Viewpoint: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Sri Lanka has developed a variety of distinct economic sectors, which are capable of further integrating the country’s economy into the global value chain. The digital economy, tourism and commercial agriculture are coming of age in terms of their potential to offer high-value skills and remuneration to young jobseekers in the country.

The new economic orientation will include fewer opportunities with the government, and more exposure and opportunities for entrepreneurs and skilled professionals. We aim to accelerate the broad basing of opportunities in these segments.

The digital economy will empower our nation by providing affordable and secure internet connectivity to every citizen in Sri Lanka, removing barriers for cross-border international trade. A platform for cashless payments will also be created. In addition, digital technology will be added to the school curriculum. We plan to foster entrepreneurship opportunities in digital commerce, while providing training in cyber-security monitoring and response.

We shall strive to attain the status of a modern manufacturing economy that will include high-tech equipment. We plan to overcome the bottlenecks associated with being a middle-income country in our pursuit towards greater prosperity for our people. We will establish a public commercial enterprise board that will manage state-owned enterprises (SOEs), enabling them to be more efficiently run on a commercial basis, ensuring value for money. We are creating a public wealth trust through which shares in SOEs will be held in trust for the people.

With the passage of the microfinance legislation in Parliament earlier this year, rural microfinance is now a legitimate activity. Urgent measures are being undertaken to link foreign microfinance providers with local communities to promote greater credit penetration in rural areas. The ministry has already allocated LKR5bn ($34.1m) for a special small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) financing scheme to empower business formation and development. A National Financial Inclusion Policy will be developed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to set quantitative targets for opening of accounts, disbursement of SME loans and so on. To enable this, we will be consolidating rural development banks (RDBs). RDBs have become the main channel for concessional lending to SMEs, and their decentralised management structure is being reinforced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka through its newly created regional departments.

The plan to make Sri Lanka a high-value destination is already in the cards. It should herald prosperity that will help us to showcase our cultural pursuits, wildlife and the environment through provinces being developed as unique tourist hot spots. We believe that Sri Lanka will be one of the finest travel experiences for the global traveller.

The marketing of agricultural products is the most important link between the producer and consumers. We will establish a fully empowered National Agricultural Marketing Authority to coordinate and oversee the marketing of agricultural products, and develop existing markets, transport and storage facilities.

In addition, new infrastructure facilities such as cool storage will be added at a divisional and regional level for preservation of food before or after purchase. Providing large storage facilities for purchasing and storage during the harvesting season is an essential prerequisite for the implementation of a guaranteed purchase price.

The country’s current education system, particularly the higher education system, is currently being recalibrated to produce graduates who will meet the skill and knowledge requirements of the corporate sector. We will ensure a culture where job-oriented skill development will take precedence over the passing of exams, while introducing more real-life vocational situations and simulations to the curriculum.