SL aims to become freest trading nation in South Asia | Sunday Observer

SL aims to become freest trading nation in South Asia

Government officials have discussed plans to reduce all tariffs to three levels of 0%, 5% and 10% on all goods within three years with an aim to become South Asia’s freest trading nation in six years, a top bureaucrat disclosed last week.

Speaking at a recent forum, Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Dr. Razeen Sally said that top government officials at a recent meeting with private sector representatives decided on a three-year time frame to completely remove all 6,000 plus para tariffs.

“The good news is that we have belatedly ended up with the right Central Bank Governor and the right Minister of Finance, so better late than never. These changes have begun to make a difference,” said Dr. Sally at an event organised by the Colombo Chapter of the UNP Young Professionals Organisation at the Lakshman Kadiragama Institute in Colombo.

Speaking on the topic of ‘Economic takeoff and young professionals’, Sally who is also an advisor to the Finance Minister, said the Finance Ministry had recently decided to come up with a priority list which would see fast-tracked implementation of the 2018 Budget proposals. These included measures proposed by relevant public sector departments to improve business climate and reduce red tape.

“Monetary policy has begun to go on the right track, whereas before it was populist, incompetent and followed the excesses of fiscal policy, money printing and artificially low interest rates.

Now the emphasis is on price stability, cleaner financial regulation, restoring institutional independence and there is monetary law in the works. All of that is good news,” the respected economist pointed out.

Reiterating the need for urgent reforms, Dr. Sally, a professor at the National University of Singapore, called on the young Sri Lankan professionals to gain economic literacy and push the government to deliver on the hopes of economic reforms which in turn could improve the lives of ordinary citizens. Shrugging off concerns that there is no economic direction for reforms, Sally said that in November 2017 Sri Lanka started to pursue serious market reforms which immediately attracted foreign investors.

“The Prime Minister asked me to organise an economic strategy retreat and we met in December in Kalutara. We went through five sessions and the idea was to come up with key proprietary actions for 2018 and 2019. We agreed on certain things and circulated a paper,” the economist said commending the existence of political will towards reforms.

On the other hand, Sally highlighted that resetting of foreign relations, restoration of civil liberties, improved media freedom and better relationship with the minority communities in the country were some of the positives the government was able to achieve during the past three years.