* Reveals Nalaka Godahewa was asked to resign as part of reconstituting the three tourism entities and not due to his inability to work with the Ministry or tussle with Secretary
* Admits one-stop-shop concept in both BOI and Sri Lanka Tourism Authority still far below their expectation; calls for better performance, best practices, financial discipline, good governance as well as private sector-led destination marketing
* BOI to be reconstituted with CEO appointment by mid-June
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday issued a lengthy statement denying the barrage of criticism against his Ministry Secretary as well as the Treasury with regard to recent issues concerning tourism and investment promotion.
Via the statement, Minister Rajapaksa also set the record straight with regard to recent, ongoing and planned policy changes with regard to the tourism and investment growth.
“The media reports have given the impression that the organisations are unable to perform due to the interference by the Ministry of Economic Development and on promotional matters due to Treasury involvements. The Ministry of Economic Development denies this completely,” Minister Rajapaksa said in his statement.
With regard to the exit of Dr. Nalaka Godahewa from three tourism entities with media reports implying he resigned, Minister Rajapaksa clarified saying he (Minister) “requested Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Chairman, to resign” and “Consequently, he sent his resignation.” This,” the Minister said was “to reconstitute the organisations.”
“The resignation of the Chairman was not due to his inability to work with the Ministry or due to a tussle between the Secretary and the Chairman as implied in media reports in which case he should have resigned from Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority as well,” Minister Rajapaksa said.
The change was after Minister summoning a meeting of all tourism entities following recent COPE meeting on Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. At this meeting among other things he had expressed concerns over the performance of the organisations and issues that continue to come up at the COPE meetings. He had also explained to the participants that all organisations must strictly work according to the Government vision and strategy of the industry.
With regard to tourism marketing, the Minister also expressed his desire to see that the big players in the industry themselves take a lead in promotional activities similar to apparel and tea.
“At this meeting (the Minister) also emphasised the need for a strict administrative and financial discipline in the organisations coming under the purview of the Ministry, to ensure that the Ministry is not subject to undue criticism,” the statement added.
The Minister explained that since a number of private sector corporate personalities and trade representatives are on the Board, he expects best practices and corporate approach in management. He explained that his expectation is that the Board members discuss issues sufficiently, develop corporate plans and strategies and give leadership to effective implementation in a pragmatic manner within the overall strategy of the Government ensuring good governance.
In response to the letter sent to the Godahewa by Dr. Jayasundera, the Minister said it was only a usual practice in such correspondence and has nothing to do with his involvement in the matter raised therein.
“The role of the Secretary to the Ministry and his officials is to interface with relevant agencies coming under the purview of the Ministry under the direction and guidance of the Minister. The Ministry is duty bound to perform its oversight responsibilities and accountability functions. The Secretary to the Ministry is the Chief
Accounting Officer and all heads of agencies need to cooperate with him in the discharge of these responsibilities. The heads of organisations need to work together with the Minister and through the Ministry Secretary and officials,” Minister Rajapaksa said.
In that context he added that that there was no personal animosity, or other motives behind in collecting such information as implied in the media reports. The Ministry regrets to note the manner in which the Secretary to the Ministry has been dragged on to these issues to tarnish the image of the Ministry.
“The intention of the Government is to amalgamate all four tourism-related agencies to make a cost effective agency to promote and develop tourism industry. The relevant legislation is under preparation,” Minister Rajapaksa emphasised.
With regard to the Board of Investment, Minister Rajapaksa said it was misleading to attribute that BOI performance has been adversely affected by the Treasury. The Ministry officials and sometimes the Minister himself get involved in solving procedural issues and other complexities associated with other line agencies.
In his statement, Rajapaksa also noted: “The one-stop shop at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority was also created on a directive given by the Ministry to ensure industry issues will be resolved effectively.
Many investors have brought to the notice of the Ministry that the performance of this one-stop-shop concept in both BOI and Sri Lanka Tourism Authority is still far below their expectation.”
He also said that he proposes to reconstitute the BOI and the appointment of a new CEO by mid June 2012.
“In this background, the Ministry of Economic Development wishes to state that information aired in the media over the weekend is grossly distorted and does not reflect the real picture in the organisations and the Ministry. As any changes and reforms involve resistance and reactions, the information that has gone to the media corresponds to such human behaviour rather than the hard reality in those places,” Minister Rajapaksa’s statement added.