We have not sold anything but only leased out. If you take Hambantota after seventy years we will become the major share holder
The inflows of foreign investments are increasing. The export sector is also now on the correct path. The export of goods and services has increased. Next year it will improve much more
The situation regarding rice would improve, but Coconut scarcity would last some more time
We did not sell the country. It was Rajapaksas who sold the land in Galle Face outright, we took over the power and changed it
During the past two years we were able to pull the country out of the mess. We took over the government with a mountain of loans
The following discussion with Minister of Strategic Development and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama centred around the present political situation of the country.
Excerpts from the discussion
QLet us first discuss about the country’s economy.
During the last two years we laid the foundation and effected the plans for the economic development, and it is now gathering momentum. The inflows of foreign investments are increasing annually. The export sector is also now on the correct path. The export of goods and services has increased compared to the early years. Next year it will improve much more. Our attempt is to increase the pace of economic development. We continue our dialogues with foreign investors, who have shown a keen interest after being satisfied with the action plan of our government.
Therefore, it is evident that those who are now in contact with us would soon commence their investments. This shows our success in the past two to three years.
Yes there are issues. It is common that there are differences in the policies of the UNP and the SLFP. Our attempt is to strike a balance between these two factions. Now everyone is convinced that it is the economic policy of the UNP that could develop the country
QListening to your statement make us believe that very soon the country would turn into a heaven, but when one visits a shop outside to purchase a kilo of rice or a coconut they see stars even during day time.
We accept the fact that the cost of living is on the rise and people are undergoing hardships. There is a reason for it. This issue became serious with the drought the country experienced due to insufficient rains.
Paddy production fell by 53%. The yield of Coconuts also fell. The continuous drought affected both these sectors. We have now come up with alternate solutions, and hope to reduce the cost of living by adopting these measures. The Government had taken steps to import rice and Coconuts, and within the next month or two this problem would ease. We expect the price of Coconuts to come down shortly. We met under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and decided to introduce control prices to eight essential items. This move has been accepted by traders now.
QAre we going to wait in expectations of everything being imported to the country.
I said earlier this situation was the result of the drought and no sooner the rains come the situation would improve. The situation regarding rice would improve, but Coconut scarcity would last some more time as the yield of the new cultivation needs time to arrive at the market.
QHambantota port was sold, what is your next move.
We have not sold anything. Hambantota harbour is an asset to us, but just because it is an asset we cannot expect to maintain it as it was a loss and the people had to bear. What we attempted was to derive the best from this asset and earn profits. The former Government had no plans of earning a profit from the harbour. We have now corrected this position and now we are earning profits from the Hambantota harbour.
We continue our dialogues with foreign investors, who have shown a keen interest after being satisfied with the action plan of our government
QThis Government came into power saying that the Rajapaksas’ were selling the country. Isn’t it a turn of fate now that you all are selling what Rajapaksas’ built.
It is a complete canard that we are selling country’s resources. These views had been expressed without knowing the real facts. We have not sold anything but only leased out. If you take Hambantota after seventy years we will become the major share holder.
We did not sell the country. It was Rajapaksas who sold the land in Galle Face outright. When they were planning to sell the port city outright we took over the power and changed it. We have not sold an inch of this country to any one outright.
QRajapaksa says that this Government is unable to take forward the development schemes started by them.
All the projects started by them as development were unable to gain any profit. What we are doing now is showing them how we earn profitably from these projects. The country is now in this state because of Rajapaksas ill planned development projects.
QWhenever the UNP comes into power it is the hope that the economy of the country would blossom. But this time it appears you have failed.
Don’t say that. During the past two years we were able to pull the country out of the mess it was in. We took over the government with a mountain of loans. If Rajapaksas were in power the country would have been in really a bad position now.
QDid the investors arrive here during the recent past as expected by you.
The investors were waiting in expectation of what the new government is going to do. This is the usual manner the investors react, and after watching the situation, and built up confidence then only they take further steps.
They are satisfied with our performances. Special emphasis had been made through my Ministry. If this journey becomes successful we can be par with Singapore and Malaysia.
People are now free to demonstrate and engage in protest marches. During the former regime these public out cries were suppressed by guns
QYour anticipated journey towards achievements is hampered by the conflicts within the two groups in the government.
Yes there are issues. It is common that there are differences in the policies of the UNP and the SLFP.
Our attempt is to strike a balance between these two factions. Now everyone is convinced that it is the economic policy of the UNP that could develop the country.
QThe UNP strived very hard to bring Maithripala Sirisena to the Presidency. But those who ridiculed him in the wildest manner are now going on bended knees towards him, and he receives them gladly, it seems that he is leaving the UNP in the lurch.
It is not an issue for us. Our members are with us and they will give their fullest support at any elections, which is sufficient for us and with the change of events many would rally around us.
QWhat I meant was that the President is despising you all even after their dedication shown to him.
No.We never think in that manner and we do not feel sorry about it. There can be issues in the future and it is our expectation to forge ahead.
QWhere are those who spoke about the notorious thieves before 2015 January 8th.
That is something we too are worried. We cannot interfere in legal matters. We are also eagerly awaiting early action on these issues. Even after two years, proving the guilt and punishing them is dragging on. It is our concern as well. We feel frustrated in not being able to punish those who had committed frauds and engaged in corruption.
QThere is an allegation that the Rajapaksas are freely moving about after having entered into deals with the Government.
I say with authority that none of them have any deals with the government.
Q The mini poll is round the corner. Is the UNP ready?
We will await the results. We are ready for the poll. When we get the power of the village also, the Central government would be strengthened. According to our estimates we are confident that the UNP would secure a major win.
QSome are of the opinion that this Government attempts to resolve issues only after they had become complex. The Government is bent on prolonging these agitations with the view of frustrating those who are involved in these actions, assuming that they would give up the fight after being exhausted.
We have offered solutions as and when needed and do not encourage them to be dragged on. People are now free to demonstrate and engage in protest marches. During the former regime these public
outcries were suppressed by guns. We are not inclined in that way. Today anyone is free to step on to the roads demanding their rights. Today even the media is free to criticize the government to whatever extent they propose. But however the government is not bent on suppressing these agitations.
QThis Government which came to power saying that they will catch the thieves, interfered with the Central Bank.
We have to wait for the outcome of the commission report until then we cannot say whether there was a fraud or not but our party is not involved in this matter. On our own we could not arrive at a conclusion therefore a Commission was appointed and the truth will be revealed in due course. We will not interfere in the decision.
QIf you say that there was no irregularity, then why did the best Finance Minister of Asia leave his post.
That is how the Yahapalanaya works. He took the decision to be away from it until the investigations are over and a final decision is arrived at. This is Democracy.
QMahinda Rajapaksa is trying to comeback carrying a Bud with him.
How can he come back. I do not think they would ever get that chance.