Major Sri Lanka reforms in first six months: policy maker

Aug 24, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s newly elected national unity government will make major reforms in the period of first six months to make the economy more competitive, Harsha de Silva, Member of Parliament and former deputy minister of policy planning and Economic affairs said.

“Our competitiveness as a nation has fallen in recent years,” de Silva said at the annual general meeting of the Spices and Allied Products Producers and Traders Association (SAPPTA), held recently.

“So our new government’s objective is to make Sri Lanka ‘the most competitive economy’ in the region. To make it, what needs to be done will be done.”

De Silva said tradable goods which have a price for quality in the global market will get prominence on the path to become competitive, compared with non-tradable goods like roads, real estate and construction which have no value in the global market place.

“For that, if we have to change the laws, we will change the laws,” he said. “Amending legislation will happen at the speed of greased lightning.”

“The main reforms required will be done in the first six months, some of it might be little difficult to swallow. But we will do it.”

“We are not here just for retail politics,” he said referring to a style of political campaigning in which voters are targeted on an individual basis. The former government was accused of favoring a specific segment of people.

Referring to UNP governments in the late 1970s and 1990s, de Silva said, previous administrations also had done reforms within similar time periods after getting elected.

“Let me give you the assurance that we are not going to stop until we put policies in place to increase exports not by 0-15 percent but by several fold,” de Silva said.

“We will cut through all red tape for investors.”

Pointing out an example de Silva said, a proposed investment by German car manufacturer Volkswagen, could not set up a factory in Sri Lanka for the last 10 year Rajapaksa regime as the “transaction cost was so high made the investment two weeks ago.

“The investment was not worth it. “So ones the traction cost was removed they were ready to come,” de Silva said, referring to bribes.

He said actions will be taken for corrupt politicians without considering the party they are from. “So we have to look at functioning of government in a very different way,” de Silva said.

“The first minister who gets caught cheating (in the new government) should be put in jail.”

“There are good and bad guys in both sides. So unless we are really ready to deal with these issues, we will continue our process.”

The new rulers launched investigations in to allegations of corruption, money laundering and misuse of ordinary people’s money under the previous government. The former president Mahinda Rajapaksa who is now a member of parliament, has denied all allegations.