President on IMF bail out package and economic management | Sunday Observer

President on IMF bail out package and economic management

5 February, 2023

During the past week President Ranil Wickremesinghe personally got involved in the arrangements made to celebrate the 75th Independence Day celebrations on a grand scale.

The President laid emphasis on activities such as getting the IMF bailout package and economic management. The President also focused attention on the Government Policy Statement to be made when Parliament reconvenes on February 8.

As usual the President attended the Cabinet meeting on Monday. The President had also brought several proposals which are important to the economy. Then the President submitted a Cabinet proposal to minimise the expenditure of state institutions and it had been proposed to suspend the expenditure made on credit basis.

Presenting the Cabinet paper, the President said, “After Cabinet approval is given, I will send this to the Finance Ministry Secretary.”

Then Minister Bandula Gunawardena said, “Sir, this is a difficult task. Most of the institutions are maintaining their expenditure based on loans.”

The President replied, “Yes, that is a difficult task but we don’t have money. The expenditure of this month has gone up by three times the revenue.”

Several proposals had also been submitted for Cabinet approval. Following the Cabinet meeting, the Ministers inquired the President on the resignation letter of the Election Commission member P.S.M. Charles. The President told the Ministers in lighter vein “Yes, I received a letter. However, I haven’t yet made a decision whether to accept it or not.”

On the following day, the Finance Ministry Secretary had forwarded the proposal made by the President as the Minister of Finance. It had stated to stop the purchase of goods on credit basis and suspend other payments. It had also recommended that if such payments are made, the officer who gives approval to it should personally pay that money.

Most of the Ministers appreciated the comment by the President in Anuradhapura on the reduction of tax files. They were of the view that those who properly realised that statement got a clear understanding of how the country became bankrupt.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said, “Direct taxes are high in developed countries. In our country, there are more indirect taxes than direct taxes. At present 80 percent of those who get low salaries safeguard 10 percent of the people who get high salaries.”

MP Wajira Abeywardena who also joined the conversation said, “This is a misconception. Now the people have faced hardships. However, the President clearly said this crisis emerged due to wrong decisions taken by the former President. We will be able to see the results of the decisions taken by the incumbent President in the third quarter of this year.”

State Minister Shantha Bandara said, “Yes, the President also said that the salaries can also be increased in the third quarter.”

President Wickremesinghe who patiently listened to the remarks of the Ministers gave instructions to the Treasury to provide Rs. 20 billion to purchase paddy to maintain rice prices at a stable level.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said, “Sir, there is no issue of not holding the election but providing money to purchase the paddy of farmers is a must.

Meanwhile, the President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka also raised an issue faced by military officials regarding their allowance.

The President said that he will discuss with the Finance Ministry and try to provide some relief. Minister Manusha Nanayakkara drew the attention of the President that the industrialists in the tourism sector have got frightened due to the election heat.

He said, “Those in the tourism sector are in fear that an unstable situation will be created in the country when the money is allocated to conduct the election.”

Minister Bandula Gunawardena who posed a question to the President said, “Both Anura Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa are telling that the Government will not go for the IMF bailout package. This will become an issue for us. Because they are telling us that we don’t settle the loans that we have obtained.”

Then a senior Government officer who was there said, “If we do not obtain the IMF credit facility, they should tell how to settle our loans. There is nearly Rs. 1 trillion in loans to be settled.”

Sinhala Cultural Institute

The President on Monday met the officials of the Sinhala Cultural Institute and inquired about its activities. During the meeting, the President didn’t forget to exchange pleasantries with one of his old friends, veteran actor W. Jayasiri. The President vested the responsibility to his Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka to discuss with the World Bank country representatives. Following the President’s directive, Ratnayaka discussed with World Bank representatives on Tuesday.

The United States Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who is on an official visit to Sri Lanka to participate in the 75 th Independence Day celebrations called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday.

The President went to Kandy on Wednesday to present the distinguished service awards “Vishishta Seva Vibhushana” to 77 senior officers of the Tri Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force). The awards ceremony organised in conjunction with the 75 th Independence day celebrations was held at the Presidential Palace.

The President also presented the 75th Independence Anniversary Commemorative Medals to 20 Tri-Forces personnel. Before the President went to Kandy, information was divulged to him that the Election Commission attempted to spend the money deposited by the political parties and independent groups for the upcoming LG elections.

A group of representatives of political parties and independent groups who had expressed their opposition had complained to the CID, Finance Ministry and the Election Commission regarding that. Then the President immediately informed his Secretary Saman Ekanayake to look into the matter and inform him.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe called on the Chief Prelates of the Malwatu and Asgiri Chapters on Thursday and received their blessings. The President visited the Malwathu Maha Vihara and called on the Chief Prelate of the Malwathu Chapter Most Ven. Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera.

The President inquired about his well-being and offered Atapirikara to the Maha Sangha. The Maha Sangha led by Most Ven. Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera invoked blessings on the President and the Chief Prelate presented a special commemorative gift to President Wickremesinghe.

The President also made a special note in the commemorative book placed at the Malwathu Maha Vihara. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who then visited the Asgiri Maha Viharaya called on the Chief Prelate of the Asgiri Chapter Most Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera and engaged in a brief discussion.

The President also inquired about the development activities of the Asgiri Maha Vihara and the Maha Sangha led by the Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter chanted Seth Pirith invoking blessings on the President. During the meeting, the Chief Prelates of Malwatu and Asgiri Chapters had urged the President not to implement the land and Police powers in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake and several others were also present.

