President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that he will look into the possibility of a moratorium for loans to protect businesses and provide necessary relief to business personnel. He noted that the Governor of the Central Bank had been informed to look into this matter while protecting the Banks.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said this while addressing the ‘Pratibha Abhisheka 2022’ ceremony held on Wednesday (11) at the Kingsbury Hotel to evaluate women entrepreneurs of the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC).
“This is the hardest work we have to do. We cannot live like this forever. Even if we live with hardships, we must move forward quickly. The current inflation is a problem that every business has to face. If we continue with these decisions, we can reduce inflation. Bank interest can be reduced. If decisions cannot be made, inflation will increase,” the President said.
President Wickremesinghe further said, “We are currently working to secure IMF assistance as soon as possible. The countries that have given us loans have already stated their willingness to assist us. Japan and the Paris Club, two of our three major creditors, have expressed their willingness to assist. We have already begun talks with India and China.
According to the discussions with China Exim Bank recently, we’re currently debating on how to restructure our debt.The Chinese side has agreed to move quickly. India’s Foreign Minister will be arriving in Sri Lanka next week. India is in debt restructuring discussions. The government will receive $ 2.5 billion from the IMF. After that, we can get nearly 5 billion dollars from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The total will be US$7.5 billion. Adding the $3 billion from the restructuring of unprofitable government agencies can add up to US$ 10 billion, which will enable the economy to recover and bring the country out of this suffering.”
The President commended the Chamber for the pioneering work it has done to get women involved in business and stressed the need to focus on the micro category where a large number of women who run small shops at the village level are engaged in business.
He also pointed out that the largest numbers of entrepreneurs that are not recognized in Sri Lanka are the moneylenders. “There are a large number of women moneylenders, and in some areas, they are the ones who dominate. The government, too, is interested to look at all the micro-enterprises, not only by women but also by men.
President Wickremesinghe further revealed that the country needs more women entrepreneurs and the main chamber should help the women’s chamber since the number of women entrepreneurs is small compared to many other countries. “Though Sri Lanka’s population
consists of 52% females, and we should at least have a large number of women entrepreneurs that can come and certainly help to develop the economy.”
The President also revealed that this year the government will be introducing some laws drafted by the Women’s Caucus in Parliament, which will also, deal with women’s empowerment and the Women’s National Commission. Measures are underway to put a provision which will enable them to have at least one or two women on the boards of major companies and see more women employed in the private sector.
Prof. Maithri Wickremesinghe, Ambassador of Nepal Bashu Dev Mishra, acting British High Commissioner Lisa Whanstall, Chairperson of WCIC Anoji De Silva and the Officials of the WCIC were present on this occasion. President Ranil Wickremesinghe also said: “If a single person is in debt, it is manageable. You can enlist the assistance of a friend or relative. However, if a country declares bankruptcy, there is only one organization in the world that can assist. That is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). No matter how loud we yell or how many prayers we offer, no one else will help and we will receive assistance and relief only from this organization.”
The President further said that the government discussed this with the International Monetary Fund. “According to the IMF, a country that receives IMF financial assistance cannot have non-profit institutions. If the economy is open, loss-making institutions should be transferred to other sectors. Institutions should be profitable if they are run by the government, so that government funds can be used to benefit the people. Otherwise, the government will use that money to run non-profit institutions.
If there were no loss-making institutions, the government’s money could be spent on providing relief and services to the people. At this time, we also had to go to the IMF. Some work had been done by the time I took over. A staff level agreement was reached with the International Monetary Fund in September last year.
The result will be available this year. Let me give an example. Even after the Electricity Board increased tariffs, there is still a loss of Rs.350 billion. Unable to carry on with these losses, the CEB would collapse. Then we borrow money from the banks and the banks then collapse. If so, VAT should be increased, or the electricity charges should be increased. We must do one of the two. If not, we will not receive aid. Reluctantly, even if it is difficult, we have to proceed with it.
No one will applaud me for accepting this job despite knowing the gravity of the issue, I accepted this. We have to make difficult decisions and those decisions affect people’s daily lives. The price of goods will increase. However, we have been able to solve the fuel problem, food problem and fertilizer problems due to the aid we have received in the past.
Because we received fertilizer, we will have a good harvest in the Maha season this year. In fact, we are getting a surplus of paddy. It is very good for the economy as well as the people.
This can reduce inflation.
Everyone has to pay taxes. Even some government professionals speak out against this. Some people are protesting. I have no problem with any of these acts but what is the solution to this? In such a situation, rallying and shouting against the government happens in any country in the world. They cannot be stopped. What will we do if we withdraw from these decisions? What will happen to the country? If we withdraw from the agreement negotiated with the IMF, who will help us? If the price is increased, it will impact on the cost of living. If we don’t increase the price, you won’t get support from the IMF. Then the economy will collapse.
Now we are at a critical point. We have to move forward from that critical point. Then the country can get foreign investors. We must go there. But we have to follow very difficult decisions. Do you agree or not? Usually blame is not on those who spread disease, but the blame is on the doctor who gives the bitter medicine. It’s okay to blame, take this bitter medicine and go for the program that heals the economy.
I am sure that there will be a way out of this year’s grief. To do all this we have to suffer. We can rebuild all of this. I believe in it. Then we should think about new businesses and give opportunities to new businesses that can compete with the world. If we do that, we have the ability to build the economy of this country. We are sure of that.