The Export Market is the only avenue available to develop the country’s economy. Now the European market has opened its doors to Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
“Earlier, I discussed this matter when I became Prime Minister in 2003. But the government which followed rejected the proposal to enter the European market which was grabbed by Bangladesh. Today, Bangladesh owned foreign exchange reserves five times more than Sri Lanka. It has attained this progress because it made use of the opportunities lost to Sri Lanka as well as their own opportunities,” the Prime Minister said.
He was addressing the gathering after inaugurating a Youth Agricultural Export Village in the Uva Paranagama electorate on May 5.
The Prime Minister said 40 years ago former President J. R. Jayewardene launched the country’s economy by connecting it to the world market. Although the export economy suffered a setback owing to the war, it made a revival after ending the war in 2009. Earlier, Sri Lanka had only obtained local commercial loans. But the country became bankrupt when the previous government started taking foreign commercial loans beyond its repaying capability. It was during such a scenario that a change of government occurred in the country.
After the victory of Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate, a National Government was set up with the objective of overcoming the country’s debt burden.
The first duty of the government was to increase national income. People who avoided paying taxes were netted into the tax regime. VAT was increased amidst wide-scale protests. But now these measures had helped to increase government revenue. As a consequence, the government had been able to cut down on loans necessary to maintain its administration, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.
The Premier said next year alone, the government had to repay Rs. 960,000 million in foreign loans. These were loans obtained during 2007, 2008 and 2009. During the four years thereafter, the total repayable foreign loans amounted to US $ 1,500 million. This was a staggering amount which would make us faint, he said.
Now the government had to develop the country while prudently managing the debt burden. The government’s objective was to build a strong economy which would enable the country to repay loans by 2020, he said.
“In order to develop the economy, we had to capture not only the European market but also the markets in India and China,” he added.
“Since the government had been able to increase national income last year, it was in a position to move towards development. Its objective was to achieve development by enriching the country through an export economy. We had to compete with the markets in Singapore, France and Shanghai. The country had already proved its ability to do so in respect of the garment sector,” he said.
The Prime Minister said India had agreed to join hands to develop Trincomalee. One such project was to develop the Trincomalee oil storage complex as a joint venture.
“It would never adversely affect the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. We would be able to store fuel in Trincomalee and sell it to India and thereby earn a sizeable income. More and more industries too had to be set up in Trincomalee. A joint committee would be set up in association with India to implement this development plan. Japan too would join in this endeavour”.
India would also build a solar energy electricity plant in Sampur and an LNG electricity plant in Kerawalapitiya. Japanese investors would build another electricity plant. The floating LNG terminal would be jointly operated by Sri Lanka, India and Japan.
An Indian firm had agreed to set up an industrial zone in the South with Indian investors.
A Thai firm had arrived to build a 1000 acre trade zone in Kalutara. There would be three industrial zones in Wayamba in addition to industrial zones in Hambantota and Wellawaya.
He said he visited Uva Paranagama on the invitation of Provincial Agriculture Minister Upali Samaraweera to review the development work undertaken by him in the area.
Upali Samaraweera’s objective was to establish a youth agricultural export village in the area. The Ministry of Primary Industries was funding the project. More funds would be provided for the project once the plans were submitted.
He said land value in the area would skyrocket when the Thalpitigala Reservoir Project was completed.
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