Disappointed Harsha – The Island
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SJB MP Dr Harsha de Silva said yesterday that he was quite disappointed that his economic recovery plan, or common minimum programme, presented to parliament on August 12 did not receive the expected response from the political parties represented in Parliament.
The Colombo district legislator said so when The Island asked him whether political parties and President Ranil Wickremesinghe had reacted to his plan. The lawmaker said he was not angry but dismayed by the way political parties reacted to the worsening economic crisis.
Responding to another question, the Silva MP said he had the support of his party although there were differences of opinion on some issues. The Silva lawmaker said he was ready to discuss the overall plan with those represented in parliament and other stakeholders. The MP pointed out that so far the government has not presented a roadmap for economic recovery.
Addressing parliament, MP de Silva urged leaders of all political parties represented to support his proposals. The former UNP minister of state said his plan could also secure trust and support from the public and outside entities.
The package of proposals was ratified by the Economic Policy Unit made up of lawmakers Dr Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne and Kabir Hashim. It was endorsed by the head of the SJB, Sajith Premadasa.
The plan covered (1) debt crisis management (2) monetary and exchange rate policy (3) revenue consolidation (4) expenditure control (5) public sector management (6 ) energy and utility reform (7) trade, agriculture, industry and service promotion (8) factor market reform (9) strengthening social safety nets and ( 10) transparency and accountability.
The MP pointed out that although Sri Lanka has received $4 billion in aid from India through lines of credit, currency swaps, etc., this year the ongoing talks with Japan, China, the countries Middle East and Russia had not produced the expected results. Stating that the country was in dire straits, MP de Silva blamed the government’s disproportionate delay in seeking consensus on an economic recovery plan.
Referring to the emergency aid provided by the United States, Australia and the EU, Mr de Silva said the much-needed Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) could not be obtained until the government would not have made meaningful progress in what he called the debt restructuring talks. Stating that Sri Lanka could not do without short-term bridging funding from friendly countries, such as lines of credit for imports, currency swaps or trade exchanges, Dr de Silva said the privatization was also an option. However, the MP warned against privatization without proper procedures. The consequences would be catastrophic, the lawmaker added.
Recently, dissident SLPP MP Dr Nalaka Godahewa accused the government of wanting to privatize Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT). A former private sector executive has alleged that the government has exploited the current financial turmoil to sell businesses for profit. Dr Godahewa told The Island there was broad consensus on the need to restructure loss-making state enterprises, but the government seemed determined to sell valuable assets.
Pointing out that Sri Lanka was the only country in Asia to have defaulted on its foreign debt in half a century, MP de Silva pointed out that unbridled corruption had contributed to the deterioration of the national economy in recent years. decades so much so that eventually the Governor of the Central Bank’s Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe acknowledged Sri Lanka’s inability to service its external debt.
The former UNPer called for the enactment of strong anti-corruption legislation and the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption.
Dr. de Silva was recently appointed Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF), one of three parliamentary oversight committees designed to ensure financial integrity in the public sector. The senior SJB official took over from Kurunegala District SLPP MP Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.