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Indian Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka tomorrow

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar is scheduled to pay an official visit to Sri Lanka on Thursday (20 June).

During the visit, the Indian foreign minister will have meetings with the leadership of Sri Lanka on wide-ranging issues of the partnership, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

This will be Jaishankar’s first bilateral visit after the formation of new Government under Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

“Reaffirming India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, the visit underlines India’s continued commitment to Sri Lanka as its closest maritime neighbour and time tested friend.”

The visit will add momentum to connectivity projects and other mutually beneficial cooperation across sectors, the statement said.

 

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Sri Lanka to conduct full feasibility study on land connection with India - President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe met with Most Rev. Dr. Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando, the Bishop of Mannar, Diocese of Mannar at the Mannar Bishops House today (16).

The bishop of Mannar commended President Ranil Wickremesinghe for his economic reform efforts aimed at rescuing the country from its financial crisis. During their meeting, they also discussed future development plans for the Mannar district.

Key topics included the development of Point Pedro and Mullaitivu as renewable energy hubs. Emphasis was placed on ensuring that these development activities are carried out in an environmentally friendly manner.

During their discussion it was noted that negotiations are underway regarding the sale of surplus renewable energy to India. A feasibility study is currently being conducted on establishing a power line connection between Sri Lanka and India, with further discussions expected during the upcoming visit of the Indian Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka.

President Wickremesinghe also mentioned that a pre-feasibility study for a land connection between Sri Lanka and India has been completed, and a full feasibility study will be conducted in the near future.

Additionally, plans to develop Mannar as a tourist hub were discussed, including the potential development of Mannar Fort to attract cruise tourists.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further remarked that these initiatives would lead to extensive development across all sectors in the Mannar district in the future. The Bishop of Mannar also urged the President to address the issues faced by the fishermen of Mannar.

The meeting was attended by Vicar General of the Mannar Diocese, Father P. Christunayagam; Reverend Father Gnanpragasam of Madu Church; Father Peppi Sosei; former Vicar General of the Mannar Diocese; and other clergy members.

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A New Institutional Framework to Enhance Sri Lanka’s Industrial Sector

President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the establishment of a new development bank aimed at providing financial support to industrialists in Sri Lanka. This initiative will offer industrialists the opportunity to obtain loans at low interest rates.

Additionally, the President revealed plans to set up an Economic Commission to oversee these activities. A new institution, “Enterprise Sri Lanka,” will also be created to empower small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made this announcement during the inauguration of the International Industry Expo 2024, the first event of its kind in Sri Lanka.

Organized by the Industrial Development Board under the guidance of the Ministry of Industry, and with the support of Industries and Health Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, the exhibition will run from today until June 23 at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike International Conference Hall.

Over a thousand international industrial entrepreneurs from various countries, along with local large-scale and medium-scale industrialists, are participating in this event. The expo features 1,307 exhibition booths, with the special inclusion of a separate green industrial zone for the first time. Additionally, an experimental academic conference on green industrialization will be held during the exhibition.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe inaugurated the International Industry Expo 2024 by cutting the ribbon and the President engaged in a tour of the exhibition.

In his address, the President remarked that some individuals have become accustomed to taking every development initiative to court. He emphasized that such actions hinder progress and stressed that the country can only be developed through a consistent national policy.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s complete speech is outlined below,

Minister of Industries and Health Ramesh Pathirana is diligently spearheading the development of the industrial sector in the country, with the industry exhibition being a significant initiative under his stewardship. It stands as the largest exhibition in the country.

We were once a bankrupt nation. However, in the coming weeks, we anticipate shedding this label entirely. Negotiations for the related agreement are also slated for completion in the near future, facilitating smoother dealings with private creditors. These achievements have been realized over the past two years.

Yet, we must not rest on these achievements. Our focus must now shift to debt repayment strategies, as we aim to settle outstanding loans over an extended period, ideally extending until 2042.

Given that we are primarily an import-based economy, we continually need foreign exchange to cover these imports. Without sufficient foreign exchange reserves, we are compelled to resort to taking loans. However, this practice can potentially lead to another economic crisis within the next 15-20 years. Hence, our current focus is on transitioning to an export-oriented economy.

In this shift towards an export-oriented economy, the manufacturing sector plays a pivotal role. This sector needs to evolve into a competitive and digital economy, aligned with our goal of achieving zero carbon emissions and fostering a green economy. These initiatives must guide our efforts moving forward.

Our immediate priority is to enhance the competitiveness of existing industries through strategic plans. Achieving competitiveness cannot happen overnight; neighbouring countries like India, particularly in states such as Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, have made significant strides in industrial development. It is crucial for us to align and collaborate with these developments. Furthermore, we aim to engage with other global partners to advance these objectives.

Therefore, our primary objective is to ensure our industries attain competitive capabilities. The government is committed to providing all necessary support to facilitate this transformation.

We are currently exploring the establishment of a development bank to facilitate the required funding for this initiative. Back in 1960, we established the DFCC Bank, followed by the founding of the NDB Bank in 1980. Post-privatization, both banks have evolved into major commercial entities in our country. Notably, without these banks, President Premadasa’s success with 200 garment industries would not have been possible. Hence, there is a strong need to initiate a new bank.

