History assigns individuals a specific role, which must be fulfilled regardless of personal or collective preferences. This assignment is carried out silently, but it is based on the consensus of the majority. Thus, President Ranil Wickremesinghe is currently fulfilling the role assigned to him by history.
With remarkable foresight and self-restraint, President Wickremesinghe is dedicated to the historic task of gradually preparing a developed country for future generations, aiming 25years ahead rather than seeking immediate results. His vision revolves around transforming Sri Lanka into a developed and influential nation by 2048, through a comprehensive development plan that harnesses the power of digitization, embraces a green economy, modernizes agriculture, and fosters innovation across all sectors.
Over the past few years, Sri Lanka has faced its gravest economic crisis to date. The economy contracted by 7.8%, foreign exchange reserves reached a record low, and the country experienced soaring inflation rates, food shortages, lengthy queues for essential commodities such as fuel and gas, abandoned farmlands due to a lack of fertilizer, and a collapse of businesses resulting in job losses. The people endured immense hardships, including shortages of medication and frequent power cuts. Under the weight of this severe economic collapse, Sri Lanka was unable to meet its foreign loan interest payments and was labelled a bankrupt nation.
Given this backdrop, few believed that the country could recover, and no one was willing to shoulder the heavy responsibility. However, PresidentRanil Wickremesinghe, displaying exceptional composure, initiated a program to revive Sri Lanka’s shattered economy, embodying his unwavering determination to confront challenges and lead to victory. While many nations around the world have succumbed to prolonged chaos and anarchy in similar circumstances, the President’s program succeeded in revitalizing Sri Lanka within a remarkably short span of one year.
Ensuring law and order prevail throughout the nation
On July 11, 2022, President Ranil Wickremesinghe assumed leadership of a nation in a state of economic and societal collapse. The country was plagued by rampant lawlessness, with individuals resorting to vandalism and violence, resulting in the destruction of government properties.
These acts of destruction included burning and demolishing the homes of ministers, local political leaders, and their supporters. Even the President’s private residence and the library, which housed valuable books from Asia and was intended for donation to the Royal College of Colombo, fell victim to these acts of arson.
Subsequently, the perpetrators escalated their violence, targeting the core institutions of democracy. They seized control of the central government offices, including the Fort President House, the country’s main administrative institution, and the Prime Minister’s Office. They even attempted to take over the Parliament, the epitome of democracy in the nation.
Responding swiftly, President Wickremesinghe took immediate measures to thwart these destructive attempts to undermine both the executive and legislative branches. Through the establishment of public safety and the proper enforcement of the law, he successfully restored law and order in the country.
Bringing an end to the era of queues
The populace experienced daily hardships due to extensive power cuts lasting up to 13hours, scarcity of vital food supplies, and lengthy queues for fuel and gas. The shortage of fuel created a tense atmosphere, even on highways spanning the entire country. Colombo witnessed periodic road closures as frustrated individuals, grappling with fuel shortages, resorted to demonstrations and protests. Commuting became arduous, and uncertainty loomed over reaching destinations after leaving the highway, adding to the public’s burden and fostering a pervasive sense of pressure, impatience, restlessness, and unpredictability. This situation eroded society’s faith in the future.
However, the President’s sound economic policies swiftly brought an end to the era of queuing, alleviating frustrations and ensuring the provision of necessary fuel, gas, and essential food items throughout the nation in a remarkably short span of time. Furthermore, the previously double-digit inflation has been successfully reduced to single-digit figures, underscoring President RanilWickremesinghe’s effective remedy for the nation’s afflictions.
Engaging in a program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Recognizing that the only viable solution to overcome the economic crisis was to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the President proactively initiated negotiations with the organization. After numerous rounds of lengthy discussions, the IMF agreed to extend a credit facility to Sri Lanka. Concurrently, the country pursued loan assistance from other financial institutions, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
This President-led program garnered significant support from neighbouring ally India, as well as Bangladesh, which provided humanitarian aid. Additionally, successful outcomes were achieved through debt restructuring negotiations with major creditors such as China, India, Japan, and the Paris Club. However, it was crucial to address the issue of domestic credit in order to avoid future bankruptcy.
To achieve a sustainable debt repayment situation, the optimization of domestic debt became imperative, given that it had surpassed foreign debt levels in Sri Lanka. Despite opposition campaigns that raised concerns about potential risks to bank accounts, fixed deposits, and the overall financial system, including funds like the Employee Provident Fund and the Employee Trust Fund, no harm befell the 57million bank depositors or public funds. It is important to note that credit optimization is not solely the responsibility of politicians; rather, it is developed through the collaboration of the Treasury, Central Bank, and both local and foreign financial advisors.
Through the implementation of planned measures, we have gradually transitioned from an oppressive economy to a more comfortable state, alleviating the hardships faced by the nation. The country’s previously weakened economy is now showing signs of relative stability.
Our country is primarily an agricultural nation. Consequently, the government successfully addressed issues within the agricultural sector and implemented prompt measures to foster innovation, ensuring farmers received a satisfactory income last year.
During the 2020/21period, the sudden transition to a 100%organic agriculture policy led to challenges regarding fertilizer for farmers. However, under the guidance of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, prompt solutions were provided, ensuring the necessary fertilizer reached the farming community.
The Ministry of Agriculture reported that, after a decade, five hundred and twelve thousand hectares of paddy fields were cultivated in the Yala season, owing to President Wickremesinghe’s new fertilizer policy.
Additionally, the Minister of Agriculture recently unveiled plans to achieve 80%self-sufficiency in the country’s agricultural production by 2025, as part of President Wickremesinghe’s agricultural modernization program.
