Shehan Semasinghe

State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe said that the impact of political power struggles must not be detrimental to addressing the economic crisis. He detailed the government’s strategic measures since 2022, which have been crucial in stabilizing the economy. The Minister emphasized that the decisions taken by the President and the government, supported by parliamentary laws, have been vital. “We are on the right path now,” Semasinghe declared, noting that sustaining economic stability relies on the government’s difficult yet necessary decisions.

The Minister expressed these views addressing the launch of We Have a Dream Civil Society Collective’s policy review titled ‘No Alternative; A Review on the Solutions to the Economic Crisis’ held yesterday (29) at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute. The event brought together key policymakers and experts, such as Dr. Harsha de Silva, MP, Champika Ranawaka, MP, and the author of the book senior journalist C.J. Amarathunga and Prof. Rohan Samarajiva with Minister Shehan Semasinghe to discuss the progress and challenges of the country’s economic recovery.

A focal point of the Minister’s speech was the forthcoming Economic Transformation Act, which aims to solidify economic policies focused on fiscal management and promoting private enterprise. He clarified that this initiative, spearheaded by President Ranil Wickramasinghe, is independent of IMF requirements, aiming to ensure sustainable economic transformation. The government’s dedicated policies resulted in a primary account balance of 0.6% of GDP in 2023, surpassing IMF expectations. This achievement is a testament to effective fiscal management.

Addressing the country’s debt management efforts, Minister Semasinghe stated that Sri Lanka has settled USD 1909 million in bilateral and multilateral loans post-crisis, while suspending USD 6880 million subject to debt restructuring. Negotiations with the Paris Club, China, and private creditors are ongoing, despite initial setbacks. The Minister expressed hope that successful agreements will be reached by June this year, enhancing trust in the economy.

Looking ahead, Minister Semasinghe outlined three crucial bills set to be introduced: the Economic Transformation Act, the Fiscal Management Bill, and the Debt Management Bill. These bills are designed to provide a strong framework for economic stability and growth. The Minister expressed optimism that parliament will support these initiatives, which are essential to avoid economic derailment.

Despite the reforms, the government remains committed to protecting vulnerable populations. Social welfare programs, such as Aswesuma, will provide over 200 billion rupees in benefits, highlighting the government’s dedication to inclusive growth. Minister Semasinghe concluded by cautioning against political actions that could disrupt the recovery program, stressing the collective responsibility to maintain economic stability. “If we derail the path without reason, the country will be bankrupt again, and the recovery will take around 10-12 years,” he warned.

Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

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