This new bank aims to maintain low interest rates. Additionally, an economic commission will be instituted to advance these initiatives. Furthermore, we plan to introduce a new entity called Enterprise Sri Lanka to support small and medium-scale entrepreneurs. This institutional framework is designed to assist all industrialists across the country. We aim to progress steadily along this path over the next 5-10 years.

Furthermore, our policy aims to explore opportunities for production in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar in the future. Concurrently, we are actively collaborating with India on these endeavours. I have already discussed this with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and anticipate further discussions with the Indian Foreign Minister tomorrow. Our cooperation with India will focus on solar and wind power, as well as acquiring green hydrogen. We aim to leverage these advantages, potentially even in the North Sea. As the first step Adani Company has initiated its presence in Sri Lanka. Embracing this new direction is imperative.

However, it’s observed that some individuals in our country resort to legal action for every issue, primarily benefiting lawyers. It’s imperative to understand that litigation alone cannot foster national development; instead, we must adhere to our national policies. I have instructed the Minister of Industries to initiate discussions and formulate a new program to advance industrial growth. We intend to present the Economic Transformation Law to Parliament to reinforce these initiatives.

Minister of Industries and Health Dr. Ramesh Pathirana,

The year 2022 posed significant economic challenges for Sri Lanka. However, I commend all industrialists in the country for their perseverance in advancing the industry despite numerous obstacles. They deserve recognition from the nation for their efforts. During his tenure as Minister of Industry, the current President played a pivotal role in the development of Sri Lanka’s industries. He demonstrated strong commitment by establishing garment factories and facilitating free trade agreements to promote the industrial sector.

Currently, Sri Lanka’s exports are predominantly focused on garments and products related to the plantation industry. Nevertheless, this exhibition highlights the vast potential for our country to progress in diverse sectors such as food technology, pharmaceutical production, packaging, and car assembly. As a nation, we must harness and further develop these strengths. It is noteworthy that the President is actively prioritizing this area of development.

State Ministers Prasanna Ranaweera and Chamara Sampath Dasanayake, along with Members of Parliament Vajira Abeywardena and Sampath Athukorala, Secretary of the Ministry of Industry Shantha Weerasinghe, Secretary of the Ministry of Health Palitha Gunaratne Mahipala, Chairman of the Industrial Development Board Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma, Director General of the Industrial Development Board H. M. S. Samarakoon, Western Province Governor, Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Gunathilake, were joined by a group of foreign Ambassadors, High Commissioners Chairmen of the Industries and officials from sponsoring companies at the event.

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Draft Constitution for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board Presented to the President

The draft constitution, prepared by the Judge Chitrasiri Committee for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (15).

The draft was handed over to President Ranil Wickremesinghe by the Committee Chairman, retired Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chitrasiri, accompanied by other committee members.

To address the challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide appropriate recommendations, a Cabinet Sub-Committee was appointed on November 6, 2023. Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the sub-committee included Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara, and Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles. Following extensive discussions with stakeholders involved in cricket, the sub-committee presented its report to the Cabinet on January 8, 2024.

The recommendations covered several key areas, including the composition and structure of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, administration, training, and the overall well-being of players at various levels such as the national men’s and women’s teams, and the under-19 and under-17 age groups. Emphasis was placed on promoting good governance, transparency, professionalism, and accountability within Sri Lanka Cricket. Additionally, proposals were made to reform the nutritional framework of Sri Lankan cricket across school, district, provincial, and community levels, focusing on merit, equality, and fairness.

Based on the recommendations presented in the report by the Cabinet Sub-Committee, the Cabinet convened on February 13, 2024, and appointed an expert committee to draft a new constitution for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board. This committee, chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chitrasiri, includes President’s Counsel Harsha Amarasekara, Attorney-at-Law Dr. Aritha Wickramanayake and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce Duminda Hulangamuwa. Deputy Solicitor General Manohara Jayasinghe, representing the Legislative Department, and Shamila Krishanthi, Assistant Draftsman representing the Legal Draftsman’s Department and nominated by the Minister of Justice, were also included in the committee.

Additionally, Loshini Peiris, Additional Secretary to the President, was appointed by the President’s Secretary to serve as the Secretary/Convener of the committee.

Also in attendance were Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, and Assistant Secretary to the President Samith Talakiriyawa (Ministry Affairs).

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Freehold Land Ownership Granted to 45,253 Mahaweli Walawa Settlers

President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that through the “Urumaya” program, the government’s intent is to express gratitude to farmers who have supplied rice to the country despite not owning the land. He also emphasized that the current government aims to provide both knowledge and rights to the people, akin to how C.W.W. Kannangara promoted education through free schooling.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks at a ceremony held this morning (17) at the Embilipitiya Mahaweli Stadium. The event was for the awarding of freehold land deeds to 1,524 out of 45,253 eligible settlers in the Mahaweli Walawa region as part of the national “Urumaya” program to provide 02 million freehold land deeds. The President participated in the Urumaya ceremony and the symbolic distribution of land deeds.

Addressing the event, President Wickremesinghe further stated,

I have instructed all relevant authorities to issue freehold land deeds within the next two months. District Secretaries, the Land Commissioner General, and the surveyors’ office will collaborate to expedite the delivery of these land deeds. Local government officials will also contribute, ensuring the efficient implementation of this program.

For the past 75 years, people have been given land without freehold rights. The “Urumaya” program was introduced to grant these legal land rights, marking a significant change. During difficult times, everyone shared the burden. Now that the economy is improving, everyone should benefit, especially the farmers who provide rice to the nation.

