Published on: March 24, 2024

New Economic Reforms Vital for Country’s Economic Recovery

  • Youth Empowered to Determine the Path Forward for a Brighter Future
  • While Certain Politicians Contemplate Personal Ambitions, My Dedication Stays Firmly Anchored to the Nation – Says the President in a Cordial Encounter with the ‘United Youth Union’.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasizes the necessity of a new economic reform program for the country’s economic recovery. He urges collective support from all citizens to prevent the next generation from inheriting the hardships of past economic crises.

The President reminisced about inheriting a country others were reluctant to lead, highlighting that while some focused on their political aspirations, his concerns were committed towards the welfare of the nation’s future.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while participating in a friendly discussion organized by the ‘United Youth Union’ on the theme ‘Future of our Youth’. The event took place yesterday (23) in Polonnaruwa.

During the ‘Conversation with the President’ meeting, President Ranil Wickremesinghe engaged in discussions with the youth, focusing on the future and vision of the country. The President addressed various issues raised by the youth and provided solutions during the session.

During the event, President Ranil Wickramasinghe asserted that the populace would reap the rewards of the government’s on-going economic reform endeavours within a few years. He stressed the importance of the nation’s youth determining the trajectory towards a brighter future for both themselves and the country.

Addressing the youth, the President emphasized:

I assumed leadership of a country in decline, one that other political leaders were reluctant to govern. Contemplating the consequences had I not stepped in, I recognized the stakes were high. While some feared the impact on their political careers, I considered the dire prospect of the country’s demise if immediate action wasn’t taken.

My sole challenge was my solitary presence in Parliament. However, around December, I engaged in discussions with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). Subsequently, I briefed the former President on these discussions and urged him to implement the proposed program.
In the previous election, the United National Party declared the country’s financial deficit, emphasizing the urgent need to secure at least US$ 03 billion. Despite our efforts, this candid disclosure did not resonate with voters. However, the accuracy of this statement became evident in 2021.

Assuming leadership amidst such dire circumstances, I pondered the repercussions had I not stepped in. The nation’s economy teetered on the brink of collapse, necessitating immediate action. We diligently pursued support from the IMF to revive the ailing economy. Successfully concluding negotiations with the IMF, we are now poised to engage with the countries from which we have borrowed, seeking further assistance to stabilize our financial footing.

Following these discussions, our country’s development initiatives will receive renewed support from these nations. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that this alone does not address all our challenges. Persistently operating as an import-dependent economy, where imports surpass exports annually necessitates borrowing to bridge this gap. Without rectifying this structural imbalance our economy risks collapsing again within the next decade.

It is incumbent upon each of us to prevent the transmission of this economic crisis to the next generation. I firmly believe that this responsibility rests upon all our shoulders, necessitating our full dedication. Urgent economic restructuring is imperative, transitioning from an import-dependent to an export-driven economy. This requires comprehensive economic development across urban and rural areas alike, coupled with stringent budgetary controls. By implementing these governmental reforms, we can envisage a shift to an export-oriented economy by 2035, paving the way for sustained economic growth thereafter.

Furthermore, the government aims to double the annual tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka from 2.5 million to 5 million. Efforts will also be made to attract high-spending tourists to the country.

Additionally, we are dedicated to rural development through an agricultural modernization initiative. This initiative aims to facilitate agricultural exports by enhancing rural infrastructure. We are introducing new crop varieties and collaborating with the Thai government to explore ‘Durian’ cultivation opportunities. By increasing crop productivity, we envisage substantial improvements in the rural economy.

With abundant solar and wind resources in our country, transitioning to wind and solar energy production could yield tenfold the required energy, with surplus electricity exportable to India. Moreover, a thousand-acre investment zone in Trincomalee is underway, supported by India. Plans also include the development of the Mahaweli A and B zones to establish modern agricultural practices.

Efforts have been underway to establish new investment zones in Bingiriya and the North, with the requisite land already earmarked for this purpose. These initiatives are slated for implementation within the next five years.

