- Says never requested any bank to grant loans to his kith and kin, acquaintances or supporters, but help SMEs, other COVID-19-hit enterprises
- Points out primary obligation of banks is to take forward strategy of maintaining a vibrant economy
- Stresses need to bring down interest rate to single digit to assist development of country
- Tells bankers to think out of the box as conventional methods cannot revive economy in perilous state due to COVID-19 and global shocks
- Says emphasis on role of banks not for political gains but for benefit of country
- Reiterates strong sentiments at meeting with BOC yesterday, hot on heels of rapping bankers at exporters’ forum on Thursday, leasing firms on Friday
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday renewed his call to State banks to lead revival of the economy and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continuing from where he ended last week, the President began a fresh week with an emphatic message to the banking community that it was their responsibility to spur the economy with speedier financial support.
Yesterday’s emphasis was during a dedicated meeting with the Bank of Ceylon Board of Directors and senior management. BOC and the People’s Bank account for over 50% of the country’s banking business. A meeting with the People’s Bank has not yet been scheduled.
Last Thursday, at a meeting with exporters, President Rajapaksa came down hard on the overall banking sector, saying there was criticism in society regarding the contribution of the public and private banking sector for the economic revival of the country.
The President emphasised that if the officials of the Central Bank or the State Banks do not take steps to implement the guidelines formulated by the Government, he will not hesitate to remove them from their positions and continue to work with individuals who are ready to fall in line. On Friday he ordered the Police to stop vehicle seizures by leasing companies on account of delay or non-payment of rentals due to the impact of COVID-19.
“It is the responsibility of State Banks to put in place the mechanism to implement the policies of a Government. Taking forward the strategy of maintaining a vibrant economy with a clear understanding of their role is a primary obligation of the banks,” the President told the Bank of Ceylon meeting yesterday.
While pointing out the impossibility of fulfilling aspirations of a country with a two-digit interest rate for loans, President Rajapaksa stressed the necessity of bringing it down to a single digit to assist the development of the country.
The President said that he had never requested any bank to grant loans to his kith and kin, acquaintances or supporters. The State Banks should take the lead in providing the financial assistance expected by small to medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) and investors.
The BOC meeting was told that the current global scenario is an unprecedented one. “We will have to think out of the box to break free from this situation,” President Rajapaksa said adding that conventional methods cannot be used to revive the economy.
He reiterated that he is determined to meet the expectation of every community in this country by exercising the powers given to him by the people. “It is not at all for political gains but for the benefit of the country,” said the President, adding that he will not think twice to take the best possible decision notwithstanding the obstacles that come on the way.
President Rajapaksa reiterated that the growth rate of the economy which was 7% to 8% before 2015 had fallen even below 2% by 2019. The global economy, which collapsed in the wake of COVID-19, pandemic has further worsened the situation.
In that context, the President emphasised that it is the responsibility of State Banks to comprehend all these factors and assist in implementing the policies of the Government for the betterment of the country.
Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Treasury S. R. Attygalle, Bank of Ceylon Chairman Kanchana Ratwatte, Board of Directors and officials participated in the discussion.