March 10, 2019 (LBO) – The stage was set during one of the many post budget forums which set out to digest, analyse and critique the economic ramifications and opportunities from the latest budget. The forum included some of the most important personalities in Sri Lankan business who took to the stage to publicly voice their views on budget and the economy at large. With this backdrop, the head of KPMG Sri Lanka turned heads, making some surprising remarks which have generated some angst through social media.
KPMG’s Sri Lanka boss suggested that the government of Sri Lanka should be run by Sri Lanka’s two most powerful businessmen, namely Harry Jayawardena and Dhammika Perera.
In an environment where many in Sri Lanka are concerned with the power and influence that Sri Lanka’s oligarchs have over the nation’s economy, the head Sri Lanka’s most prominent accounting/consulting firm expressed different sentiments.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera expressed concerns relating to Sri Lanka’s most powerful businessmen in his 2019 budget speech delivered in Parliament:
“The oligarchs yearn for the return of a dictatorship”
“In fact, some were recently calling for a Hitler,”
He suggested that Sri Lanka’s oligarchs had become powerful through protectionist tariffs, which have burdened the public with high prices for goods and services.
“Sri Lanka needs a private sector free from the protectionist mind set,”
Harry Jayawardena has been inching closer to control of Sri Lanka’s most important corporation, John Keells Holdings (JKH). Between him and Dhammika Perera, a significant percentage of listed companies have been annexed into their business empires.
If it weren’t for legislation that limited concentrated shareholdings in Sri Lanka’s largest banks, all the private sector banks in the island would have most certainly been controlled by Sri Lanka’s oligarchs.
LBO explored the issue of Sri Lanka’s oligarchs and their criticism of the government after backlash erupted following a high profile ‘fireside chat’ event that featured the above mentioned Harry Jayawardena, Dhammika Perera and others:
Sri Lanka’s biggest businessmen have long been the beneficiaries of protectionist tariffs, monopoly like pricing, and many other favourable government policy measures.
Since they already control so much of the country, we may as well follow the advice of KMPG’s boss and give them the government as well.
This is shocking. @kpmgsl boss clearly shows his contempt for the current govt. That is perfectly ok, except that the #LKA cabinet has just chosen KPMG to be independent forensic auditor of the @CBSL bond scam. Does @MangalaLK and @EranWick know what they are doing? https://t.co/RwPbYMDmcv
— M A Ratna (@maratnasiri) March 8, 2019