President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe unveiling J. R. Jayewardene’s sculpture at the Katunayake Export Processing Zone
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is eyeing to create an even bigger legacy than his uncle, the late President J. R. Jayewardene, with an economic leap even bigger than of Jayewardene’s 1977 free market reforms.
“What we’re trying to take is the biggest leap. It will be even bigger than the 1977 economic revolution. With this, we won’t have to worry for the next decade, “Wickremesinghe said the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Board of Investment (BOI) held at the Katunayake Export Processing Zone
Following a stagnant and inward looking economy which existed for much of the 1970s under the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Jayewardene and the United National Party came into power with a landslide victory in 1977, opened the market and achieved mid-single digit growth for the next few years.
Following the end of a 3 decade civil war in 2009, growth exceeded 8 percent for some time due to debt-fuelled infrastructure development policy of the then regime, which proved to be unsustainable and placed Sri Lanka in a balance of payment crisis, without foreign exchange receipts to service these loans.
Even after coming into power on a platform of good governance, transparency and an export-oriented, foreign direct investment-driven social market economy, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe unity government has so far not managed to uplift the economy to a high growth path.
Analysts blame party politics, policy uncertainty and the past regime’s debt trap legacy for much of the unrealized potential over the past two years, although weather anomalies too have played an equally damaging role to the economy during this period.
The unity government recently unveiled the ‘2025 Vision,’ the third economic policy framework within the past 2 years.
Wickremesinghe yesterday said that he and the President are working to ensure that the ‘2025 Vision’ will not become a victim of party politics or will be cancelled by future regimes.
“With this we can industrialize any part of the country. We will develop exports, tourism, digital services, logistics and banking and finance. The main aim is to create jobs and improve income,” he said.
He added that there are plans to set up numerous industrial zones, including eight between Kandy and Wellawaya, and one in Paranthan, Kilinochchi.
The BOI anniversary celebrations saw the unveiling of a sculpture of Jayewardene, who spearheaded the creation of the BOI, which was then known as the Greater Colombo Economic Commission.