Ports Minister blasts newspaper advertisements liberalizing shipping industry | Daily News

Ports Minister blasts newspaper advertisements liberalizing shipping industry

Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday, took up arms against the publishing of full page newspaper advertisements by the Finance and Mass Media Ministry on liberalizing the shipping industry.

The minister speaking at the Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament when the Finance Heads of his ministry were taken up, reiterated his strong opposition to the budget proposal to fully open up the shipping sector to foreign companies.

“For the second time, full page advertisements were published in favour of fully liberalizing the shipping sector. This is public money. Do they have no other topic to highlight? We strongly condemn it,” said the minister pointing to the newspaper advertisement.

“The line ministry is under me. I will not sign that Gazette. Since 1992, foreign ownership of shipping and freight forwarding agencies had been restricted to 40 percent. The balance 60 percent is reserved for local companies. The system continued smoothly since 1992. There are over 500 shipping and freight forwarding agents in Sri Lanka employing about 12,000 people. The SLFP always protected the local businessmen,” he said.

The minister said President Mathiripala Sirisena also stands by this position and Minister Rauf Hakeem, who is a former Shipping Minister, spoke in the same line at the Cabinet meeting. Samarasinghe pointed out even though foreign ownership is restricted, the shipping sector has already been fully opened and that any foreign company could even set up their regional headquarters in Sri Lanka.

He criticized the Finance Ministry for not discussing the proposal prior to the Budget with the Line Ministry and those involved in the sector. He said the SLFP has proposed to impose a pre-qualification that full foreign ownership would be allowed only if the foreign companies agree to bring in investment over USD 100 million.

“Local businessmen invest money they earn within the country, whereas foreign companies take the money to their respective countries. We stand by the interests of local businessmen,” he said.


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