Sri Lanka’s unity government, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, is poised to leapfrog the economy after long years of conflict and political instability, according to Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Samaraweera told this to the World Bank Vice President Annette Dixon when he met her in Washington on the sideline of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual conference that concluded during the weekend.
Dixon has been in the current position since December 2014, managing World Bank’s engagement in South Asia to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.
She is also mandated to lead relations with eight countries including India, the institution’s biggest client. She oversees lending operations and ‘trust-funded’ projects worth more than US $10 billion.
“We are celebrating 70 years of Parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka this year and the economy will be revitalized on the strong pillars of reconciliation and democracy with far-reaching reforms,” Samaraweera said.
The minister also briefed Dixon on Sri Lanka’s current political and economic dynamics.
The government’s policy plan for next eight years was announced recently with the title “V2025 - A Country Enriched” with an open mind. It envisages economic prosperity for all Sri Lankans, based on the principles of a social market economy.
With that in mind, Samaraweera said that his maiden Budget Proposals for 2018 will be presented to the Parliament on 9th November.
Sri Lanka intends to strengthen the policies suitable for a higher middle income, export-oriented economy.
In order to achieve this target, the Finance Ministry has been convening high-level meetings with public and private sector stakeholders while gathering innovative ideas from diverse partners in order to broaden this scope.
The minister adding to his stance on the reforms said that the government endeavours to undertake a comprehensive reforms agenda in the legal system.
“Currently we are evaluating the Customs Ordinance of 1869, as well the Excise Ordinance of 1912. Also extensive reforms are needed in our labour laws, housing and land laws” said Samaraweera.
The new Inland Revenue Act was introduced last month.
Sri Lanka graduated from International Development Association (IDA) eligibility to International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) eligibility in July, 2017.
The Minister appreciated the World Bank’s transitional support to face the interim period without an adverse impact on the economy.
Under the Competitiveness Development Policy Loan, the World Bank provided US $ 100 million to Sri Lanka in 2016. The money was utilized for policy and institutional reforms. The eight priority reform areas achieved progress, which included the enactment of Right to Information Act. Action is underway on the National Audit Bill and the introduction of the Debt Management Unit (DMU). In conclusion, Samaraweera informed Dixon that the comprehensive public sector reform agenda is underway to improve the performance of the state owned enterprises (SOEs) for better financial discipline, transparency, accountability.
The government prefers to dispose the non-strategic and underutilized state assets, including SOEs.