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    New industrial zones to rev up economic performance - PM Featured

    March 15, 2019

    The country’s economic performance will make strides with the planned industrial zones in Bingiriya, Hambantota and Trincomalee, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.He was speaking towards the end of the Budget debate when the House took up the Expenditure Heads of the Ministries coming under his purview. Countering the claims by UPFA MP Bandula Gunawardena that the golden era of the economy was under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the PM reminded the House how the income from garments and textile exports dropped sharply during the period from 2004-2014.

    The PM pointed out that it was Bangladesh which got a golden era due to drop in garment exports from Sri Lanka. The PM, observing that the country was debt-ridden when he assumed duties in 2015, said that the situation has gradually been improved with much difficulty.“Due to the restraint policies we followed, we even lost many local government bodies. This was because we told the truth during the difficult period. However, today we have a surplus in our Primary Account after 70 years. Then what is the golden era of the country, the era where the debt was increased or the era where we made a surplus in the Primary Account?” he asked.

    “Despite economic woes, we increased allocations for the Health, Education and Higher Education sectors thinking of the future of the country. Today there are smart classrooms. We built houses for those without shelter and plan to give outright ownership of lands to the people. On March 4, we opened the Bingiriya Export Processing Zone, and already about 30 investors have expressed intent to put up industries. It includes an investment of USD 100 million to put up a fabric industry. Towards the end of this month, we will open another EPZ larger than Bingiriya. The country’s second oil refinery will come up in Hambantota after 1967. A cement factory will also be built and soon we will turn around Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport to be busy destinations in the region. In two-months, we will commence the EPZ in Trincomalee with an investment for a steel factory.What did the UPFA did in the golden era it claims?” he added.

    “Today we can have a hope on the future. In 2025, there will be a better country. We will not give away our opportunities to Singapore, Bangladesh or Maldives,” he commented.The Prime Minister during the course of his speech also replied to allegations made by UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

    UPFA MP Nanayakkara posing a series of questions at the PM queried on the Central Bank Bonds scam and the sale of oil bunkering facility of the Port of Colombo operated by state owned Lanka Marine Services Ltd to John Keells Holdings.“There was a personal attack on me by MP Nanayakkara. All I am asking him is to read the Bond Commission reports where there is nothing against me. Then he accused the Speaker, me and others over the Lanka Marine Services case. The Cabinet decision in that regard was taken on August 17, 2000 by the then Government. Neither you nor I were ministers then. The Public Enterprise Reform Commission that was in charge after we formed the Government was responsible for implementing it. We did not reverse it, that responsibility we take. The Supreme Court held that the Public Enterprise Commission went beyond the decision of August 2000. The Minister in charge was then Economic Reform Minister Milinda Moragoda. The Supreme Court has commented on the Public Enterprise Commission which was headed by non-other than P B Jayasundera. What is MP Nanayakkara talking of me or the BoI or the Port Authority or Speaker Karu Jayasuriya?” asked the PM.

    “I would like to ask MP Nanayakkara if he stands by what he said about the Lanka Marine Services shares. Then why did he say ‘Sir’ to P. B. Jayasundera when he was a minister and the latter was the Secretary to the Treasury?” the PM questioned.

    Referring to a report in a daily English newspaper which said that the share market has fallen because the economy was not doing well, the PM clarified that the share market and economic performances have nothing to do with each other. “Basically the share market works in a very volatile situation. As far as the economy is concerned, we are doing well. The Share Market went up when our debt went up and the EPF money was pumped into it regardless who got it. After October 26 political crisis, people have pulled out of the Share Market, but as the economy has taken a turn for the better similarly I think the Share Market will gradually pick up.We have asked the EPF to come back to the Share Market, but that will be done under strict safe guards to ensure what happened last time does not happen this time,” he explained.

    The Expenditure Heads of the National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development, Vocational Training and Skills Development and Youth Affairs Ministry held by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was passed without a division in Parliament yesterday. The Ministry has been allocated Rs 98 billion.

    The Prime Minister was present in the Chamber throughout the debate. No UPFA MP was present in the chamber towards the end of the debate.

     

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