Dec 17, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne proposed that if required by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent government is able to sell ‘Mihin Air’ over to him for a rupee.
“Losses incurred by Mihin Air at present stands at Rs. 1600 million,” Wickramaratne said in a statement.
“Mihin’s balance sheets are all minus. However if Mahinda Rajapaksa requires it, we will sell Mihin Air over to him for one Rupee. We will privatize Mihin Air for one Rupee,” he said.
“How are we to avert this calamity & preserve institutions such as ‘Sri Lankan Air Lines’? It is with the utmost responsibility that I say that this government is in possession of strategic mechanisms to safe guard public entities against such financial catastrophes.”
Wickramaratne expressed this during the Select Committee stage of the 2016 budget.
“In 1979 ‘Air Ceylon’ was decommissioned &‘Air Lanka’ was established. Subsequently in 1998 ‘Air Lanka’ was privatized by the then SLFP lead government,” Wickramaratne said.
“40 percent of its shares were sold to ‘Emirates’ for 70 million dollars. This was done through a 10 year strategic agreement based on a requirement of the then government. We are in no way against this move. It was this very same government which sold plots of land adjacent to the sacred site of ‘Somawathie’ to foreign institutions,” he said.
“They even went the extra mile by selling the paper factory. These decisions may have been correct or wrong given the day’s context. However in 2008, the 10 year strategic agreement expired. Emirates declined to extend the agreement any further.”
Wickramaratne said the losses incurred by ‘Sri Lankan Air Lines’ at present stands at 12800 million rupees.
“Only Rs. 900 billion has been allocated for 30% of the family units, who depend on the Samurdhi grant of this country. Juxtaposed against this scenario the losses incurred by one public entity exceed nearly 15 times this amount” Wickramaratne added.
Speaking further in line, Wickramaratne stressed that when constructing homes at the cost of one million per unit, the government is able to construct 100,000 housing units.
He added that if the cost of a housing unit was to be notched down to 50,000 rupees, the government would be able to construct 200,000 housing units.
Highlighting these facts Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne questioned whether it was reasonable to justify the operation of one single public entity at the cost of debilitating the country’s factual development.