ECONOMYNEXT – A future government led by the incumbent main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SJB legislator Harsha de Silva said.
The MP tweeted Monday September 26 morning that a closed-door discussion between the SJB and an IMF team that’s currently in Sri Lanka to review the ongoing programme was productive and had focused on governance, transparency and equity in the reform process.
“It was a good discussion. We were quite frank,” said de Silva in a clip he shared of him speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network.
“Yes, we said we agree as the SJB that we need to work with the IMF, and that we accept that large-scale economic reform will have to take place. That was the baseline.
“However, the leader of the opposition said that, under our government, certain modifications will have to happen,” said de Silva.
The MP, who also chairs the parliament’s Committee on Public Finance (COPF), said this is because the people “obviously see that there is inequity in the implementation of this agreement”.
News footage of the SJB’s latest round of talks with the IMF team showed that SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa along with de Silva and a handful of his colleagues in the party were joined by former Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs who were vocal supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. MPs Nalaka Godahewa and G L Peiris also seen joining a group photo with the IMF and the SJB lawmakers.
The SJB was among the first to demand that the then government of ex-President Rajapaksa approach the IMF before Sri Lanka’s currency crashed in 2022. Over the months since incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration embarked on an IMF-prescribed reform agenda, the opposition party has adopted a more critical position on the international lender.
In May, SJB MP Kabir Hashim speaking at a public event in Monaragala alluded to a unique vision his party possesses with regard to macroeconomic development that doesn’t necessarily include the IMF.
The SJB’s position with regard to the IMF programme, Sri Lanka’s 17th so far, has been less than consistent. The party, which was among the first to call for a deal with the iInternational lender at the onset of the island nation’s worst currency crisis in decades, abstained from voting for the agreement in a vote taken in parliament in April.
While the SJB hasn’t quite had a drastic departure from its original pro-IMF stance, the party has been increasingly vocal of late about the socioeconomic impact of the deal.
SJB leader Premadasa earlier this year reportedly said a future SJB government would not be obligated to honour deals made by the incumbent government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. MP de Silva explained later that what his party leader had meant was that Sri Lanka must negotiate terms favourable to the country when dealing with the IMF. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)