Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has departed from traditional methods and introduced a series of policies and programs tailored to the current needs, taking appropriate action in accordance with them.These programs may not be widely popular, but they are essential for the nation’s well-being.
Q: How do events like the International Monetary Fund’s approval of the second loan tranche and China’s commitment to supporting economic stability affect the country’s future economy?
As a nation, we have endured a challenging period and are now entering a phase filled with hope. However, it’s important to recognise that this doesn’t signify the resolution of all the country’s issues. As a Government, we have prioritised making sound political decisions over pursuing popular ones, often facing significant challenges. Our ongoing duty and responsibility are to sustain this progress and cultivate an economy and nation that brings relief to our citizens. Our Government is fully dedicated to this endeavour.
Q: Nevertheless, certain groups persist in portraying the International Monetary Fund as a malevolent force, correct?
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has departed from traditional methods and introduced a series of policies and programs tailored to the current needs, taking appropriate action in accordance with them. We understand that these programs may not be widely popular, but they are essential for the nation’s well-being.
It is imperative for both the public and politicians to comprehend this truth. Regardless of the ruling Government, adherence to the terms outlined by the International Monetary Fund is indispensable.
These terms are crucial for our integration into the global economy, the world market, and the international banking system. The precarious circumstances that prevailed in the past have now been mitigated.
The favourable backdrop we now enjoy is a result of President Wickremesinghe’s sound economic policies. Our current focus should be on optimising these conditions by bolstering our production economy, boosting foreign exchange earnings, fortifying our dollar reserves, and accelerating economic development. By doing so, we can enhance the people’s standard of living and make life more manageable. We must remain mindful of this economic principle.
Q: How is the Government gearing up to address the potential surge in strikes, as cautioned by certain trade unions in the coming days?
Opposition parties consistently attempt to exploit the economic hardships faced by the public as a political tool. However, we maintain the belief that the majority of the country’s citizens have discerned that the current Government is not solely accountable for this predicament, but rather a cumulative consequence of past administrations and their adherence to populist policies.
Q: Can you provide an update on the progress of the program aimed at restructuring public enterprises and institutions that are currently operating at a loss?
In the course of restructuring State-owned enterprises and organisations, there is a proposal to revamp not only those running at a loss but also certain profitable entities.
Some individuals question why profitable institutions are subject to restructuring. This action aligns with the fundamental policy that the government should not engage in business activities.
The fundamental duty of the Government is to maintain law and order, oversee public administration, and safeguard the well-being of the nation’s citizens.
In the contemporary world, not only in advanced countries but even in far-left and communist nations, there is a trend of outsourcing business operations to the private sector. When these private enterprises generate profits, they are taxed, thereby enabling the Government to fulfil its essential roles.
By restructuring Government-owned businesses, including those that are currently profitable, and expanding their operations, the entire national economy can experience growth. This expansion contributes to an increase in the overall domestic gross product, aligning with a sound economic policy.
Q: It has been announced that bids will be invited for the sale of shares in SriLankan Airlines. What is the current status, and do you have confidence that this move can lead the company to a profitable position?
There is a prevalent belief among many that the ministers are collaborating in this endeavour. However, it’s crucial to emphasise that this is an exceptionally transparent initiative. A committee, comprising officials and experts appointed by a foreign company to provide counsel and direction for this transaction, is responsible for drafting the necessary tender documents. Upon receiving the proposals, this committee evaluates them and subsequently presents its recommendations to the Cabinet.
Consequently, the committee’s call for proposals concerning SriLankan Airlines will be widely publicised both domestically and internationally by October 31. We are providing a highly transparent opportunity for those who have an interest in this matter, with a 45-day window for submissions.
Q: There have been recent reports of flight delays. What specific measures have been implemented to avert such occurrences?
The issue stemmed from an unforeseen union strike by the pilots and engineers concerning their compensation and benefits. Unfortunately, such actions are beyond our control.
The scarcity of airplane pilots and engineers is not unique to our country but is a global challenge.
We engaged in discussions with the concerned parties, and we have successfully resolved the situation. It’s essential to acknowledge that we operate as a relatively small airline.
Our maximum flight capacity, initially set at 26, has been curtailed to 21 flights. This reduction is primarily due to the dollar crisis, which hindered our ability to promptly repair and maintain our aircraft fleet.
Presently, these tasks are being addressed on a case-by-case basis, and we lack the financial resources to sustain additional aircrafts. Our approach is to lease aircraft, but we have faced challenges in finding suitable suppliers.
By integrating with a larger airline through the restructuring program and forming a partnership with a robust ally, we anticipate the ability to devise effective solutions to these issues.
Q: Have there been any developments or progress with the special plan to sustain the Mattala Airport without incurring Government expenses?
Currently, we have initiated the process of soliciting proposals for this purpose. If successful, we anticipate that this effort will help mitigate the losses incurred by the airport in the future.
Our long-term vision includes attracting a greater number of aircraft to Mattala and bringing in more tourists from various countries, including Russia, with the aim of bolstering the nation’s economy. Up to this point, only 48,000 Russian tourists have visited Mattala.
Q: A committee has been established to examine potential amendments to the electoral system. What is your perspective on this matter?
This is a pressing necessity at this juncture. Personally, I have benefited from the preferential election system, consistently securing the highest number of votes in the Badulla district during every election. However, I believe that an electoral system that combats corruption in politics, provides opportunities for newcomers to enter Parliament, and safeguards the rights of minorities and smaller political parties is of paramount importance. Such objectives can best be achieved through a mixed electoral system.
Q: There have been numerous critiques regarding the recent cabinet reshuffle. Your comment?
In my view, President Wickremesinghe has executed the changes in a well-timed manner. He has trimmed the size of the Cabinet by one member. It’s worth noting that this aspect hasn’t garnered much attention.
While certain ministries have been subdivided, this division has been conducted in a methodical manner. The public’s anticipation is not for an expansion of the Cabinet, and this cabinet reshuffle addresses that concern. I believe that the citizens of the country are content with these actions.
Q: There are individuals who hold the view that the conflicts among government stakeholders pose a hindrance to the government’s stability. Your comment?
Crises have been a recurring theme in every political party within the country. It’s virtually impossible to identify a single party that hasn’t faced internal struggles. Such occurrences are inherent to the nature of democratic politics. While various parties and groups within the government have articulated their ambitions, it’s noteworthy that ideological conflicts have not escalated to the extent of destabilising the Government.
Q: Will this year’s budget meet the expectations of the people and provide them with greater relief?
The people’s desire is to foster economic growth, a budget designed to achieve that goal will be presented. However, meeting the expectations of those seeking minor concessions is a challenging proposition.