President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his televised address to the nation, asserted that his government would not hesitate to replace the heads of the state institutions such as the Ceylon Electricity Board, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and SriLankan Airlines unless they improved their performance in conformity with the restructuring plan for public enterprises.
The president envisioned a four-pillar programme to revive the economy, said there are currently 430 public enterprises operating in 33 sectors of the economy. He said these enterprises employ six per cent of the Sri Lankan population but many of these enterprises had garnered monopolistic positions in the market, hindering private investment.
“Price fixing, inefficient management, and poor entrepreneurship have weakened public finances, turning these institutions into national burdens that are dependent on the taxpayer. We have already initiated the preparation of a restructuring plan for public enterprises. Additionally, we expect the chief officers of these enterprises to be committed to improving their performances. If they fail to meet the annual targets assigned to them, we will not hesitate to replace them with more suitable candidates,” he said.
In an obvious reference to elements attempting at rabble-rousing, the president vowed not to allow anyone to drag ‘motherland’ back to where it was a year ago.
“Today, some individuals seem to have forgotten the hardships endured by Sri Lankans during that time. Our economy contracted by 8.7%, our foreign exchange reserves hit rock bottom, and we experienced one of the highest inflation rates in the world. Foreign loans went unpaid, pushing the country into bankruptcy. Food Businesses collapsed, leading to job losses and income sources drying up. Hospitals faced shortages of medication, schools had to close, and power cuts lasting 10-12 hours became commonplace. The country was in disarray, with people struggling to survive,” he said.
He said the country’s development had been based on four primary pillars: fiscal and financial reforms, investment drive, social protection and governance, and state-owned enterprises transformation.
The President expressed his satisfaction that the country is beginning to experience relief from economic pressures.
Taking a swipe at groups involved in traditional politics, he said these elements were involved in attempts to hinder economic revival.
They are spreading false information about our reform agenda and intentionally misleading the public with claims that we are selling off the country. Throughout history, these groups have continuously resorted to fear-mongering tactics, falsely asserting that our actions are driven by a desire to sell out our nation. They have deceived many Sri Lankans in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even the 1980s, instilling an irrational fear of the country being sold away. From then until now, these groups have disrupted real progress for economic reform by perpetuating this slogan of “selling the country”, he said. (Kelum Bandara)
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