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SJB begins work on economic blueprint to save nation

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will be commencing discussions with all stakeholders next week to formulate and present a comprehensive economic plan to overcome the current crisis.

The discussions headed by its economic policy team comprising MPs Dr. Harsha De Silva, Kabir Hashim and Eran Wickremaratne, will look to present a blueprint for a Social Market Economy that would touch all aspects of society including the very bottom of the pyramid.

Addressing a media briefing on Wednesday, Kabir Hashim remarked that Sri Lanka must reset its fiscal program to once again achieve sustainable growth.

This would involve difficult decisions and sacrifices, but a genuine concerted effort that engaged and communicated with all sectors would offer solutions over the medium-term and save our country, he added.

“Sri Lanka is a political economy, so we need to factor that aspect as well,” said Dr. Harsha De Silva, which is why the plan must consider all aspects of society, and this would be a unique program unlike any other implemented before in the country. Ensuring social justice was a critical aspect of the program, he added.

De Silva noted that the price of food and other essentials would continue to rise further whilst the US dollar appreciated further against the rupee, as interest rates remained static. People would have to face further hardships in time to come, he said.

SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne said Sri Lanka’s crisis was entirely manmade, and noted that only two aspects of the Economic Roadmap spelt out by the Central Bank Governor six months ago had been made. He noted that despite the document stating inflation would be brought down to 6%, currently food inflation sat at over 25% and described the plan as a complete failure citing several other indices.

“Corruption is a huge problem we face. Corruption has pervaded all aspects and projects, so-much-so even Chinese companies have written to the President and complained about corruption in infrastructure projects.

Only corrupt elements will look to Sri Lanka in this context. Eradicating corruption is one of the key elements of our plan, and we are looking at proposals to strengthen the regulatory aspects concerning bribery and corruption. Governments and their machinery should not be able to withdraw cases at the whims of officials,” Wickramaratne added. .

De Silva charged that the Government had misrepresented budget details in the 2020 budget, and whereas the real figure stood at 14%, the Government had listed the budget deficit at 11.1%. With Core Inflation at about 11% currently, this detailed the levels of bad fiscal management, he said.

“The Government is split on how to address the economic crisis. One group is following the Central Bank Governor and the rest under Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The IMF team that came here has not met the Central Bank Governor, so there definitely seems to be a lot of internal conflict on this issue,” De Silva remarked.

“Following our request for a $ 1 billion loan from India, the Government is now handing out the Trincomalee tank farm, areas in Jaffna, Sampur and others to satisfy them.

This won’t solve the problem. They (Government) must stop focusing on repaying dollar loans of others and focus on our citizens. This is no magic, it just needs sound restructuring. Getting another billion dollars in loans will not build confidence,” Hashim asserted.

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