In addition to granting free land rights to farmers, we are working to provide housing rights to 250,000 low-income residents living in the Colombo flats. This program aims to ensure that every citizen owns land, a house, or a vehicle. Just as C.W.W. Kannangara provided free education in 1944, this government is committed to providing both knowledge and rights to the people.

Farmers in this area have been growing crops and harvesting without owning the land, preventing them from obtaining bank loans. This problem has persisted for three generations. To address this, the government implemented the “Urumaya” program to grant them land rights as a gesture of gratitude to the farmers of this country.

When we assumed office, the country was in crisis, with no electricity, and a lack of fuel and medicines. To recover, we prioritized increasing production. Paddy production rose during the 2022 and 2023 seasons, thanks to the farmers’ efforts. The government provided necessary support, including fertilizer.

Our support for farmers goes beyond land ownership. To eliminate rural poverty, we must carry out an agricultural revolution. The agricultural modernization program is designed to increase farmers’ incomes alongside land ownership.

We urge everyone to participate in this program, which will begin next year with prompt funding. The government also plans to modernize and restructure the agricultural service centers. I extend my gratitude to the farmers of this area for their service over three generations without land rights.

Minister of Wildlife,Forest Resources Conservation and Irrigation, Pavithra Wanniarachchi,

Today marks the historic achievement of receiving land rights after generations of deprivation. The suffering endured without these rights has been immense. Today, the President has taken decisive steps to fulfill the fundamental needs of our people: land, housing, and food. The joy experienced by families through owning freehold land is invaluable. This initiative, led by the President, is seen as a transformative revolution aimed at empowering and bringing immense joy to your families.

A significant revolution is underway as 02 million families are granted freehold deeds, providing them with long-awaited land rights. In addition, the President aims to launch the agricultural modernization program. Equipping farmers with modern technology cannot be achieved alone, which is why the initiative to provide modern agricultural equipment has begun with support from the Asian Development Bank.

Development initiatives in schools, hospitals, and infrastructure across the country are progressing steadily. Today, under the President’s astute leadership, the nation has achieved remarkable development. We cannot afford further experimentation; therefore, your support is crucial for sustaining this program.

Minister of Agriculture and Plantation Industries Mahinda Amaraweera,

There was a time in our country when disputes over land led to tragic conflicts, even within families. Land issues remain a significant cause of police complaints and public grievances that we, as public representatives, frequently encounter.

Today, you have received a freehold title deed, marking President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s largest privatization effort. He is committed to allocating millions of acres of land to the people. Despite the country facing immense challenges, the President stepped up to lead, yet some criticize instead of offering support. Under his leadership, farmers protesting were returned to their fields, ensuring our nation’s rice needs were met locally, not imported.

State Minister of Plantation Industries and Mahaweli Development Lohan Ratwatte,

The Mahaweli Authority oversees a significant portion of the country’s land, and under President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vision, numerous families have received freehold land deeds through the Urumaya program. President Wickremesinghe has steered the country with a well-structured program, rescuing it from dire circumstances. As various candidates vie for the presidency and social media buzzes with campaigns, it is crucial that the President’s initiatives continue for another five years. It is imperative for all of us to prioritize the nation’s interests and collaborate towards its progress. Failure to do so risks plunging the country into turmoil once more.

The event was attended by the Maha Sangha of the province, former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa, State Ministers Janaka Wakkambura, Shashindra Rajapaksa, Jagath Pushpakumara, Lohan Ratwatte, Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council Chairman Kanchana Jayaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Irrigation Saman Darshana Padikorala, Mahaweli Authority Director General M. L. D. C. M. Abeywardena, Senior Additional Secretary to the President Chandra Herath and numerous government officials and policymakers.

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President launches Public Learning and Education Platform for the Sri Lankan Youth

The landmark event, the official launch of the Public Learn Education Platform http://www.publiclearn.lk/ for the Sri Lankan youth community took place yesterday (13) at the Chamber Hall of the Presidential Secretariat, under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Public Learn is a platform that guides users to free courses from the world’s top universities. Operated by Regent Global, it has been funded by the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK to bring this resource to Sri Lanka.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe officially launched www.publiclearn.lk a new education platform aimed at transforming Sri Lanka’s learning landscape.

Emphasizing the importance of adapting to a knowledge-intensive society, the President highlighted Sri Lanka’s strong educational results despite various systemic flaws. He noted that the new platform would enhance the education system’s effectiveness and stressed that Sri Lanka must swiftly advance in digitization to drive the new economic transformation.

He further underscored the necessity of an economic transformation bill, which requires a shift in thinking. PublicLearn.lk, he said, is an essential tool for achieving this goal by providing more post-school learning opportunities without traditional classroom constraints. This digital platform can also help address the shortage of skilled, experienced teachers within classrooms and pave the way for many Sri Lankans to advance and transform the country.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the Public Learn platform serves as a crucial tool for enabling many Sri Lankans to advance personally and transform their nation. He reflected on Sri Lanka’s historical learning journey in three phases: first, during the era of Arahath Mahinda and the Pirivena system; second, with the introduction of the British public school system; and now, with the advent of digital education platforms like Public Learn, marking the third phase. He emphasized the importance of leveraging digital technology and knowledge to propel Sri Lanka forward in the digital economy, underscoring the need for continuous adaptation and innovation.

