ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law & order, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe said defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).
At a discussion held at the presidential secretariat Thursday March 23 morning, Wickremesinghe said responding to a question about the decision that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.
Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has been on education, he said.
The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shars:
- Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd
- Sri Lanka Telecom PLC
- Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd
- Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel)
- Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo),
- Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing)
- Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC
The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.
President Wickremesinghe holds the Finance portfolio.
“Not all of them are loss making. We do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.
“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.
Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”
“In what country is there a law that these should be there?” he added.
Noting that the crisis-hit island nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, President Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.
“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.” (Colombo/Mar23/2023)