Sri Lanka - Budget –
Budget Speech –
Accelerating Growth with Social Inclusion
Honorable Speaker, I was privileged to present the maiden
Budget of the government of consensus in 2015. To resurrect and invigorate the
economy we proposed a set of proposals with an emphasis on improving the
economy in general and the fiscal sector in particular. The government accorded
priority in 2016 to increase the local and foreign investment paving the way
for ensuring massive development projects in the country.
Relief measures introduced including reduced prices of
essential food items and Petroleum and LP gas prices in line with declining
global prices have no doubt been instrumental in generating a substantial
amount as savings for people to meet their other needs.
We must progress based on our achievements strengthening the
process in a sustainable manner. We will aspire to foster a knowledge based
social market economy duly built on the principles of social justice. Sri Lanka
is at present at crossroads, and the 2017 budget presented today will have a
critical aspersion on the future of our country. The aspirations of the people
for greater employment opportunities as well as entrepreneurial alternatives
are expanding, meeting of which demands among others a lot of changes and
reforms in all spheres of economic activity.
In order to relieve ourselves from the legacy created by the
previous regime, we need to introduce reforms in many spheres of the economy.
The resurrection of the mostly defunct State Owned Business Enterprises (SOBEs)
and international trade related reforms are of prime importance as the
mechanics of the previous regime had damaged the very existence of many
institutions adversely affecting the business environment. Such endeavors along
with the establishment of a strong policy framework to ably assist the improved
economic management will be in complete contrast to the irregularities
committed by the last government.
Honorable Speaker, I do not have to elaborate on the dire
straits many SOBEs are in at present. The accumulated losses and sub optimal
performance over several decades clearly depict the mismanagement which is
literally draining the Treasury. As such comprehensive reform programs will be
required to revamp such enterprises and to transform them into viable ventures.
Export development will be a top priority and a conducive
environment will be created for investments catering to export development. A
gradual erosion of exports relative to GDP from more than 30percent in the mid-1990s
to around 15percent at present does not augur well for the economy. In this
context trade and investment based reforms encompassing measures aimed at
productivity improvement, trade facilitation, bilateral economic integration
agreements, restructuring of the BOI, and creation of much needed institutions
and elimination of exchange controls will certainly auger well for an improved
international trade and investment regime. We will focus on fair trade and not
necessarily free trade thus creating non debt creating foreign fund flows.
However, we need to improve our competitive edge of our
economy through developments of the processes, skills and productivity. To
accelerate and sustain growth, boosting productivity is an imperative. We have
identified productivity enhancement, investments in ICT and infrastructure
development as being integral requirements for the economic growth envisaged.
We must keep abreast with technological advancements globally such as
automation, robotics and ICT. Increased investments in Education, Research and
Development and Digital infrastructure will enable us to seize new
Sri Lanka is an island nation, and as such the maximum
utilization of a plethora of economic benefits based on resources emanating
from the ocean will be fully exploited. Our focused attention will be drawn to
ocean research, tourism, fisheries and marine resources creating a gamut of