- Uplifting tourism industry, stopping foreign exchange outflow among top priorities
By Sandun A Jayasekera
The Presidential Task Force in charge of Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication in the aftermath of the Covid-19, in formulating a new economic model has focused on a priority basis to uplift tourism, stop foreign exchange outflow for higher education, expand domestic production of medicine and attract investments instead of loans from friendly countries and global financial institutions.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who held a discussion at the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday had expressed optimism that the economy adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic could be re-built on a solid basis.
The Presidential Task Force in charge of Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication has been entrusted with the responsibility of formulating a new economic model to achieve this objective. President directed that the Task Force should pr
epare economic plans with specified targets in different areas that come under its purview and implement them.
The President was of the view that new opportunities are now open to attract tourists from countries where the Covid-19 virus has subdued. Medical tourism can be promoted by highlighting the capabilities of indigenous medical system which was used for treatment of the virus infected people. In order to encourage high-spending tourists, visas must be issued to them supplemented by an internationally recognized certificate.
Some tourists prefer to stay longer than usual in a particular country especially during the winter season. The President highlighted the possibility of strengthening the tourism sector by attracting such long term travellers. Members of the Task Force were told to pay attention to promote domestic tourism so that the local hotel industry could be saved from collapse, it was noted.
The President also pointed out the possibility of attracting more foreign investors to invest in the Port City and the Industrial Zone in Hambantota. The Ministry Secretaries were entrusted with the responsibility of identifying opportunities for investments instead of making external borrowings.
During the last few weeks a number of new innovations have been made in the country. Steps should be taken to introduce these products to the global market, he pointed out.
Task Force Head Basil Rajapaksa said that the newly instituted Task Force has the capability of fulfilling its mandate with a new vision in order to achieve objectives set out by the President. The Task Force will support new businesses and will extend the fullest cooperation to already existing large, medium and small scale enterprises, he stated.
Although private sector offices have been advised to resume work at 10.00 am daily from May 11, industrial and production activities can be adjusted in accordance with their requirements.
Mr. Basil Rajapaksa warned that no loss of employment should take place both in the state and private sectors while the country is moving forward.
Recalling recent requests by Sri Lankan students studying in other countries to return home, President Rajapaksa remarked saying that it was an indication of the large number of students going overseas to pursue higher education. This has caused an immense outflow of foreign exchange. President Rajapaksa said that measures should be taken to expand investment opportunities in the field of tertiary education in the country so that outgoing foreign exchange could be saved while providing educational facilities to foreign students, in Sri Lanka.
A large amount of money is being spent to import medicines annually. Most of these medicines can be manufactured locally. The Task Force was requested to prepare necessary background to develop pharmaceutical production in the country.