The President expressed gratitude to Dr. Selva Pankaj and Regent Global for extending this opportunity to benefit the Sri Lankan people.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his additional remarks, stated,

“I must first and foremost thank Dr. Selva Pankaj for the gift he has given Sri Lanka. I call this reconciliation. We are living in a knowledge-intensive society. In such a society, if we are to get ahead, we should also join the race and certainly emerge as top players. That is not difficult for Sri Lanka; I think our education results are good.

Whatever the faults of the education system, there are many, but we have still delivered. Now, this will help us make better use of the education system. In fact, Sir Gavin described so well the objectives of such a program on this platform.

In any case, the economic transformation bill requires a transformation of our thinking. This certainly is one of the instruments by which we can achieve that. We must also get used to the fact that there will be more and more post-school learning opportunities without classrooms and without walls. This is what we are doing, and even within classrooms, we can also overcome our shortage of skilled experienced teachers.

So, this is certainly an instrument that paves the way for a large number of Sri Lankans to get ahead in life and transform their country.

We have been good at learning, and our learning has gone through three phases. First, when Arahath Mahinda brought Buddhism, and with it came the Pirivena. Senarath Paranawithana said those who fail to become Arahaths spent their time designing the canals, the dagabas, Sigiriya, and the other buildings we have, as well as contributing to the health system.

Secondly, when the British came and started the public school system. Now, that system has spread across the country; it’s what we call Mahavidyalayas, Madhya Mahavidyalaya, more than that, what we call prestigious and national schools. The whole system has come here, and again, we have adapted ourselves to learning just as much as we did two hundred years ago.

The third stage of learning has come; we learned the system, we learned English, we moved ahead, and now we have the third stage of learning, which is the use of knowledge on an open platform that digitizes the education system. We are looking at a digital economy, looking at using the latest knowledge because Sri Lanka can only get ahead if we use our heads and think. And certainly, what we call reprogram.”

The event also featured a virtual address by Sir Gavin Williamson, Former Secretary of State for Education in the United Kingdom, who commended the initiative of the President’s enlightened vision of prioritizing education, highlighting that this effort goes beyond benefiting individuals; it is about reaping the long-term harvest for the nation. The initiative aims to provide broad access and accessibility to education for all ages, recognizing that in a global and competitive world, a skilled and educated populace is crucial.

The platform is expected to be a cornerstone of President Wickremesinghe’s legacy, making significant impacts on people’s lives and the future of Sri Lanka. By fostering a wealth of talent necessary for global competition, the initiative seeks to transform lives in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago.

Acknowledging the President’s vision and willingness to invest in new ideas, Sir Williamson expressed gratitude for the opportunities being provided across Sri Lanka.

Chief Executive Officer of Regent Global Dr. Selva Pankaj expressed gratitude for President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s support of the program aimed at fostering a new economic transformation in Sri Lanka. Highlighting the President’s dedication to serving the Sri Lankan people, both as a former Prime Minister and the current President, Dr. Pankaj praised him as a role model.

He further said that President Wickremesinghe has steered Sri Lanka through challenging times, including the recent economic instability marked by a 70% inflation rate in 2022. Dr. Pankaj and his wife are proud to contribute to the President’s efforts aimed at enhancing the quality of life for Sri Lankans. Notably, they spent their formative years in Sri Lanka before leaving for the UK due to the civil war, yet their connection to their homeland remained strong.

Despite leaving at ages 13 and 19, their commitment to their homeland remained steadfast, with a strong desire to contribute to Sri Lanka’s future development. Dr. Pankaj acknowledged President Wickremesinghe for providing them with the opportunity to do so through this program.

State Minister of Technology Kanaka Herath, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayake, Chairman of the University Grants Commission Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Sri Lanka High Commissioner to United Kingdom Rohitha Bogollagama, United Kingdom High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Andrew Patrick, Eastern Province Governor Senthil Thondaman, former Minister John Amaratunga, Chairman of the Board of Investment Dinesh Weerakkodi, President’s Special Projects Director Theekshana Abeywardena, Tarshani Pankaj, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, diplomatic officers and other dignitaries attended the event.

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UNP-NPP having biggest deal of all, says Sajith

The UNP and the NPP are the partners to the biggest political deal of all, charged opposition leader Sajith Premadasa.

That became evident at the fiasco orchestrated by ITN in a programme a few days ago.

The moderator of the programme is a person against whom the JVP has gone to courts, said Premadasa at a farmers’ meeting in Anuradhapura yesterday (16).

He also said that being a principled person, he declined the premiership on 71 occasions, and that he would accept positions with the blessings of the people only.

He stressed that he rejected the presidency and the premiership as he never ever wanted to become the guardian of the Rajapaksas.

He said that his only deal would be with the 22 million people of the country.

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President Emphasizes He has not deviated from the Principles of the Democratic Socialist System

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that he has not deviated from the principles of the democratic socialist system in Sri Lanka. He noted that two key objectives have been incorporated, ensuring that all citizens have an adequate standard of living and promoting rapid development across the country through public and private economic activities aimed at social objectives and the public good.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the recently submitted Economic Transformation Bill is designed to achieve these ambitious goals within the framework of the constitution. He asserted that this legislation underscores his adherence to constitutional principles, thereby countering any accusations of unconstitutional actions.

