Newly elected Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday that his government was preparing a national economic policy for the next 25 years to transform the crisis-hit country into a modern and competitive export economy.
Presenting his government’s policy statement to the third session of parliament, President Wickremesinghe again urged political parties to form a multi-party government to overcome the current economic crisis as the House reconvened after a seven-day adjournment. days.
“I took control of a country that was in disaster. A severe economic crisis on one side, massive public opposition on the other,” said Wickremesinghe, who was elected president by lawmakers on July 20. – the first time since 1978.
The 73-year-old president was appointed for the remainder of the term of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled the country and resigned on July 13 in the face of a popular uprising against his government over mismanagement of the island nation’s economy.
“Today we are facing an unprecedented situation that our country has never faced in recent history. We are in great danger. The country could only get out of this and be protected from this danger. if we all face this challenge together as one people,” he said. said, urging political parties to form a multiparty government.
“I once again call on all parties representing the people in this Parliament to unite in the formation of a multi-party government. I respectfully extend the hand of friendship to you,” he said.
Sri Lanka endured months of massive unrest during the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honor its international debt.
In his address, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka needed long-term solutions to overcome the difficulties.
“A solid foundation must be laid so that this type of economic crisis does not repeat itself in our country. The economy must be modernized. Economic stability must be established and transformed into a competitive export economy. In this context, we are currently preparing necessary reports, plans, rules and regulations, laws and programs,” he told lawmakers.
Wickremesinghe said his government had started negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a four-year program and had begun finalizing a debt restructuring plan.
“We will submit this plan to the IMF in the near future and negotiate with countries that have provided loan assistance. Thereafter, negotiations with private creditors will also begin to reach consensus,” he said. declared.
Wickremesinghe said that after examining the situation in depth, his government is preparing a national economic policy for the next 25 years that lays the foundations for a social market economic system, ensuring the development of the poor and disadvantaged groups and encouraging small and medium entrepreneurs.
“Our goal is to create a surplus in the primary budget by 2025. Our effort is to bring the economic growth rate to a stable stage, in order to establish a solid economic base by 2026. Currently, the public debt is 140% of GDP and our plan is to reduce this figure to less than 100% by 2032.
“If we build the country, the nation and the economy through national economic policy, we will be able to become a fully developed country by 2048 when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of independence,” he said. he declared.
He said the difficulties had eased somewhat with the reduction of power cuts, the supply of fertilizer for the crop and the improvement of the distribution of cooking gas.
Wickremesinghe also thanked India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving “breath of life” to Sri Lanka by providing timely economic aid to his country as it faced the worst economic crisis in decades.
“I want to make special mention of the assistance provided by India, our closest neighbor, in our economic revitalization efforts,” he said.
“The government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi has given us a breath of life. On behalf of my people and mine, I express our gratitude to Prime Minister Modi, the government and the people of India,” Wickremesinghe added. .
Last week, Modi praised President Wickremesinghe and said India would continue to support the island nation’s people’s quest for stability and economic recovery, through established democratic means.
Indian government aid to Sri Lanka has reached nearly $4 billion since January this year. Wickremesinghe also said the Sri Lankan economy was being hit by opposition to foreign investment projects.
“When we tried to develop the oil tank complex at Trincomalee with India, it was declared to be a sale to India, and the project was halted. If at that time we were allowed to develop the oil tank complex, today people would not have to spend several days in queues for fuel,” he said.
Wickremesinghe said he would establish an office to protect and support peaceful protesters.
“I will not allow any harm to peaceful activists,” he said, while noting that some groups are trying to spread propaganda through social media that he stalks protesters, which is not true.
He said he would not allow violence and terrorism. “However, I will protect non-violence and democracy. Peaceful struggle is a fundamental right. I accept these rights,” he said.
He said that all countries are friends of Sri Lanka. “We have no enemies. We do not belong to any group”.
Sri Lanka endured months of massive unrest during the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honor its international debt. The worst economic crisis since 1948 has resulted in severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.