Predictable, sound economic policies need of the hour: US envoy

29 June 2016 10:40 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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US Ambassador Atul Keshap congratulating Samantha Ranatunga on his appointment as CCC Chairman for the second consecutive year.
Pic by: Waruna Wanniarachchi

As Sri Lanka continues to ambitiously plan its future, a top US government representative yesterday said the government must pay more at tention towards establishing a steady policy environment, one that would not only allow local entities to function seamlessly, but also attract foreign investment. “The central ingredients needed to achieve the ‘bright vision’ are predictable, sound and cons i s tent economic policies that are friendly towards workers and investors. Legitimate businesses will readily comply with easily understood and transparent r e g u l a t i o n s , ” s a i d U . S . Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap, addressing a gathering of top private sector representatives last evening.

He added that the government’s economic policies could facilitate the achievement of its vision by freeing the private sector to operate under efficient legal and regulatory regimes that match or exceed the policy environments of most economically-advanced countries in the Indo- Pacific region. In that regard, it was pointed out that stateowned enterprises could assist by ensuring a level playing field that will allow the private sector to flourish and inject much needed tax receipts into government coffers. In relation to the country’s attempts under the new regime to promote the economy, Keshap noted that one of the “most difficult” obstacles to overcome is the scarcity of foreign investments. Acknowledging that Sri Lanka’s rapid growth hinged on attracting capital from abroad, he stressed it is imperative to recognise that foreign investors also provide access to cutting edge technology and exposure to best business practices—the additional fuel for economic growth.

As countries such as, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and others in the lndo-Pacific region are courting the same investors, it was pointed out that Sri Lanka would require to overcome regional competition. “To win investment dollars, Sri Lanka can give itself a competitive edge by establishing clear and consistent policies in all areas of the economy. Such policies are the cornerstone for creating an attractive environment for investors, both foreign and domestic,” said Keshap, stressing that it is these two key elements that create a level playing field, establish transparency and provide predictability. Furthermore, it was stated that an essential element of any country‘s business climate is ensuring new entrants to have an opportunity to operate effectively. Even as the government adopts and applies clear consistent macro-economic policies that say “open for business,“ he opined that investors want to hear encouraging messages from the private sector.

“The government and the private sector can and should welcome all legitimate newcomers, from domestic start-ups to established multinational firms. With the correct mix of predictable, sound and consistent economic policy, there will be plenty of opportunity for the newcomers as well for Sri Lanka’s wellestablished blue-chip companies,” he noted. Commenting on the IMF’s decision to provide a US $ 1.5 billion loan, Keshap noted that the move gives the government a “meaningful opportunity” to undertake the much-needed fiscal reforms. “Sri Lanka’s performance under this program is not only vital to create a stable economy, but will also send a signal to the international business community regarding the attractiveness of the nation as a destination for FDI,” he said

Cultivate confidence in pvt. sector: CCC Chief

Representing a private sector that is increasingly anxious to “get things done”, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Chairperson Samantha Ranatunga urged relevant authorities to “cultivate confidence” in CCC’s commitment to work with the government in implementing what is “good” for the country. “We are blessed with an impressive blend of natural and human resources.

It is our challenge to make good use of them in a manner that is sensible, prudent and sustainable. We expect enlightened policies and we also expect results,” said Ranatunga, while pointing out that the private sector is in an era, which offers “abundant” opportunities to work together to make the nation a prosperous one, in many a sense.

He made these observations addressing the 177th Annual General Meeting of the CCC last evening, after being reappointed as the CCC Chairman for a second consecutive year.` Although the nation has received unprecedented support and goodwill from most of the countries in the world, Ranatunga noted that despite the assistance, the country seemed to be quick to fritter opportunities away due to weak implementation. In that regard, he stressed the private sector remained committed and keen to partner with government to get things done. “Our globally competitive businesses have a lot to offer towards national economic development.

But we need policy stability, good governance and transparency to enable good partnerships between the government and business,” asserted Ranatunga. With government’s focus on improving the investment climate and trade liberalisation, he observed that there is a need to strengthen the capacity of the CCC members, who together contribute to approximately 60 percent of the country’s GDP, to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities. He said CCC is set to launch a comprehensive new knowledge platform, ‘Trade Intelligence for the Private Sector’ (TIPS), that would expose the private sector to international resource persons and cutting edge technology among others. “The private sector needs to be prepared for the trade policy changes that are set to take place. Better information and insight will ensure that the private sector contribution to policy formulation and Trade Agreement negotiations is based on an understanding of the real merits of the issues,” noted Ranatunga.

Other key appointments

While Samantha Ranatunga was reappointed as CCC’s Chairman for a second consecutive year, Rajendra Theagarajah was appointed Vice Chairman and Dr. Hans Wijeysuriya the Deputy Vice Chairperson.

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