ECONOMYNEXT – The feedback from unions in Sri Lanka’s state enterprises listed for divestment was to find good investors and to ensure that jobs were not lost, Director General of Sri Lanka’s SOE Restructuring Unit Suresh Shah said.
The pushback from unions against privatization was not as much as expected. The pushback from the public was also not as much as expected.
“The underlying message was to get good investors,” Shah told a forum organized by CAL, a Colombo-based investment banking group.
“A number of unions are concerned about the terms of employment. That is natural and expected.”
The opposition from the public was also not as much as expected, he said.
There was some pushback from the management of “one or two” companies.
Some have been “very supportive and co-operative” and were waiting to be “unshackled” from government controls, Shah said.
Sri Lanka is divesting seven entities in the first round.
Out of the firms, Lanka Hospitals was built as a private firm and was taken back by courts in a controversial decision along with its parent Sri Lanka Insurance which was privatized at the time.
Litro Gas was also a company that was privatized to Shell Gas and its terminal company was built by the private investors. SriLankan Airlines was also at one time under Emirates Airlines.
Both firms were taken back under President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as part of an anti-privatization strategy that ended up with large losses for the country. Two others were expropriated during the Rajapaksa administration. (Colombo/Sept10/2023)