The President recalled that when he assumed office last July, the country was experiencing numerous crises such as shortage of fuel, food, and fertilizer. He compared this to the Royal team, which had suffered a string of defeats, and claimed that many people believed the country would not be able to recover.
However, President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that his team was able to change that situation and create economic stability in the country in the last seven months and emphasized that Sri Lanka is no longer a bankrupt state.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe made this statement while addressing the 32nd Interact District Conference held at Temple Trees yesterday morning (19).
He said that everyone would be able to witness a developing country in the next two years, and to make Sri Lanka the most prosperous country in the region, it is necessary to build the economy in addition to stabilizing it today.
The President added that the 25-year plan to make Sri Lanka a successful nation by 2048 has already been implemented and it can only be achieved with the commitment of the current youth.
This conference was organized by St. Thomas’ College, Wesley College, Vishaka Vidyalaya, and Girls’ High School, Kandy, and it drew about 700 students from various schools all across the island.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe was welcomed by the Chairperson of the 32nd Interact District Conference, Abdullah Siddeek who delivered the welcome speech.
Appreciating his support and participation in the Interact Global Youth Movement, District Governor of the Rotary International District 3220 for Sri Lanka & Maldives Pubudu De Zoysa presented a badge to the President and Interact District Conference President Abdullah Siddeek presented the President with a plaque.
Speaking Further the President also said:
“Your District Governor was worried that I may not turn up here today after the Royal-Thomian Match yesterday. I want to tell her that the match was over yesterday, and a new day begins today. It was, I must say, an interesting match and I must commend both the Royal and the St. Thomas teams.
In a way, it’s training in leadership for the Captains of both sides, as well as those who will be playing next year. How do you prepare for a match, how do you work together with your coach, how do you try to win the match and how do you prevent losing a match. This is what you have to go into. Well, yesterday was a decisive day instead of being a draw unlike previous Royal- Thomian matches. There was an outcome. As for the Thomians, they have to study why they lost. Why royal won. What are the weaknesses in your strategies and how can you win the D.S. Senanayake shield next year. So that itself is a test in leadership. For Royal College, and especially its Captain, it is another test. Having lost many matches, first, how do you prevent a defeat and second, how do you win. So instead of looking at how to prevent a defeat, he decided to go for victory. It was good leadership and I must commend him for turning a situation in which Royal was losing all matches, into a victory in the final encounter.
Now I am also trying to do what the Royal cricket Captain had done. Last July, I was asked to take over the country. At that time, there was a shortage of fuel, a shortage of fertilizer, and a shortage of food and there was a shortage of everything. We had no money. We couldn’t make our payments. The government had no money. It was a difficult task. It was like the Royal team which had lost most of the matches and many thought that we won’t be able to come out of it. So far, in the last seven months, we have been able to; my team has been able to stabilize the situation. There is fuel now. There is electricity. There is fertilizer and by April, there will be enough rice and other foodstuff.
We will no longer be declared a bankrupt Nation, but a Nation that can restructure its debts. That will happen in the next few days. So like the Captain of the Royal Team, I also have to perform the same function. How do we turn this economy around? The results of the IMF Board of Directors only give us a breathing space where they will say that we are no longer bankrupt and we can restructure the debt. So all the money we have to pay this year, I hope we will be given at least ten more years to repay it.
In the meantime, there will be new debts. We had to borrow money because all our foreign exchange earnings for a year are not sufficient to meet all our needs: to import fuel, and fertilizer, is not enough. So we have a balance of payment deficit where our foreign earnings are less than the money we have to spend for all our needs to purchase from abroad. So this is the long-term.
Secondly, how do we stabilize the Rupee? Compared to the Dollar the Rupee has now gone up to 300. Once we have this agreement with the IMF, the Rupee will gradually come down to 200 or 185. Now we have a period of stabilization and that is four years. We have agreed with the IMF, they have given us targets to achieve. We have agreed that the budget will not be a deficit and that the budget will have a surplus by 2026, and that we will then be able to pay back the money that we borrowed. Now that is not a very good situation. Once we stabilize the economy and we can restructure the debts, we must also find means of paying off all our debts and coming into a situation where we have a surplus in the country; every year, like Japan, Singapore, Germany, or Korea. At the end of the day, we will have a surplus. Our foreign exchange earnings will exceed our requirements for the time being where we have to import fuel, medicine, and certain other basic foodstuff. So that is the next stage.
In order to win this match: this encounter, stabilizing the economy alone is not enough. You must make the economy grow. Unless you make the economy grow, we will go down again.
When I went to Royal Primary, We were the second most prosperous Nation in Asia. First Japan, second Sri Lanka. Today every other country has overtaken us. As far as I am concerned, we have not only to lay the groundwork but also to restructure our debt, to stabilize our economy, so that we can repay our debt in ten years’ time.
In order to build the new economy in which we will be prosperous, and we will also be able to become a developed economy giving a better future for those who will be living in the next 40-50 years, I need a team. When I lay that plan down, I need a team for that match. That is going to be the big match. We have to decide whether we are going or make it, whether we are going to develop the country or whether we are going to let it slide. For that game who is my team? My team is going to be all of you. What we will lay down now, is the 25-year plan.
By 2049, we will be a prosperous Nation. We will be like the people in Malaysia, the people in some of the European countries. We will have no debt, and more than that, each of you will have earned at least a few thousand dollars a month or maybe more. Now I say, each of you because, during the next 25 years all of you; the oldest here will be 45. You will not even be 50. Some will be less. It is your future that we have to talk of. Unless I stabilize the economy, we cannot develop as a country to become a prosperous society. Once we stabilize the economy, we can go ahead to develop the country.
Some of you might be thinking of going abroad for education. I understand the difficulty of getting into universities here and the problems you face in the universities. Some of you might be thinking of going abroad and leaving Sri Lanka. Some of you may be thinking of going abroad to work and coming back. All I want to say to all those who are thinking of going abroad is not to abandon the country. In the next two years, you will see the country developing and then you will see that you have a future. Certainly, go out. Certainly study. But remember to come back. Because this is a 25-year match. This is not like the Royal-Thomian match which is played in three days or some of the other school matches that are played in two days. This is a 25-year match. The second innings will be much longer than the first innings. The first innings is only four years, second will be 21 years after that.
So this is the game that we have to play: That all of you here have to play. That game we must play to win. We must become the most prosperous country in our region. We must not have poverty. We must have employment. We must have a green economy. We must have a digitalized economy. We must be modern in our technology: and modern in our thinking. There has to be a very marked change in the way the county is governed. That is what you call a system change. We must have that system change thinking of the Interactors here. What is the country you want? What is the society you want? What are the changes you want? In that case, you have to participate in building that country. Because you will finally take over the leadership. So what you have been trained here is not merely to run the road trip. But every one of you in different ways will help to build the country and hopefully run the country and some of you, I hope will be able to come forward as Rotarians and make the speech that I have been making today. So I don’t want to take any more of your time, but I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and wish the Interact all the best.”
District Governor of the Rotary International District 3220 for Sri Lanka & Maldives Pubudu De Zoysa, District Interact Committee Chairperson Shanaz Shahabdeen, Youth Services Committee Chairperson G.S. Sylvester, Mr. Krishantha Fernando and other Rotarians participated in this event.
President’s Media Division (PMD)
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