Dharma Sri Abeyratne
It is hard to achieve a significant sustainable economic development without focusing on the development of the export sector, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
It is an achievable target to increase the export income to US $ 50 billion or more following a systematic approach to export development, he added.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was addressing the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2015, organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce under the theme ‘Towards exports of US $ 50 billion’ in Colombo yesterday.
He added that under the five point plan contained in the UNP election manifesto which comes under a theme ‘A new country in 60 months’ significant attention has been drawn on increasing exports targeting more export revenue.
“The manifesto will be a milestone for an overall development of the country, especially economic development. It has focused on five key factors such as building the economy, fighting corruption, ensuring freedom, developing infrastructure and investments and developing education,” the Prime Minister said.
He said under the first plan of building the economy attention has been focused on developing and streamlining various other sub fields ie accessing the global market, providing one million employment, establishing 45 economic development mega zones, 11 industry and technology development mega zones, tourism development mega zones, 23 agriculture development mega zones under the theme ‘Sri Lanka – The global Home Garden’, 10 economic development mega zones for fisheries, village infrastructure development, rural women development, farmers development programme through agro clinics, farmers agri-business enterprises, establishing national agriculture marketing authority, environment friendly farming and many more.
“The new economic programme is grounded on a knowledge based economy that thrives in a social competitive market.
The new system envisions a far greater progressive humanistic economic model than the old left or right wing economic models.
An integral feature of this competitive social market economic system includes special priority to the welfare of all segments of people,” he added.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said it has been planned to generate one million well paid employment opportunities for youths within a five year period.
“The country had been stagnating for a long period as a low middle income country. Now it is high time to move forward to the next economic level. In this regard, export sector development paves the way for increasing US $ 50 billion or more income. To reach the target, we believe in a highly competitive social market economy based on sustainable development,” he said.
“The target of US $ 50 billion cannot be achieved overnight. A lot of work has to be done. Firstly we have to change the mindset of the workforce. People want more employment, better economy, and social mobility,” the Prime Minister said.
He stressed that during the ancient days, especially in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods, Sri Lanka had been a trading nation dominating trading and expanding trading capacity up to China.
The Prime Minister said when concentrating on developing exports we definitely must expand our markets.
“Without a proper market it is difficult to drive forward,” he said.
Speaking on the GSP Plus tax concession, the Prime Minister said negotiations are being carried out in this regard with the relevant parties and hopefully they were looking forward to the country benefiting from GSP Plus by September.
Moreover, talks are being held to get the EU ban lifted on fish production. With the positive approach of the government towards protecting human rights, the ban on fisheries will probably be lifted, he added.
“We have been talking to enter free trade agreements with China and India aiming to have more value added production,” he said.
Addressing the strategy to reach more markets, the Prime Minister said that the country should be ready to reach the next door market, which is among the biggest and growing markets in the world. The country has planned to utilize the US market, which is the other biggest market, he said.
The Prime Minister said the government sector also has to play a key role in economic development y rather than just becoming a competitor to the private sector.
Highlighting the need for collecting revenue properly, he said that the collection of revenue has to be increased.
“Moreover, there should be special provisions to protect public funds. There will be some legialations introduced by the next Parliament.”
He asked the audience how many organisations there were that work to promote and encourage investment and exports.
The Prime Minister said to ensure mega scale investors are coming in, economic zones are established throughout the country.
“Unless you are willing to fight with the bullet, you are not going to win,” he stressed.
Speaking on the Western Province Megapolis plan, he added that the country needs a few other well developed cities other than Colombo city.
Touching on infrastructure development, the Premier said that 500,000 housing units will be constructed in the Western Province allowing employees to reach their working places within one hour.
This is one of the plans that will come under the Western Province Megapolis project, he said.
As a remedy for a long standing issue, the next UNP government will give land ownership to people to construct houses, for agriculture and other economic necessities. This is a long felt need of the people from 1931, he added.