Previous regime’s repression blocked post-war investment boom | Daily News


 Mangala tells SL Economic Summit::

Previous regime’s repression blocked post-war investment boom

‘Rule-of-law, democracy, reconciliation, decisive for country’:

The previous regime’s naked power-grab by stabbing the rule of law in the back was a key reason for the failure of the promised post-war investment boom to materialise, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday.

He was speaking at the ‘Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2019’ organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo, yesterday.

The Finance Minister told the packed gathering of business people, investors, scholars and bureaucrats at the premier business chamber’s annual event: “Some people with short memories say they want decisive leadership.That is good. Sri Lanka needs decisive leaders. But it certainly cannot realise its economic objectives with leaders who decisively sack the judiciary, decisively murder, decisively undermine the rule of law and cultivate a culture of impunity, decisively ignore procurement procedures for their own benefit, and decisively expropriate private investment. The previous regime’s naked power-grab by stabbing the rule of law in the back-was a key reason for the failure of the promised post-war investment boom to materialise.”

Observing that this year’s Summit was of greater significance because it was held on the eve of a decisive Presidential Election, the Minister “pondered on three lessons to learn from the past mistakes”. “The first, is that reconciliation is an absolute necessity for economic development. The defeat of the LTTE in 2009 could well have been a new beginning for our long-suffering country. But instead of trying to win the peace, the government of the day, re-enacting scenes from the ‘Mahavamsa’, embarked on a project to establish autocratic family rule.While the grateful majority revelled in ‘patriotic fervour’, democratic institutions and other checks and balances were systematically dismantled,” he commented.

“The second lesson is that there can never be sustainable economic development without democracy and the rule of law.The previous regime’s isolationist and confrontational foreign policy did not help. By 2015, we were a pariah state.The third lesson is that our foreign policy must be based on openness and confident engagement. Not defensive and protectionist posturing and arrogance,” he added. The minister said the Monetary Law Act would be presented to Parliament next month to pave the way for de-politicisation and independence of Central Bank. The minister further said that his personal view is that SriLankan Airlines is a vanity that cannot be afforded.

“Keeping an airline flying for a misplaced sense of national pride, when that money could be used to heal the sick, educate children, or improve nutrition is criminal. In fact, since re-nationalisation SriLankan Airlines losses have been 2.5 times the size of the education budget,” he added.

“He complained that the decade prior to the current Government’s election was characterised by grave and wide-ranging economic mismanagement. “The impressive growth numbers of the immediate post-war years were an artificial sugar high. This was caused by expensive dollar borrowings wasted on imports and white-elephant construction.

“This Government inherited an economy that was on the verge of collapse. And we stabilised it. The last four years have seen some successes, but the vagaries of cohabitation and a focus on political rather than economic reform, has meant that our plans have not been fully implemented. But the successes are substantial. Their fruits will hold Sri Lanka in good stead for many years to come,” he stated.

“Prosperity requires us to move even more decisively in the direction of more democracy, more reconciliation, more rule-of-law, more depoliticisation, more openness, more competition and more reform. And I am very confident that this is the direction that Sri Lankans will choose once again,” he concluded.

Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy and CCC Chairman Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya were present.

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