Gota’s speech stark reminder of excesses of previous regime -Minister Malik Samarawickrama | Sunday Observer

Gota’s speech stark reminder of excesses of previous regime -Minister Malik Samarawickrama

Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama  Pic: Lake House Media Library
Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama Pic: Lake House Media Library

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s every word at the recent Viyath Maga convention reminds the country of all of the catastrophic and corrupt economic blunders committed by his family, from which this country is still trying to recover, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama said in a statement issued yesterday.

“Listening to him, anyone with sufficient amnesia would assume that he was not in fact a leader of the Government nearly brought our economy to its knees by racking up trillions in debt at staggering interest rates and making investments willy-nilly without even the illusion of an economic or market analysis,” says Minister Samarawickrama.

The statement in full: “It is apparent that a coordinated campaign is underway to give undue prominence to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s carefully choreographed speech given at the Shangri La Hotel last week. The event organisers are to be commended for garnering prior publicity for the event, and for using social media and electronic media to create the illusion of substance where there was none.

After peeling back all the pomp and theatricality, what is left is nothing new. The takeaway is Gotabaya Rajapaksa has spent the last three years developing a deep admiration and appreciation for the economic policies and vision of the Yahapalanaya government. Simply put, his is a strong argument for why this government should have another five years to implement its 2025 Economic Plan and Vision.

The former Defence Secretary has said that China, India and Japan will be economic giants in the coming decade and Asia will be the economic powerhouse. He should be congratulated for realizing this, albeit belatedly. This is exactly why we are negotiating an agreement with China and a comprehensive economic and technology agreement with India. We have signed an agreement with Singapore and hope to do so with the Asian economies as well. Focussing attention on Asia, our aim is to make Sri Lanka the hub of Asia and reap the benefits of Asian economic growth.

According to Gotabaya’s thinking at this late stage, economic development is the panacea for all ills of the country. His is a vote of confidence for our decision to concentrate our collective efforts on economic development projects and the introduction of economic reforms to ensure the economic resurgence of the majority people. Our brain child, the one million employment project, is targeted to realize the same objective. If only the government he helped lead for nine years had held the same priorities, our country would already be leading the charge.

He has decided belatedly that there is a need to transform the economic fabric to ensure a more efficient and productive economy. It must be easy to realize this after watching for three years as this government has given pride of place to competitiveness and economic reforms over the decade of nepotism and lawlessness over which he helped preside.

Gotabaya in his speech has suddenly developed a keen interest for fostering a socialist market economy for Sri Lanka. He has clearly spent his time out of office reading and appreciating UNP manifestos, in each of which this principle has been a cornerstone. While this government committed to adapting the traditional economic model from day one, he on one hand charges that the delay on our part will deprive us of such opportunities, while his political allies seek to obstruct our progress at every turn.

Science and technology are in ascendency while internet-based enterprise is growing and tourism industry, medical tourism, information and communication technology and education need to be developed through the Internet, he said. He had claimed that Sri Lanka could create a digital economy and a smart society.

Perhaps he should have advised the government he served to launch a project akin to our ‘Smart Society Circles’ initiative, through the Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Institute. We have introduced the digital economy strategy precisely aimed at this very purpose. Having regard to the demand of the economy, the government will give effect to it through agriculture, tourist industry and manufacturing.

He emphasises the need for policy prescriptions to encourage and incentive Foreign Direct Investment and facilitate the process, as if the Board of Investment has not revolutionized private sector investment promotion over the last three years. By next month there will be a fully online portal one stop shop for investor approvals, while innovations continue, and investors are free to do business in a lawful society devoid of the rampant corruption over which he and his family presided.

Long after this government’s Megapolis Ministry identified port-related logistic zones that are slated for targeted development in Hambantota and North Colombo, it has dawned on Gotabaya Rajapaksa that this is indeed a clever idea, and he speaks of the need to commence an initiative that is well underway.

Gotabaya asserts that while obtaining capital we need to be mindful of whether investments will be productive and he cautions against crisis should the Sri Lankan state fail to pay back mounting loans. He thus cautions that investments should not be made without market analysis. For his own part, we have the example of the Akuregoda Defence Complex, for which he is solely responsible. This project is eight times over the budget and will cost taxpayers another 100 billion rupees just to complete it. Our tri-forces need excellent new facilities, and don’t deserve the delays and inefficiencies caused by such reckless fiscal mismanagement in their name, all at the cost of advancing health, education and other essential services for their families and the citizenry as a whole.

Rajapaksa today declares as mantra that if funds are invested in a new state enterprise, it should be profitable and need to be managed profitably. It is wonderful that he has learnt this lesson, and less wonderful that his education came at the cost of multi-billion-rupee boondoggles such as Mihin Lanka, the Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, that squandered the majority of our sovereign wealth.

Gotabaya is clearly trying to reinvent himself as a visionary leader with a strong economic policy foundation. However, not all the pomp and circumstance on this earth can prevent his every word from reminding the country of all of the catastrophic and corrupt economic blunders committed by his family, from which this country is still trying to recover.” 

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