ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka opposition opposition lawmaker-turned government backer Diana Gamage said the government must consider privatising the loss-making state-owned national carrier SriLankan Airlines.
“It’s a huge burden on the government and this is the time to [seriously consider] privatising it,” Gamage said speaking in parliament on Friday August 12 during a debate on President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s policy statement.
Gamage called Sri Lanka a “broken nation”, referring to the country’s worst economic crisis since independence. She did not, however, mention the reasons for the crisis, such as ill-advised tax cuts and excess money printing – all decisions made by the government that she chose to support, turning her back on the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).
“We are a broken nation and we all need to get together and [uplift] the broken nation. A few reasons why we are a broken nation are corruption, inefficiency, malpractices, wrong decisions, and incompetence,” she said.
SriLankan Airlines has lost 248 billion rupees up to April 2022 with most of it coming from the collapse of the currency, official data showed, with 145 billion rupees coming from a foreign exchange loss.
Prior to becoming President, when Wickremesinghe served as Prime Minister, he had expressed views in favour of the airline being privatised in a report published by the Finance Ministry in July.
“SriLankan Airlines (SLA) has Rs 618,677.61 million in liabilities, including sovereign guaranteed US$ 175 million bond, Treasury guaranteed bank loans from state banks, aircraft leases, and debt with trade creditors, primarily Ceylon Petroleum Corporation,” the report said.
It said the government is no longer able to finance SriLankan’s losses and there is an urgent need to restructure the company’s balance sheet and convert its operating model into a profitable structure. (Colombo/Aug12/2022)