I am undertaking all these endeavours for the betterment of your future. It should be emphasized that these efforts are ultimately for the benefit and prosperity of your children.

Additionally, efforts have been directed towards the development of the Higurakgoda area, with funding allocated this year for the construction of Higurakgoda Airport. This initiative will expand air services to the province. Furthermore, the historic town of Polonnaruwa can be made accessible to tourists both day and night. By integrating cultural elements with modern dances and songs, we have the potential to organize diverse tourism programs. It is imperative that we advance with these initiatives.

Henceforth, it is imperative for the youth to chart the course for the nation’s future. You hold the reins to your destiny. Within our political landscape, there exists a faction advocating quick fixes akin to “oil medicine.” However, the issues confronting our nation cannot be remedied with such temporary solutions. Therefore, I urge you to exercise caution and foresight as you navigate towards the future.

The questions posed by the youth and the responses provided by President Ranil Wickremesinghe are outlined below:

Q:
We have a significant expanse of paddy fields within the Lankapura Gramaseva Division, with some of these fields under the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Department. We kindly request your consideration to allocate these fields once again for cultivation purposes.

A:
As per the 1985 map, there are lands designated under the purview of the Department of Wildlife, as well as lands allotted to villages. We seek to thoroughly review this information and proceed with necessary actions accordingly.

Q:
As youth, we hold great admiration for you. In our region, there is potential to generate revenue in dollars. We believe that showcasing the wild elephants that frequent our villages could attract foreign visitors and enable us to earn foreign currency. Therefore, we request your support in providing us with training opportunities, enabling us to contribute to the country’s revenue while securing our own income.

A:
Tourism in our country is currently making significant strides forward. Furthermore, a committee has been tasked with the promotion of tourism. Therefore, I would like to assure you that solutions will be forthcoming in the near future

Q:
We reside in a remote village located in the Welikanda area. We kindly appeal to you to allocate land for us to engage in cultivation activities utilizing modern technology as part of the government’s agricultural modernization project.

A:
In 1977, the Welikanda area was predominantly covered by dense forest. Today, Welikanda and Maduru Oya have evolved into highly conducive provinces for agriculture. We have devised plans to introduce modern agricultural practices to the village under the Agricultural Modernization Project. Additionally, we have initiated a program to distribute free land deeds to the residents, with the aim of completing it within two months, granting legal land rights to 02 million people. Furthermore, we aspire to boost the tourism industry in this area and encourage agricultural cultivation as part of the agricultural modernization program.

Q:
Dimbulagala holds a distinctive position within the tourism industry. I recommend that special attention be directed towards its development.

A:
With the assistance of the International Monetary Fund program, there is now an opportunity to execute the country’s development initiatives. Consequently, the government has prioritized the promotion of tourism and is aiming to boost tourist arrivals. Additionally, efforts are underway to elevate tourism revenue to LKR 5.5 million. It is noteworthy that the government is concentrating on the development of all regions as potential tourist attractions.

Q:
President, I am a law student. In 1989, Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) killed six members of my family in a single day and looted property worth LKR 08 million. Their bodies were not even allowed to be buried in the cemetery. We still live in fear due to the remnants of JVP.

As a member of the affected family, I have been unfairly deprived of my shop on the main street owned by the Higurakgoda Provincial Council as an act of political revenge, hindering my ability to conduct business. For three decades, many young individuals like me have endured such political reprisals, depriving us of rightful opportunities. I am curious if you have any plans to address this issue.

A:
We are prepared to address your concerns. Best wishes with your studies.

The event was attended by Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, former Deputy Minister Chandrasiri Suriyarachchi, SLPP Organizer of Minneriya Jagath Samarawickrama, Chairman of the United Youth Advisory Board Sudath Chandrasekera, its Director General Prasad Asanka Ratnayake, National Organizer Vijith Anuradha, and a significant number of youth representing the Polonnaruwa district.

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