NEC to curtail shortsighted and ad hoc policy decisions | Sunday Observer

NEC to curtail shortsighted and ad hoc policy decisions

The National Economic Council (NEC) will play a pro-active role to revive SriLankan Airlines, NEC Secretary General and Chief Economist Prof. Lalith Samarakoon told a group of journalists last week.

The press conference was held to explain the purpose and mandate of the Council appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena in September last year. He said the NEC needs to look at all options such as finding a strategic partner for the airline and restructuring it financially. “We have been sounding off to other airlines if they are interested to come in as a strategic partner,” he said.

“This no easy task, as most of the well-known airlines face problems today.

However, our task is to come up with a solution which is of national importance to the country,” Prof. Samarakoon said.

SriLankan Airlines suffered a loss of Rs.14.1 billion in 2016 and incurred a total loss of Rs.169 billion over the past nine years.

The national carrier decided to purchase four A350-900 aircraft and to lease three more aircraft of the same model in 2013. The orders for the transaction were cancelled by the current government when it came into power and as a result the airline had to pay a fine of around US$ 154 million to the company.

“The government should find a solution within a very short time to revive the airline because it is making losses and is kept alive by borrowing from State banks which is a burden to the State coffers,” Prof. Samarakoon said.

The NEC has a mandate across all institutions and line ministries in terms of economic policy formulation, coordination and implementation.

The Council has undertaken to review the progress or various issues of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Primary Industry, Ministry of Science Technology and Research, Ministry of Megapolis, Ministry of Power and Energy, Ministry of Finance, SriLankan Airlines, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Central Bank.

“Sri Lanka needs to figure out its growth strategy, limit borrowing and come up with a sound plan to accelerate economic growth.

We have a sizeable debt to repay this year and in the next.

“Public debt stood at Rs. 10.3 trillion as at third quarter last year which amounts to around three percent of the GDP. Many countries are ready to lend but what is needed is to ensure borrowings have a repayment plan. NEC will play an active role in restructuring public debt,” Prof. Samarakoon said

He said the country should focus on attracting export oriented foreign direct investments and reform loss making public enterprises.

The NEC aimed at strengthening the economy has been mandated to advice and guide the government on matters relating to economic policy, advice the government in formulating economic policy and plans and coordinating economic policy across different institutions.

The Council convened for the first time on September 12 last year.

The 10-member Council chaired by the President comprises the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, Secretary to the President, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Secretary to the Cabinet, Governor of the Central Bank, Treasury Secretary, Secretary to the Ministry of National Policy and Economic Affairs and the Secretary General of the Council.

“All major economic decision will be filtered through the NEC and there will be no room for short sighted and ad hoc policy decisions that do not benefit the economy,” Prof. Samarakoon said.

w“Our task is to look into the decisions and programs of public institutions and line ministries, review decisions and make recommendations to bring out the best for the economy,” Prof. Samarakoon said.