Historic Speech in Parliament | Daily News

Historic Speech in Parliament

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on June 7 makes a sincere appeal to all to set aside traditional political ideologies for a short period and make a concerted effort to rebuild the country.

He begins by saying in his comprehensive statement: “I hope you all understand the situation we and our country face. We need to find new ways as an alternative to the traditional ways if we are to elevate the country from this position. We must set aside our traditional political ideologies for a short period and make a concerted effort to rebuild the country.”

He goes on to say: “The country spends US$ 500 million per month on fuel. It should be kept in mind that the current global crisis risks rising oil prices. Some estimate that global oil prices will rise by as much as 40% by the end of this year. In this context the idea of introducing a coupon system for fuel cannot be ruled out.

Somehow, we have to find US$ 3,300 million worth of fuel for the next six months. It costs US$40 million a month to import gas. We are currently using multilateral assistance, local currency and Indian loans to import gas. We will require US$250 million over the next six months for gas.

“We produce some of the food we require locally. The rest is imported. Our harvest has declined in the past several months. We have to face this situation and work hard from this point onwards to ensure the next harvest is a success. That harvest, however, will be available by the end of February 2023. In terms of rice, our country’s annual rice requirement is 2.5 million metric tons. But we have only 1.6 million metric tons of rice in stock. This condition is not only restricted to paddy but many other crops. So, in a few months we will have to face serious difficulties and shortages in terms of our diets. We need to import food items to meet our daily requirements. It costs about US$ 150 million a month.

“We are currently involved in various international assistance programmes to import medicines and health equipment required for the country. It has also been planned to seek assistance from various countries. We do not need large amounts of foreign exchange for health for the next six months as those groups and countries have provided substantial support for our health system. We thank them on behalf of the health department.

“In this context, we need US$ 5 billion to ensure our daily lives are not disrupted for the next six months.

We need to strengthen the rupee in line with the daily requirements of the citizens. Another US$ 1 billion is needed to strengthen the rupee. That means we need to find US$ 6 billion to keep the country afloat for the next six months.”

“Setting out the long term requirements he deals with increasing the GDP growth which according to the Central Bank will be -3.5 in 2022 but according to the International Monetary Fund,-6.5 percent. He says, “the government has lost Rs. 6.6 billion in revenue with the abolition in 2019 of the tax system we implemented. That was the beginning of the decline of our economy”.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also touches on the impact of the war in Ukraine, financial management in the public sector, talks with the IMF, revamping our foreign relations and United Nations arranged worldwide public appeal on June 9, seeking support to provide humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka, to provide US$ 48 million over a four-month period to food, agriculture and health sectors, among other matters.

He says that relations with India, China and Japan, leading the list of countries that provide us with loans and assistance, which have always been strong but now broken need to be rebuilt.

The money borrowed some time ago under the SWAP facility from the People’s Republic of China with a condition that it can be used only if our country has enough foreign reserves for three months which we have not had since the loan was taken, our former officials taking loans to deceive the country; as we will not be debt free under that condition we have requested the Chinese Government to consider removing that condition from the agreement that has been signed with them, we urge the Chinese Government to look into the matter favourably.

“Japan our longtime friend has helped our country greatly but they are now unhappy with us due to the unfortunate events of the past, our country failing to formally notify Japan of the suspension of certain projects, sometimes not even stating reasons, according to reports submitted by an individual and some projects undertaken by Japan in our country being halted midway.

“Japan and India had agreed to supply us with two LNG power plants. The CEB stopped those two projects without any justifiable reason.

“Japan had agreed to provide about US$ 3 billion worth of projects to our country by 2019. All of these projects were put on hold for no reason.

“I urge the Parliamentary Committee on Public Finance to conduct an inquiry into the suspension of such valuable projects granted to us by our longtime allies for unstated reasons.

“Despite alienating these friendly nations, India offered to help us in the face of the growing crisis. We express our respect and gratitude to them during this difficult time. We are also working to re-establish old friendships with Japan. Farmers’ loans should be written off one hundred per cent.

“We know that farming families who cultivate paddy on small lands are in a very precarious position. Farmers’ loans obtained by farmers with less than two hectares of land will be stopped immediately, he says.

He concludes by saying: “I therefore invite all of you in this House to support our economic, socio-political and public service reforms in rebuilding the country. Let us build the country first. Let us protect our country from this crisis. Give your support to these efforts. After returning the country to normalcy within the specified time frame, you may return to your traditional political activities and implement traditional party-political agendas.

I would like to conclude my statement by quoting Sir Winston Churchill:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every situation; the believer sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

We take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. We will use these opportunities to build the country with confidence.

“We will all take full responsibility to bring the country back to normalcy.”

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