By Sanath Nanayakkare
Leaving aside the battle for grabbing political power, a crucial time has come for Sri Lanka’s parliament to work together to arrive at a consensus on the IMF’s Extended Fund facility approved for Sri Lanka as well as collaborating on a common framework for restructuring the sovereign’s debt with bilateral creditors and foreign bond holders, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament yesterday.
“We need the assistance of the IMF to restore the economy. There is no other alternative. We need debt restructuring to enable our loan repayments to our creditors. We need economic reforms and State-Owned –Enterprise (SOEs) reforms to expand our GDP and accelerate our growth rate in the next 5 years to about 8% from the opportunities that lie ahead of us. This will be needed to repay our loans and achieve growth. Some people ask us why the government wants to dispose of state entities. We believe that the private sector can deliver better in these sectors. Over the past 25-30 years, we imposed various limitations on state enterprises as per the wishes of ministries. Now we have to decide on what limitations should be continued and what to be discontinued for faster economic growth.
The President said that there is a lot of worrying by the banks and the Colombo Stock Exchange on potential domestic debt restructuring. “You can’t put the gun to head at this hour and put conditions. Then let the banks take over and carry forward the economy. IF CSE can’t take it, I may have to shutter it,” he said.
However, he said that no final decision has been taken on domestic debt restructuring.
“As a first step towards that journey, let’s get together and approve the IMF Extended Fund Facility in parliament. If there are any shortcomings, we can discuss with the IMF because they come here for reviews every six months. And then let’s focus on a national policy framework targeting the Year 2048 (the centenary of Sri Lanka’ Independence) through which the country can achieve prosperity. We have to create a green economy, a digital economy; that’s the way forward in the global economy. Let’s turn the whole parliament into government to discuss, design and implement those national policies. If we don’t do this, we will be betraying our youth. We will be ruining their future. Think about it. Don’t think only about wielding political power, authority and influence at the centre. If we are going to be only interested in changing political power and wielding our authority, none of us will remain to exist in two to three years,” he said.