The increased agricultural yield resulted in improved food security and a significant reduction in food inflation. Moreover, owing to a surplus of rice in the 2022/2023period, the government distributed 10kg of rice to two million low-income families for a duration of two months.
To realize the goal of building a “developed Sri Lanka” by 2048through sustainable agricultural development, producing export-oriented agricultural goods, ensuring local food security, and cultivating a new generation of youth entrepreneurs in agribusiness associated with new technology, a national policy framework to foster innovation in the agricultural sector is currently being developed. Professor GaminiSenanayake of the Ruhuna University is leading this initiative, as per the President’s instructions, with a projected completion date by the end of August 2023.
Furthermore, an Agricultural Modernization Secretariat has been established to enhance agricultural productivity, and various programs have been launched, supported by foreign aid projects, to modernize agriculture. The President envisions transforming this agricultural innovation into a thriving cash-based economy.
A comprehensive reform program
Under the guidance of the President, gradual implementation of economic reforms has been underway to shape the country’s economy in a manner that enables it to effectively compete in the global arena. These reforms aim to replace erroneous policies, weak programs, and failed projects, redirecting the nation onto a correct and organized path aligned with emerging trends. Recognizing that rebuilding a bankrupt country necessitates new approaches, the President emphasizes the need to embark on a fresh journey with innovative thinking.
Nevertheless, certain factions entrenched in traditional politics are actively working to impede this economic revival. By instilling unfounded fears in the populace about the consequences of economic reforms, they persist in misleading the people with slogans like “The country is being sold.” It is crucial to understand that failure to align our economy with the modern world and contemporary technology will lead to regression. Deviating from the necessary path, risks turning the country into an economic colony or rendering it unable to meet its debts, even with resorting to selling national assets.
To achieve sustainable development and prosperity for our country, it is imperative to embrace the economic reforms proposed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Through these reforms, Sri Lanka’s modernization will gain momentum, the market will expand, and the international community will contribute more to the nation’s development endeavours. It is vital for the public to recognize that fruitlessly seeking lightning in a clear sky without rain is an exercise in futility.
Social welfare programs
Under the guidance of the President, the “Aswasuma” social welfare benefit program was introduced to provide economic assistance to individuals in need of recovery. This initiative includes welfare payments for the “disadvantaged” under four social categories: transitional, vulnerable, poor, and extremely poor. Furthermore, regular allowances will continue to be provided to the disabled, elderly, and kidney patients.
The President’s directive ensures that fairness is upheld, and no one is left behind. Despite attempts to politicize the program, its true objective remains focused on social welfare.
Last year, the government allocated Rs. 144 billion for welfare benefits. However, this year, under President RanilWickremesinghe’s leadership, the “Aswasuma” program is expected to receive an allocation of Rs. 206 billion, as stated by the Ministry of Finance. In negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the upliftment of the poor in the country was proposed with an allocation of Rs.187 billion. However, the government has exceeded this amount by allocating overRs.62 billion more than the previous year.
Enabling Sri Lanka to establish connections with the global community
The President aspires to facilitate Sri Lanka’s integration into the global arena, thereby promoting economic growth. Efforts have been undertaken to establish an International Trade Office (ITO) within the country, aiming to streamline decision-making processes related to international trade and enhance their efficiency. Through effective coordination of relevant institutions, the international trade sector is expected to contribute significantly to the nation’s economy.
The government’s objective is to establish connections primarily within South Asia and gradually expand to include China, Thailand, and Indonesia. Sri Lanka’s ultimate goal is to become a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which encompasses a substantial portion of the world’s economy, trade, and population, accounting for 30%of each.
Furthermore, the government has implemented measures to attract more investors to Sri Lanka, creating an enabling environment for investment. Under the President’s guidance, ongoing efforts are dedicated to transforming Sri Lanka into an appealing investment destination and an attractive location for tourism.
A Digitalized Sri Lanka and a Green Economy
Enhancing the efficiency, transparency, and quality of the public sector is crucial for Sri Lanka to unlock its full development potential. Recognizing the significance of digitization in achieving this goal, the President is wholeheartedly committed to accelerating the digitization of the country, particularly within the public sector.
To initiate the digital policy planning process, the President has allocated Rs. 100million this year, integrating universities and research institutions into the endeavour. Furthermore, it has been announced that one billion rupees will be allocated next year for research focusing on artificial intelligence, highlighting the President’s commitment to advancing technological innovation.
The President emphasizes the importance of cooperation with neighbouring states, particularly South India, as a rapidly developing region. Acknowledging the potential for creating a highly competitive economy through both a green economy and a digital economy, the President emphasizes the need to embrace new technologies and innovative solutions to foster global competitiveness and sustainable economic growth. The vision and program presented to achieve this reality are undeniable in their significance.
Stepping into 2048: Paving the Way for a Developed Sri Lanka
Within this document, an outline is presented highlighting the fundamental groundwork on which Sri Lanka was constructed amidst its most severe economic crisis. Remarkably, all of this was accomplished in less than a year. With the implementation of these programs, Sri Lanka is now on a trajectory of growth and prosperity. The President’s aspiration is to achieve complete economic stability within the next five years and transform the country into a developed nation with a high-income status over the course of the next twenty-five years. These positive advancements are evident not only in statistical figures but also in practical aspects of daily life.
Under the guidance of the President, a program has been initiated to empower Sri Lankan youth and engage them in the process of building a prosperous and influential nation. This program aims to foster a sense of responsibility among the youth community, making them integral partners in the 25-year development agenda.
The President has assured that the efforts towards lasting peace and reconciliation in the country will not be bequeathed to the next generation. Furthermore, decisive measures are being taken in pursuit of that objective.
When a lighthouse illuminates the way and clearly marks the path, it is irrational to choose darkness. With faith in our collective potential and a clear direction, the progress of this country cannot be halted.