The President made these remarks during his keynote address at the inaugural session of the 45th “SAARCFINANCE” Governors’ Meeting and Symposium held today (13) at the Hilton Hotel, Colombo.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that several countries in the region have recently held elections, resulting in the formation of new governments. He remarked that Sri Lanka is also approaching an election, which will be pivotal in determining the country’s future trajectory. The President emphasized the importance of this election, suggesting that it will decide whether Sri Lanka continues the cycle of changing governments every five years or sets a course for sustained national progress.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) positive assessment of Sri Lanka’s efforts to rebuild its economy. He noted that Sri Lanka has met all its quantitative targets for the end of December 2023 under the current economic program, with the exception of the indicative target on social spending. Furthermore, by the end of April 2024, the country had achieved many structural targets.

At a time when many doubted Sri Lanka’s ability to recover swiftly from its economic crisis, President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed that the current situation has exceeded his expectations. He thanked all those who worked with him with confidence to achieve these results.

The conference themed “Central Banking amid Multi-Faceted Global Economic Challenges” will take place over two days.

Following is the full speech made by the President,

“The work we have been doing in the last two years, when many people didn’t expect Sri Lanka to come out of this crisis so quickly, has been remarkable,” President Wickremesinghe stated. He attributed this success to the dedicated efforts of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which played a crucial role in guiding the nation through challenging times by enforcing policies that curbed expenditure.

He also expressed gratitude to the Government and Reserve Bank of India, as well as the Government and Central Bank of Bangladesh, for their financial support, which he described as lifesaving. This assistance, along with aid from USAID and the World Bank, was pivotal in stabilizing the country’s economy.

President Wickremesinghe outlined future plans for Sri Lanka, including the introduction of the new Central Bank Act aimed at ensuring monetary stability. He also mentioned upcoming legislation such as the Public Debt Management Bill and the Public Finance Bill, which are expected to bolster financial and monetary stability in the country.

The President underscored the importance of combating corruption and detailed the government’s commitment to establishing a robust anti-corruption framework by 2025. He also highlighted the need for job creation and economic growth, stressing the importance of transforming Sri Lanka’s import-based economy into an export-driven one.

“Today morning, as the Governor mentioned, we had good news. Actually, it was better than what I anticipated. Because, reading briefly, we’ve been saying performance under the program has been strong. All quantitative targets for the end of December 2023 were met, except the indicative target on social spending. Most structural benchmarks due by the end of April 2024 were either met or implemented with delay.

The work we have been doing in the last two years, when many people didn’t expect Sri Lanka to come out of this crisis so quickly, has been remarkable. I was confident, and I am fortunate to have had a team that shared this confidence. I must acknowledge the role played by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in guiding this group, especially under very difficult circumstances. They upheld policies requiring a curb on expenditure, something unfamiliar in Sri Lanka for a long time.

I must also extend my thanks to the members of the Secretary and the Ministry of Finance, who, along with the Central Bank, were responsible for formulating the policy and handling the pressures of budgetary restrictions that the Central Bank did not have to face. Additionally, I must thank the Government and the Reserve Bank of India and the Government and the Central Bank of Bangladesh. That three and a half billion and that 200 million were lifesavers. Without that, we wouldn’t be here today; there would have been chaos. Maybe this hotel would have burned down.

Their support allowed us to obtain some fertilizer, which we received as aid from USAID, and assistance from the World Bank. That was a tough year. I won’t delve into it here; it deserves a book, not merely one hour of discussion.

Today, you are meeting to discuss the issues of central banking amid multifaceted global economic challenges. This topic requires in-depth discussion for this region. I need not elaborate on the role monetary policy has played since the 2009 crisis and the measures needed to recover from COVID. You are also facing two issues: where the power lies in Montreal—is it exercised by the IMF with the present voting pattern? If not, what’s the challenge that can be posed by the BRICS? These are concerns for all of us, and South Asia should take a similar stand, especially with the move towards de-globalization after years of being urged to globalize. What happens to the international monetary system? But I will not go into detail on those.

I thought of speaking a few words about what Sri Lanka has achieved and what we plan to do in the coming years. To illustrate the depth of the crisis, let me provide a few facts. I was born in 1949. The fixed exchange rate at that time was 3 rupees 32 cents. In 1978, when I was in the Cabinet, we did away with the fixed exchange rate and moved to a floating exchange rate, which was 16 rupees per dollar. By 2009, we had reached 116 rupees to a dollar, despite expansive schemes like the Mahaweli Development Scheme, which required money printing. The IMF stated there was a moderate risk of external debt distress.

After 2009, when the war was over, the Mahaweli Scheme made us self-sufficient in rice, saving foreign exchange. Our free trade zones ensured our manufactured goods were exported, and we had a thriving tourist industry. By 2024, people expected the rate to reach 400 rupees per dollar. Today, it’s at 300 rupees. So, the story from 1949 to 2024 highlights that the growth of the economy often relied more on printing money than on central bank policies. As a borrower, we either borrowed money or printed it.

Fortunately, I was in a good position because my family was involved in printing, so I understood its limits. The new Central Bank Act, which we have presented, aims to ensure monetary stability. The central bank cannot grant credit to the government. There is no way to obtain loans from the central bank, nor can money be printed or taken from the state bank. This forces us to look at how to raise revenue. Additionally, there are inflation targets.

We have three laws: the Central Bank Act, the Public Debt Management Bill, and the Public Finance Bill, both of which will be passed by Parliament. These will form the framework of our financial and monetary stability. Once we carry this through, I see Sri Lanka achieving stability in monetary and fiscal affairs for the next decade or more.