Former Speaker and politician Karu Jayasuriya received the “Sri Lankabhimanya” Honorary Award, at a ceremony held at the President’s House in Colombo under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday.

This honour was bestowed on Jayasuriya in recognition of the services rendered to the country by him. Former Speaker Jayasuriya was presented with the medal and award by President Wickremesinghe. During the ceremony, Jayasuriya also presented the President with a commemorative book containing a collection of photographs, a retrospective of his life’s journey. This event was organised in line with the 75th Anniversary of Independence.

Former Speaker Jayasuriya said that what should be done at this point of time is not the struggle of racism, but to work to create national harmony. He also requested all parties and Opposition parties to join hands to ensure that the next generation would be handed over a glorious country having rectified the shortcomings that have occurred over the past 75 years.

New Envoys

Eleven newly appointed Ambassadors and six High Commissioners to Sri Lanka presented their credentials to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Palace in Kandy on Thursday. Ambassadors have been appointed to Cote d’Ivoire, Uruguay, Mongolia, Serbia, Sudan, Armenia, North Macedonia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Ecuador, while High Commissioners have been appointed to Jamaica, Tanzania, Malawi, Canada, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Following the acceptance of their credentials, President Wickremesinghe engaged in cordial discussions with the new Ambassadors and High Commissioners. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry,PC and President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake were also present.

Commemorative stamp

A commemorative stamp issued by the Philatelic Bureau and the special commemorative coin issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on the occasion of the 75th National Independence Day, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Palace, Kandy on Thursday.

The President received the commemorative stamp from the Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, and the commemorative coin was presented to the President by Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe.

The Philatelic Bureau issued the Rs. 50 stamp and first day cover in keeping with the practices followed over the years on such significant events. Meanwhile, the Central Bank issued an uncirculated commemorative coin in the denomination of Rs. 1000 to mark the 75 th Anniversary of Independence.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe paid obeisance to the historical Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy on Thursday afternoon and received blessings. The President also participated in the special Pooja prepared for the relics of the sacred tooth, initiating the 75th National Independence Day celebrations. The President also participated in the Pirith chanting conducted at the Victoria Dam site and obtained blessings.

President Wickremesinghe, who also engaged in an observation tour of the Victoria Dam premises, also instructed the officials to develop the premises in a manner that would attract tourists.

The maiden SJB political rally held at Kurunegala ended up adding a new dimension to the party. Before the commencement of the rally thousands of people had flocked to the venue.

When Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa reached the venue, it was fully packed with the SJB supporters. All SJBers were very jubilant as they were able to organise the biggest ever rally in Kurunegala.

One of the highlights of the rally was that over 1,000 SLPP supporters joined the SJB extending their support to the Opposition Leader. Another notable incident was that over 25 doctors and professors also got into the SJB political stage. It was the view of Opposition Leader Premadasa that a code of ethics should be introduced to all people’s representatives starting from Local Government institutions.

The Opposition Leader said the SJB has already decided to introduce a new political culture through the Local Government institutions and formulate a code of ethics for each Local Government member. In future, we will put an end to the practice of Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of Local Government bodies undertaking contracts.

Contracts will be prohibited for our Local Government members. We will stop the ‘political deal culture’ practiced by politicians for their personal gains. The SJB will take steps to convert Local Government institutions into ‘Smart Councils’.

Opposition Leader Premadasa told his candidates, “After obtaining people’s votes, if somebody is waiting to indulge in corruption and exploit public funds, we tell him to go home right now. Instead of engaging in politics, they should find some other job. The people’s representatives we produce will have to forget perks and other privileges given to politicians. They will have to remove the word ‘no’ from their vocabulary.”

SJB General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said, “We don’t work targeting the next election. Actually, we work on behalf of the future generation by targeting the next few decades.”

Then the Opposition Leader said, “Some people criticise us without having any basis. Let them criticise and sling mud at us. We can tell our program to the country. We should bring our vision of the country to each and every village. Let them disturb our journey but we can tell the country of our action plan of rebuilding the country. Let’s prove our opponents, as long as they criticise and attack us we are getting strengthened day by day.”

SJB Parliamentarian Eran Wickremaratne said 47 university lecturers are now waiting to migrate. He said hundreds of specialist doctors and engineers have already left the country.

MP Gayantha Karunatilleka said we are losing the intellectuals who can work on behalf of the country. He said “Now the President attempts to implement the 13th Amendment. However, we know the ‘VIP socialists’ don’t utter even a single word regarding that. We have a stance on the 13th Amendment. We would like to ask the JVP on their stance on the 13th Amendment.

Those days they launched struggles saying that J.R. should be killed. At that time, they provoked over 60,000 youth to protest against the 13th Amendment which finally led to the loss of their lives.”

During the past few days, the Opposition Leader continuously attended political meetings in the Northern Province. Later, he came to attend a meeting at Matale. A significant incident occurred at the Matale meeting. Former State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe who was distanced from politics over two years participated in the Matale rally.

A series of groundwork had taken place behind the scenes to bring Sujeewa Senasinghe back into the political stage. Finally, all those plans had worked successfully and Senasinghe made a fairy speech at the rally.

Opposition Leader Premadasa said, “Sujeewa should come to all our rallies. Then Sujeewa smiled and gave his consent to the Opposition Leader’s request.

National People’s Power (NPP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva said that instead of finding the faults of the Government, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa is now going around the country asking the people not to vote for the National People’s Power (NPP). Speaking at a NPP meeting in Ratnapura, he said that the SJB was worried as the people’s support for the NPP is growing day-by-day. He also said that the NPP will be a clear winner at the upcoming Local Government polls.