Nov 30, 2014 (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s opposition common candidate for upcoming presidential polls Maithriapala Sirisena said he was for open policies and a strong domestic economy.
"We are for an open economic policies that will strengthen the domestic economy," former health minister Maithripla Sirisena said at a media briefing flanked by Karu Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka’s United National Party.
Sirisena, who defected to the opposition after 13 years as general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party of Mahinda Rajapaksa is the son of a farmer.
The current administration had kept rice and other agricultural goods prices artificially high and weakened the purchasing power of the poorest in society by protecting producers with high import duties, fostering inefficiency as well as rent seeking.
Sri Lanka has been following a strong German style Ernährungsautarkie (agricultural self-sufficiency) made popular by the likes of Gustav von Schmoller and Adolf Wagner in Germany for the past decade.
Rice prices rose over 90 rupees a kilo amid import duties compared to prices around 50 to 60 rupees a kilo in other Asian countries.
This week the state-run Daily News newspaper said the ‘rice mafia’ was defeated by imports at 60 rupees a kilogram, which analysts say is a dig at Sirisena, who has a close relative running a rice milling and trading firm.
He has earlier come under fire from opposition parties, especially when he was agricultural minister for keeping rice prices up to give rents to the farmer and rice milling lobbies at the expense of the hungry.
Sirisena told an earlier forum of doctors in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo that he will end corruption so that private sector businesses will no longer have give bribes to get things done.
Sirisena said he is backed by the UNP and support is also expected from several smaller parties to end Sri Lanka’s executive presidency, make the judiciary and civil service independent in a bid to bring back freedom, rule of law and justice.