Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera is resolute in his stance on the total liberalisation of the local shipping and logistics industry despite severe lobbying by several members in the local industry.
Several industry representatives have met the Finance Minister last Friday.
Samaraweera it is learnt had patiently listened to their views.
However, he had reportedly indicated that the original 2018 Budget proposal allowing foreign lines to go for 100% ownership in Lankan operations would not be changed.
Nevertheless, Samaraweera has assured that the local industry will be engaged in the implementation of the proposal to liberalise the industry.
Samaraweera has also assured he would arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe if the industry was keen to do so.
The same local industry members last week called on President Maithripala Sirisena.
The President had also patiently given ear and been sympathetic towards the industry’s concerns. However, Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has stood by the local industry, voicing support as well opposing the 2018 Budget move both within and outside Parliament.
The local industry has claimed that liberalisation will only result in foreign companies converting Sri Lanka into a cost centre, a move which will erode tax revenue and result in the loss of foreign exchange earnings and local jobs. They are demoralised over the failure by the government to heed their warning.
Be that as it may, the Finance Minister has insisted that the liberalisation is the way forward if Sri Lank is to truly harness its full potential to become a maritime hub.
Meanwhile, leading global shipping lines such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have hailed the government’s liberalisation proposal.
The major stake of the local shipping industry at present is held by Hayleys Advantis and McLarens Group