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* Sri Lanka will leverage optimism in the region to boost its economy - Finance Minister
Thu, Mar 16, 2017, 11:51 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 16, Hong Kong: Finance Minister of Sri Lanka Ravi Karunanayake says this is the century of Asia and Sri Lanka will take maximization of that and leverage optimism in the region to boost the nation's economy.

In an interview with CNBC, the Finance Minister, who is in Hong Kong participating in Sri Lanka's second investment Summit on Thursday, said small nations like Sri Lanka will take "that much longer" to be affected by the policies adopted by President Trump but Sri Lanka feels the buoyancy in the American markets.

"We feel the buoyancy that is is there in the American market and also in to the European Union with China, Japan, Thailand, Korea and other Asian countries playing a big role. So India and we together can basically conquer lot of areas is our belief," he said

When asked whether Sri Lanka is looking for markets closer to home, the Minister said "This is the century of Asia and we believe taking maximization of that."

Pointing out that Sri Lanka is very well geographically located at the midpoint between Far East and Europe going to Indian subcontinent and Middle East he said Sri Lanka must leverage of its geographic location.

"We believe that we must leverage ourselves of the geographic location and ensure that we provide the best like what Hong Kong was to China, we would like to be to the Indian Ocean," he said.

When asked about the public backlash against talking money from China, the Finance Minister said there is no such a public backlash but only a handful of small opposition members who are basically disgruntled from the loss they had two years ago.

"They are the ones who are bellyaching but rest of the people appreciate the financial discipline, the fiscal consolidation and the way forward that is given," he said.

The Minister expressed confidence that the majority of people support the government's way forward. "It is slow but we are getting there," he said.

Regarding the bond issuance, Minister Karunanayake assured that there won't be any areas of dispute over the country's bond issuance. He assured that what has gone in the past will be rectified and there won't be any areas of contention.

When asked whether former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's threat to take legal action is taken seriously, the Finance Minister said "he is a spent force" and legal action will take over before too long.

"I think these are rhetoric ushered by people who basically have brought the economy direct to ruin and it is our consolidation process is going."

Speaking about the debt crisis, the Minister said the government will ensure that the debt cycle or debt servicing in a manageable proportion and the government is having success in converting the illogical borrowing that took place on high commercial rates on short tenure into low interest rates and longer tenure.

"We got the mandate from people two years ago and able to achieve towards a democratic and a social inclusion economy that is being built," Minister Karunanayake said.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was the Chief Guest at the second Sri Lanka investment summit in Asia, first ever in Hong Kong that kicked off today at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Kowloon with the participation of over 200 investors.


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