The second issue is corruption. Corruption has been a significant issue in Sri Lanka, and everyone talks about how to address it.

No one tells us how to catch them. That’s the problem. So my government has come to an agreement and discussed the matter with the IMF. We also required their help, and we brought the governance diagnostic report. Many laws have to be passed. One has been passed, the Anti-Corruption Act. The second one, proceeds of crime legislation, is now being drafted to be sent to Parliament. There are a series of other laws that are required. By 2025, we will have the strongest anti-corruption system in South Asia and even, I think, in Southeast Asia, except for one or two countries. So this brings us to the next part of the issue. Now we have stability. The next issue is the one that worries all politicians: jobs. How do you create jobs?

There are a large number of people in our country who expect jobs. As the level of education goes up, they are not satisfied with just a menial job; they expect satisfactory jobs. In our country, virtually everyone has a mobile phone or two at most. But what is the expectation of a job? We have to realize that our per capita income also has to increase as we find jobs in this area. This is also a growth area. I was reading some reports, and I’d like to read from them. One of the World Bank reports on growth for 2024 states that growth in South Asia is expected at 6% for 2024. It’s one of the highest, but structural challenges hinder the ability to create jobs and respond to climate shocks. Are we going to get stuck with jobless growth, destabilizing the system? Or are we looking at growth?

This is what I thought we should address in Sri Lanka. We are all in this traditional British system where we don’t address the major policy changes required. We pass various enactments creating one authority or abolishing it and creating another one, but the total framework is not created by us. In many other countries, you find certain laws on economic development and regulating the financial system. We haven’t got that. We stick with the British policy of not doing it. Britain accepts a free market economy. We are in countries where it’s all debated: Do you want a free market economy, a socialist economy, a Marxist economy, a controlled economy, or socialism with Chinese characteristics or with Vietnamese characteristics? We just can’t make up our minds about what we want and what our goals are.

I thought we should bring in the third part of the legislation, which is the most important to me: How do we ensure economic growth? What do we do? For Sri Lanka to attain growth, we have to transform our import-based economy into an export-driven economy. As the IMF report says, “Nevertheless, the economy is still vulnerable, and the path to debt sustainability remains knife-edge. Sustaining the reform momentum and efforts to restructure debt are critical to putting the economy on a path toward lasting recovery and debt sustainability.” As a result, we have decided to bring a new law called the Economic Transformation Law.

We’ve had laws from the British rule onwards that created a colonial market economy dependent on plantations. In 1972, there was a breakup of capital formation and a strictly controlled economy. From post-1977, we started gradually liberalizing, but we did not bring the necessary legislation. A series of legislation brought in the 1972 economy, but we were chipping away after that. Each time we chipped away, there was some demonstration outside or a campaign against it. Nevertheless, we chipped away. I said, forget about that. Let’s put the new economy into place. We have failed; there’s no need to be shy about what you are doing. Do it and be done with it. That’s what Erhard did in Germany, what the Japanese did after the war, what the Chinese did, and what the Vietnamese did. There’s nothing to be frightened of. I have not in any way departed from the principles of the democratic socialist system in our country. I have, in fact, incorporated two of the objectives: to ensure that all citizens have an adequate standard of living, and to create rapid development of the whole country by means of public and private economic activity towards social objectives and the public good. First, I put down in the law that I am working within this constitution. No one can say that I am going outside the objectives of the constitution. These two provisions are more than enough to rewrite the economic policy of Sri Lanka. It has to be growth-oriented; others have failed.

In clause 3, section 3, I put down that the national policy on economic transformation must provide for the restructuring of the debt owed by the government. The public debt to GDP ratio shall be below 95% by the year 2032. These are IMF targets. The central government annual gross financing needs to GDP ratio shall be below 13% by 2032. Now that is in the law. That is what we agreed with the IMF. The central government annual debt service in foreign currency to GDP shall be below 4.5% by 2027 and thereafter. This is one part of the national policy on economic transformation, which has some of the factors to be provided in the national economic transformation.

The second part is the transformation of Sri Lanka to a highly competitive export-oriented digital economy. This is a legal obligation, including diversification and deep structural changes in the national economy to boost competitiveness. The law states that we must have deep structural changes. I wonder if anyone can go to court and take action if we don’t have deep structural changes. Achieving net zero by the year 2050, increasing integration with the global economy, achieving stable macroeconomic balances and sustainable debt, modernizing agriculture to boost farmer productivity, incomes, and agriculture exports, and promoting inclusive economic growth and social progress are also part of the plan.

The cabinet of ministers, in formulating the national policy on economic transformation, must ensure the following targets: GDP growth to reach 5% annually by 2027 and above 5% thereafter. Unemployment should be below 5% of the labour force by 2025. Female labour force participation should reach not less than 40% by 2030 and not less than 50% by 2040. The current account deficit of the balance of payments shall not exceed 1% of GDP annually. Exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP should reach not less than 25% by 2025, not less than 40% by 2030, and 60% by 2040. Net foreign direct investment as a percentage of GDP should reach not less than 5% by 2030 and not less than 40% after 2030. The primary balance in the government budget should reach 2.3% of GDP until 2032 and at least 2% from 2032. Government revenue should reach at least 15% of GDP beyond 2027. The multi-dimensional poverty headcount ratio should be less than 15% by 2027 and 10% by 2035.

