Don’t Open

July 06, 2007 (LBO) – Opening up Sri Lanka’s electricity sector to foreign competition under international free trade rules that are being negotiated could be dangerous, a senior engineer has warned. Commitments Sri Lanka might make under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), a multinational agreement covering trade in services, could be irrevocable, according to Ananda Piyatilake, a Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) engineer and project manager.

“They might not serve the interests of the public, especially the poorer sections of the people,” he said at a public lecture on the implications of the GATS on the Sri Lankan electricity sector.

GATS Warning

The presentation by Piyatilake, a former president of the CEB Engineers’ Union, was based on a study he had done for the NGO Practical Action, which organized the lecture along with the Institution of Engineers and Colombo University.

GATS rules even override national and local laws and regulations and enable the entry of foreign multinationals, which are driven by the profit motive, into the domestic electricity sector, Piyatilake said.

Under GATS rules, governments may no longer control provision of key publi