Sri Lanka entrepreneur warns against state push into business

Nov 19, 2010 (LBO) – A recent state push into business is taking away opportunities available for the private sector to expand their wings at the end of a 30-year war, a Sri Lankan entrepreneur has warned. “Government is trying to compete (against private citizens), it could be hotels, insurance and any other area,” W Wegapitiya, head of Laugfs, a gas distributing firm told a business forum in Colombo.

“Government is trying to get in to areas where opportunity should be given to the private sector. Very few are courageous enough to talk. It is a wrong signal.”

Wegapitiya was speaking at a forum organized by RAM Ratings, a rating agency. Speakers at the forum said Sri Lanka will have to get more private business and foreign direct investment to sustain long term growth.

Sri Lanka’s government recently took control of a previously privatized gas distributor sold to Shell. Money for the re-purchase came from an insurer, which was itself re-vested in the state after courts ruled that the privatization was flawed.

The firm then known as Colombo Gas, was nationalized from private citizens violating their property rights, after the island gained ‘independence’ from Britain.

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