These are difficult targets, but unless you make it difficult, you can’t succeed. If a government feels that it can’t achieve this, it must go to Parliament and get the act amended. Otherwise, you must act within this framework. This is opening up the system fully, and that’s what we are aiming for. It also means that, as I have done earlier, we all work together. I meet with the governor, my economic advisor, and others weekly. But it means that we can now put together a mechanism. A legal mechanism has to come into place, either by cabinet vision regulations or by law. We have the central bank, the treasury, and economic advisors all working together to achieve this objective.

Now, to begin with, I want to ensure that the initial beneficiaries of the measures we have taken with the IMF are the ordinary people of Sri Lanka. They are the ones who suffered most. They are the ones who lost their jobs, had to mortgage their properties, and sell their land. To ensure that, I have said that we should ensure the money goes to the bottom. Stabilizing the rupee and bringing interest rates down has been one benefit. With the help of the World Bank, we have increased social welfare payments threefold. From 1.8 million families, it will go up to 2.4 million families. That’s at the very bottom. We gave government workers a Rs. 10,000 allowance, and the private sector followed. The government ordered plantation companies, which had refused, to make a payment of Rs. 1,350 per day. It was a challenging course, and the court threw out the challenge. So we have ensured that money goes in.

We also created a district development budget. These are decentralized funds to build roads in villages or put up buildings, which means giving money to small contractors and others in the area. A fair amount has been given to the people. Since 1935, the government has been giving out land for people to cultivate, but never ownership, only through a permit. Similarly, we have built houses for low-income families in and around the city of Colombo, which are again given for rent. We took a policy decision, which we are implementing now, that all lands given to average people for building houses or for cultivating will now be given as freehold land. For those who have these low-income apartments, we will give title deeds, which means 2 million additional families are going to get this money. These are bankable assets, so look at how the banking service expands and how you take it to rural areas.

We are also bringing in new laws to change vocational training because large numbers go into vocational training more than university as they look for employment. These are some of the measures we are taking to ensure that the lower end of the population benefits from the measures we take. It cannot be confined to a few at the top. We want the big companies to expand, and I’m happy to see many of them expanding. We have already got hotels in the Maldives, and now we have investments in Bangladesh. We are seeing Indian investments coming into Sri Lanka. As we expand, I think we can deal with the economic issues relating to collaboration.

We are at a very significant moment. In many of the countries, we have just won elections, and new governments have come in. In Sri Lanka, we are going in for elections. Expectations are high. Is it going to be the usual way where we change the government every five years, or are we really going to deliver? The central banks have a major role to play in this.”

SAARC Secretary General Ambassodor. MD Golam Sarwar, Finance Ministry Secretary K. M. Mahinda Siriwardena, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Mr. Shaktikanta Das, Governor of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan Mr. Dasho Penjore, Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority Mr. Ali Hashim, Governor of the Rashtra Bank of Nepal Mr. Maha Prasad Adhikari, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Mr. Saleem Ullah, Central bank officials of SAARC countries and Treasury Secretaries of SAARC countries attended the event.

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The future of Sri Lanka will be determined by the economic policies implemented over the next five years

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the future of Sri Lanka will be determined by the economic policies implemented over the next five years.

The President delivered this statement while addressing the youth and business community in Mannar during his participation in the “Youth Conference” held yesterday (16).

The President initially attended the Mannar District “Youth Conference” yesterday (16) at the Conference Hall in Mannar Town Hall. The conference, themed “Journey for a Bright Future,” included an award ceremony where the President presented certificates and cash prizes to students who excelled in the 2023/2024 G.C.E Advanced Level Examination.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe interacted directly with the youth, addressing their questions and providing positive responses.

He explained that over the past four years, job creation was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. However, he assured the audience that the upcoming economic program would create new job opportunities for those previously unable to secure employment.

The President emphasized that it is up to the youth to decide whether they wish to advance their own future and contribute to the country through the government’s program.

Additionally, President Ranil Wickremesinghe convened a meeting with the business community of Mannar district yesterday (16) in Mannar.

The President emphasized that continuing the current government’s economic policies will attract a significant number of investors to the country in the future.

He also underscored that maintaining consistent economic policies over time will lead to success for the country.

The President highlighted that the new economic policy, introduced through the Economic Transformation Law, represents a pivotal step forward for the country. He underscored that this framework equips any government with the capability to drive the nation forward.

The President noted that despite longstanding efforts by the people of Sri Lanka to seek political solutions, there has been a noticeable absence of initiatives aimed at addressing economic challenges. He stressed that sustainable national development hinges on the implementation of robust economic policies.

Highlighting his achievement in revitalizing the country’s economy within a short span of two years, the President assured that further relief measures would be extended to all sectors as the economy continues to strengthen.

Furthermore, the President briefed the youth and business communities on the government’s initiatives aimed at fostering comprehensive development in the Mannar district.

State Minister Kader Mastan, Members of Parliament Selvam Adaikalanathan, Northern Province Governor P.S.M.Charles and other political representatives of the province were also present on this occasion.

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2,500 new teachers for national schools by July 3 : Education Minister

Minister of Education Susil Premjayantha has announced that 2,500 new teacher appointments for national schools are scheduled for July 3, the President’s Media Division said.

Arrangements have been made to recruit 2,100 teachers for subjects including Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Technology, and Foreign Languages.

