well-thought-out options to make those choices better and support His Excellency’s commitment to make Sri Lanka a middle income country free of poverty.
We need more knowledge and quality people to do so. We will use Miloda to equip us for that task. As incumbent Secretary, I can proudly say that the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury, the key arm of the Ministry, maintains the highest level of professional integrity and commitment to perform our task in the best national interest, however hard and challenging they may be.
We invited Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, to speak on the publication titled ‘A Nation’s Journey – Sri Lanka’s Transformation to a Middle Income Economy’. We could not think of a better person to do this task than him as fellow public services are proud of his distinguished performance as the head of the public service and his level of integrity, commitment and above all simplicity in life. On behalf of all our staff, I thank Mr. Lalith Weeratunga for accepting our invitation.
Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister of International Financial Cooperation and Mr. Nivard Cabraal, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, have sent their greetings to this occasion and have expressed regret for their inability to attend as they are out of the country on official work. I thank them for their support and cooperation in our work.
Last but not least, I owe a special word of appreciation of Shamalie Gunawardana, Director General of the Department of Legal Affairs and her team, for managing this project so well and beyond our limitations.
Thank you all!
Pix by Chandana Perera