- Says time for biz community to expand economic role by making “bold investments”
- Pledges to provide policy support including more efficient public service, reduced red tape
- Points out opportunities in COVID-19 challenges, Budget proposals
- Acknowledges debt as a “significant issue” but Govt. championing investment to reduce reliance on loans
- Expresses confidence in private sector ability to innovate, survive difficulties and grow
- Hails single window for investment by India, says SL should follow suit
- Wants shared central vision to create synergy and growth
By Uditha Jayasinghe
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
To counter twin challenges of COVID-19 and debt, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday said the private sector should get out of its comfort zone and expand its economic role by making “bold investments” and pledged to provide policy support to unleash its full potential.
Speaking at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit ‘Roadmap for Takeoff: Driving a People-Centric Economic Revival’ organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) yesterday, President Rajapaksa acknowledged the challenges before the country but also emphasised the opportunities.
“With the Government as an enabler, the private sector must expand its role in the economy. It has often been pointed out that the private sector is the engine of growth. However, for the private sector to truly live up to this reputation, it must make bold investments that can potentially realise outstanding returns, instead of continually adopting conservative, low-risk strategies,” he told the virtual gathering.
“The Government will play its part to unleash the full potential of the private sector so that the interests of our people will be best served. The Budget for 2021 contains a range of initiatives designed with this in mind.”
Rajapaksa acknowledged that debt repayments, about $ 4 billion next year, is a “significant issue” that required the country from moving away from loan-reliant growth. To ensure this shift Rajapaksa said focus would be more on upgrading the public sector services, digitise public registries and resolve bottlenecks for exports, insisting they were priorities of his Government.
He also hailed a measure by the Indian Government to establish a single window for investors, pointing out that Sri Lanka would also do well to follow in its neighbour’s footsteps as it would propel Sri Lanka up the Ease of Doing Business rankings set out by the World Bank.
He praised the private sector’s resilience in maintaining exports, even during the pandemic, but opined local businesses also needed to ready to take advantage of rewiring global value chains that are looking for ways to minimise disruptions.
“We must also understand that the disruption of global value chains and supply chains, and constraints on traditional manufacturing hubs, create space for countries like Sri Lanka to innovate, produce new things, and enter new markets.
Our rising entrepreneurs as well as established companies must seek out new opportunities, moving beyond their comfort zones to explore new ways to deploy their talent and capital. Instead of relying on our geostrategic position and traditional industries alone, we must seek new frontiers for our resources.
“Many companies in Sri Lanka have proven their ability to tackle complex manufacturing in some industries. Their capital, management expertise, and well-trained, experienced human resources should be deployed in new areas.”
President Rajapaksa backed a coordinated approach by the public and private sector highlighting multiple proposals in Budget 2021 to boost growth and investment in a range of sectors including agriculture, fisheries, tech and startups. He also said vocational and technical education in general could benefit from much greater private sector investment, for which the Budget also provides incentives.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should also ready to make use of the proposed establishment of a development bank to expand their reach and directly benefit people’s lives, he added.
“Setting the platform for a robust economic revival requires both the public and private sector to work in partnership. We must ensure that all our initiatives in various sectors are guided by a shared central vision and driven by clear objectives and actionable plans. All initiatives undertaken by both the public and the private sector must contribute to uplifting our growth trajectory.”