Sri Lanka govt has political will for unpopular reforms: Kabir

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s national unity government of the two main parties has had a difficult two years but the political will to push through unpopular reforms is now in place, a senior minister said.

“The government has had the courage to take on a lot of reforms that usually would not have been popular,” said Kabir Hashim, Minister of Public Enterprises Development.

The government has been working to set the fundamentals in place for faster, and sustainable economic growth since it was formed two years ago, he told the two-day annual economic summit held by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“Today, the new foreign exchange bill is being debated in parliament, we’re making it more friendly to business, we’re changing rigid land laws, the new tax regime will make foreign investments easier.

“Now we’ve set the course –we’ve decided on our foreign exchange policy, tax regime, land policy. Now we’ve set the main fundamentals in place, the next step is to make Sri Lanka the most competitive place in which to set up business.

“The political will is now in place after two years,” Hashim said.

The first such deal that demonstrates the government’s commitment is the Hambanntota port investment, where CM Ports of China is getting a long lease on the port with a majority stake, despite protests by opposition parties and labour unions.

“Along with it, we’re taking bold decisions to open up the economy,” Hashim said.

He noted that the coalition government, made up of disparate political parties with different economic ideologies, has had to work in a different environment to that of the ousted Rajapaksa regime.

The street protests that are disrupting normal life in the capital Colombo would have been tackled differently by the former regime, which would have used ‘white ‘vans’, Hashim said, referring to vehicles used by former government hit squads to abduct opposition figures and critics.





This government is committed to ‘yahapalanaya’ or good governance, he said.
“People need to trust the government,” Hashim said. “The first one and a half to two years as a government has been tough. It is not a usual government but a national government of different parties with different ideologies.

“We have to first politically survive to make the changes required. We’ve been taking our time but the job is getting done slowly but steadily.”
(COLOMBO, July 25, 2017)

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