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Budget proposals: Ravi K says open for dialogue


24 November 2015 03:22 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  •     Urges private sector to get down to business 
  •      Assures they will be part of implementation team

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Embracing an open door policy in steering the government’s Treasury, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday told the country’s private sector to put forward their concerns on Budget 2016 and assured the government will address them in a manner that would bring about a win-win situation for all segments of the economy.

“Our direct approach may be contradictorily reported or maybe looked at in a cynical sense. I will try my best to answer them. But please ensure that you get down to business from this morning itself.

“We are a human government and are not saying that we have presented the best Budget but certainly we have eradicated 95 to 97 percent of the nagging doubts. We have showcased ourselves from the Finance Ministry point of view and we certainly will call many of you to be part of the implementing team,” 

Karunanayake told a packed audience at the post-Budget conference hosted by Ernst & Young.

Pointing out that driving the economy is a “learning government” that is willing to address any areas of concern, he said: “If we have done something wrong on the 20th then we are ready to correct it even tomorrow. But let it be in a win-win basis. There is no way we are going to be putting Rs.99 out to get Rs.1. We don’t mind putting Rs.50 out to get Rs.50 back. That is the 2016 Budget that we have presented.”

While agreeing with a large cross section of the business community that the challenge is in executing the Budget proposals within a duration of 365 days, he assured no political interferences and fair competition in the market place. 

Karunanayake reiterated it’s time for the private sector to “get moving” and overcome the existing laggards by embarking on the journey with positive sentiments.

Justifying the slow kick off of the national economy when the unity government took over, the minister charged that the “disastrous” economy inherited required time to be properly and carefully handled, and it is now at a “manageable situation” with a number of measures taken by them. 

“We wanted to rectify many areas that we thought were archaic. The laws in place were those that existed from the British rule. We wanted to get that corrected. Old laws that have been discouraging investments are now completely modernised. The tax structure is one of them. That has been the rationale behind our thinking,” shared Karunanayake, while attempting to add clarity on the notion behind some of the proposals made in the Budget.

With regard to the proposed amendments to the tax structure which have been well received by the private sector, the minister stated the objective behind the changes were to get the system broad based.

Attempting to capture the attention of the international markets, Karunanayake said this is exercised by adapting global best practices.

“We have some of the best talents whose monies are overseas. Why do you want to have it in other countries for negative interest while you can have it in your own motherland and able to get 200 percent. We wanted to recycle our own talent and capital and get it back into our economy.

“This is the thinking process. I would also appreciate the professionals, such as you all, to be able to emit this message. Our intention is very clear,” he expressed.

Noting that the Budget is a win for all, Karunanayake pointed out it is government-friendly, business-friendly and tax-friendly.

“The Prime Minister spelled out the way forward for the next five years in the policy framework. We want to ensure that all the other political parties that got together with us are respected in a truly national oriented Budget. That has been our key basis in constructing Budget 2016.”

Rupee to realign in time to come
Dismissing concerns that Budget 2016 will negatively impact the exchange rate, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake expressed confidence in the rupee realigning for the benefit of the national economy in time to come.

“The opening up of many centres as proposed will certainly have free flows that will come in and we believe that this will help in the realignment of the rupee in a proper manner and that will be for the benefit of Sri Lanka,” said the minister while responding to a question posed by the private sector executive at the Ernst & Young post-Budget forum yesterday.

The minister stated that the “realistic” level of the rupee prevalent today is largely due to economic giants such as China and India repositioning and balancing the status of their currencies.
“Sri Lanka gets caught in this process of readjustment. This happened in 2001 and when it was Rs.113 and within nine months it came down to about Rs.99. We have not paid too much attention on that. It will be a bonus to us,” Karunanayake justified. 

Ravi takes a jab at MR
While the new government’s maiden Budget has not delivered enough to receive a nod from the top heads of the previous regime, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday responded by implying it is the very reason the economy didn’t prosper when in the hands of the ex-government.

Hitting back at former President and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who said what was in the Budget was “Greek” to him, Karunanayake said: “I am sorry to say that the fact that he couldn’t understand was the problem and why we inherited a huge mess, which in a simple manner we have corrected without burdening the people.

“If this was done before, I am sure people would have kick stated the economy much early.”

Stating he is not trying to pull a political face off, Karunanayake said all he wanted to show was that Sri Lanka could be reinvented without expecting its citizens to pay more. According to him, it is about getting the priorities right.

Recalling the sentiments of the business and investor communities where they were of the view all economic activities were at a standstill when the new government took over, Karunanayake justified that the low pace was observed due to the probes that were taking place.
“When we came in, the glaring corruption was stopped. And there was no right for us to come in and continue things that were glaringly wrong. There were distortions that had to be addressed. Progress was there but no noise was being made. Things were going on without the undue attention.”

The minister said he hoped that tax payers appreciate such efforts and the government has been successful in tackling corruption, recycling the funds and pumping them into specific areas of priority.

“Our efforts have ensured that the money of the tax payers is put into good use,” asserted Karunanayake. 


  Comments - 1

  • TONY Tuesday, 24 November 2015 11:02 PM


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