Nov 05, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today presented in Parliament plans for the country's development and to strengthen the economy for the next 5 years.
The Prime Minister, taking Singapore as a prime example for development, said Sri Lanka has the potential to be a strong economy by 2023 if right measures are taken and a new golden age will dawn when the new economic reforms introduced by the current government are implemented.
He added that the government plans to generate one million employment opportunities, improve income level of the people, and strengthen the rural economy.
The Prime Minister pointed out that public has more money as the government increased salaries, pensions and market price of the paddy and reduced fuel prices under the 100 day program.
The Prime Minister said the government expects to take favorable initiatives to reach development goals with medium term financial government policy decisions.
He said the government aims to reduce the budget deficit to 3.5% of the GDP by 2020.
Measures will be taken to provide tax freedom to the Sri Lankan migrant workers for their revenues. The taxes on income generation in Sri Lanka will also be slashed. All unnecessary tax concessions that have been imposed will be lifted he added.
The Premier said more attention will be paid on competitiveness and productivity.
Former Presidents J.R. Jayawardena, and Ranasinghe Premadasa introduced reforms to the social and economy spheres of the nation. But in recent times country's economy was labeled as the highly corrupt in South Asia instead of its openness.
The Premier also said on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council a director board will be appointed to look into the Employee Provident Fund (EPF). He said that the government will introduce a new national pension scheme by merging the Employees Provident Fund and the Employees' Trust Fund. The new fund will be set up with 1.7 trillion rupees. The PM stressed that mismanagement of funds will not be allowed and the new fund will be protected from corrupt politicians and officials. The new board will be established with the participation of the government, trade unions and chambers of commerce.
The Prime Minister pledged to ensure property rights of the people countrywide. Freehold land ownership will be provided to nearly 3 million people and that ownership will also be provided to those renting state houses for more than 10 years. Estate workers will be provided land and special housing schemes.
The government will carry out a program to construct apartments for the people who are living in urban and suburbs in the country and the government plans to provide tax relief to the investors who are considering to construct them. The government will also introduce loan schemes with low interest for the public to purchase apartments from such housing complexes. A half a million housing units will be constructed countrywide to solve the issue pertaining to housing.
The Premier said the government will pay more attention on entering the international market under the new economic policies. The BOI, Export Development Board and tourism institutions will be restructured. A new agency will be set up for development.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe further said the Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Port will be transformed into income generating ventures. The Prime Minister said the present government has no intention to acquire private organizations and will not attempt to seize private businesses but will ensure their smooth operation.
New exchange management act is scheduled to be tabled in parliament and a new central procurement secretariat will be set up to carefully scrutinize the government procurement.
Collapse of the rural economy is a major issue in the country, he pointed out. The present government aiming to improve economy of the farmers with a short term development project, will set up 2500 centers for village level development and 2500 cluster villages to coordinate the development activities at the rural level.
A comprehensive program will be introduced to improve infrastructure of roads, irrigation system and market places. A fully fledged national agricultural marketing authority will be introduced to purchase agricultural products. The fisheries sector will also be uplifted. New tea industry committee will be set up to enhance the tea industry in the country. Country's paddy purchasing program will be restructured. New mechanism will be put in place to make use of the excessive paddy harvest of the country.
Full text of Prime Minister's Economic Policy Statement