Additionally, 500 teachers will be appointed based on the results of the 2021 English Medium Advanced Diploma Examination, the Minister said.

Premjayantha emphasized that these appointments will significantly reduce the issue of teacher shortages in national schools.

To further address the shortage of English medium teachers, retired English medium teachers are invited to apply for contract-based positions, the Minister said.

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Bathiudeen commends President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that pilgrims to Madhu will be provided with all necessary facilities to engage in their pilgrimage activities without any hindrance.

Addressing the Mannar District Development Committee meeting held at the Mannar District Secretariat yesterday (16), he emphasised that it is unfair to arrest and fine pilgrims on their way to sacred sites like Madhu Church and Sri Pada.

He instructed that if pilgrims are arrested in the future, the President’s Office should be informed immediately.

During the meeting, the President directed the Sri Lanka Army to clean and develop both sides of the existing Madhu Road for the convenience of the pilgrims visiting Madhu Church.

He also coordinated with a representative of the Mannar Bishop, the Department of Forest Conservation, the Road Development Authority, and the Sri Lanka Police to ensure these tasks are completed before the upcoming annual festival of the church of Our Lady of Madhu.

Member of Parliament Rishad Bathiudeen commended the President for visiting Mannar and providing solutions to many of the problems. "Your allocation of DDC funds to me and the TNA MPs for the development of the Mannar District has been greatly helpful to us. On behalf of the people of Mannar and all MPs, I extend my heartfelt thanks to you, Mr. President," the lawmaker said.

"There are also certain issues that can be resolved expeditiously, and several projects initiated by the Good Governance regime that were purposefully stopped, could have been completed. Furthermore, Mannar did not receive any development funds in the past few years; however, this year, substantial funds have been allocated for Mannar’s development. This allocation, under your leadership, is a tremendous source of strength for the people. Therefore, Mr. President, I express my gratitude to you for addressing our issues and for providing solutions to the roadblock issue concerning the Madhu Church. We are very grateful to you, Mr. President.' he added.

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Fostering a Knowledge-Empowered Youth Generation Ready for Future Challenges -President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the need to cultivate a generation of youth equipped with the knowledge and training necessary to meet future challenges.

He also highlighted that an economic program aimed at generating substantial income for the youth of the country is currently being implemented.

President Wickremesinghe shared these thoughts during a meeting with members of the National Youth Corps (NYC) at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (12). During the event, NYC Director Brigadier Sujeewa Rathnayake presented a souvenir to President Wickremesinghe.

Expressing his ideas further, President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated,

“It has been 22 years since the Youth Corps was established. It was originally designed to align with the economic and social system of that era.

However, the Youth Corps must evolve with the times. To ensure a prosperous future for our youth, we must also focus on improving their income opportunities. Necessary steps should be taken to adapt and transform the Youth Corps accordingly.

Young people prefer jobs with high income potential, so we must develop plans to create such opportunities. The Economic Transformation Law has been introduced in Parliament to address this. By 2027, this law aims to reduce unemployment, and by 2035, it will establish several high-income employment sectors, paving the way for a developed state by 2048.

The youth corps students here today will not even be 50 years old in 2048, and we need to implement programs to create a new economy for their future. We should look to the development models of countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, which are based on export economies. Therefore, our focus should be on building an export-based economy.

Additionally, we should concentrate on areas that can be developed rapidly. An urgent program should be implemented to advance sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and information technology. It is essential to direct the youth corps students toward these areas.

We must establish a green society and a green economy to prepare a young generation equipped with the knowledge and training to meet future challenges. By providing professional training, we can elevate the country’s economy to a new level and create a skilled youth workforce.”

Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Advisor Sagala Ratnayaka,

The Youth Corps was established in 2002 under the concept of then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to prepare youth for the future. Initially starting with eight centres, the Youth Corps has now expanded to 57 centres. It selects young people who are suited for the future world and guides them toward leadership roles capable of meeting challenges.

However, after a change in government, the Youth Corps concept was not further developed. A better economy can be achieved if the youth trained by the Youth Corps are instilled with proper values and contribute to the national economy.

In 2015, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as Prime Minister, revitalized the Youth Corps, empowering it once again.

The economic crisis similar to the covid pandemic that affected the country after 2020 did not differentiate between the wealthy and the poor; everyone suffered equally. During that time, no leader stepped forward to rescue the country from the crisis. In response to this situation, the current President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, took charge and worked towards creating an inclusive economy. He is striving to create job opportunities for the youth and to design a program that enables them to contribute to Sri Lanka’s economy.

The Youth Corps can play a crucial role in this effort by producing talented young individuals in various fields necessary for the country’s development. The Youth Corps centres are dedicated to providing the necessary training. Young people should be prepared to excel in sectors such as ports, tourism, computers, and languages. The Youth Corps can significantly support this initiative. Additionally, it can guide youth to investigate and address future climate change challenges.

There are plans to transform the Sri Lankan Armed Forces to adapt to future challenges, creating teams equipped for the future. Efforts are underway to provide them with modern technical and linguistic knowledge. Additionally, attention will be given to addressing future environmental threats and finding solutions for them. Sri Lanka is committed to preserving the territorial integrity of the Indian Ocean region and ensuring the safety of shipping routes.

NYC Chairman Chaturanga Udawatta, NYC former Director Major General Channa Goonetilleke and several others were present at the event.

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