“Recovery from the crisis we face is not easy, as the situation is not normal. Through the 2023 Budget, we have some fundamental restructuring of the economy and a recovery plan from the second half of next year. Hopefully, we will reach the GDP level of 2019 within four years, by 2026,” States Sri Lankan President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

By Charumini de Silva

Despite many having pessimistic views about economic revival, President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday sounded confident the country would overcome the crisis aided by strong policy reforms and implementation underscored in 2023 Budget.

Speaking in first in-person public forum on Budget since presenting the reforms and relief oriented 2023 Budget as Finance Minister in Parliament on Monday, he delivered the keynote at the popular and high-profile post-Budget Forum organised by the Daily FT in partnership with the University of Colombo MBA Alumni Association yesterday at Shangri-La Colombo.

“Are we going to be the Asian version of Argentina? Or can we make it successful? In my view, Sri Lanka has to win with the framework underlined through 2023 Budget,” Wickremesinghe stressed.

The President said it was important to judge the 2023 Budget in the light of what Sri Lanka is going to achieve within the economic framework outlined to overcome the unprecedented financial crisis.

“Recovery from the crisis we face is not easy, as the situation is not normal. Through the 2023 Budget, we have insisted on some fundamental restructuring of the economy which is looking beyond stability and a recovery plan from the second half of next year. Hopefully, we will reach the GDP level of 2019 within four years, by 2026,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe also called on a room full of private sector champions that it was the collective responsibility of the private and public sector to overcome the unprecedented economic crisis.

“We are looking at removing the para-tariffs and other tariffs for five years, with a trade adjustment program, to help industries and manufacturers to be competitive. In this world, you must compete to win,” he said.

President also said that Sri Lanka will explore and reactivate all trade agreement to broaden economic activities.

“As the economy grows, the private sector will grow. We are handing over most other functions to the private sector,” he added.

He categorically said that the Government does not intend to do business, whilst pointing out that it lost billions and trillions of rupees which would have been better invested on education, health or housing.

“We have to decide whether we want to strengthen the people or whether we want to take public money and strengthen the Insurance Corporation, SriLankan Airlines and Sri Lanka Telecom. My priority is to look at the people and not these companies and buildings,” he stressed.

Explaining the rationale for selling these SOEs, he said it can boost the foreign reserves and strengthen the rupee.

“I will tell you one thing, If I can sell more and put $ 7 billion back, I will do it – and tomorrow Sri Lanka will be back to normal. I don’t know if we have $ 7 billion, but if I can, I will do it. I have no hesitation about that because I want the people of this country to have a good life,” he said.

The post-Budget Forum titled “Hurdling towards opportunities beyond challenges” also highlight key insights from an eminent panel which featured; Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, World Bank Country Director Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and South Asia Faris Hadad-Zervos, Asian Development Bank Country Director Chen Chen, Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman Vish Govindasamy, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Sri Lanka Tax Director Charmaine Tillekaratne, SC Securities CEO Roshantha Fernando and SCB Sri Lanka CEO Bingumal Thewarathanthri and moderated by Daily FT CEO and Editor Nisthar Cassim.

Courtesy:Daily FT