Top business leaders and economists last week urged political parties working out their manifestos in view of the upcoming election to prioritize the much needed reforms in various spheres of the economy such as investment, transportation, education and agriculture, and not restrict them to mere populist promises.

The call to spell out the plans for the broader economic framework has come in the wake of concerns and confusions over the lack of a clear long-term economic policy and the announcement of a general election in August.

Chairman Asia Capital Plc, Mano Nanayakkara stated that it was essential for the public and the corporate sectors, and the people to know what lay in store for them when they go to exercise their franchise at the election.

“We need to know what reforms they (parties and candidates) have planned in terms of the economy, education, price management, etc. The public also need to know what their representatives intend to provide them. Therefore, it is essential that the parties draft comprehensive manifestos which detail their plans. It would be ideal if they elaborate sector by sector,” he said.

Economist, Anushka Wijesinha spelt out three key aspects of the economy which needed reforms under a new government. Accordingly, reforms are needed in the country’s trade policy which currently prevented the country from competing with the world market as a result of high protection rates due to several para-tariffs.

In addition, he stated that Sri Lanka also needed to boost investor confidence and improve its business climate. Wijesinha stated that aspects such as foreign ownership of land bill needed to be looked into when it came to improving investor confidence in the country.

Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Colombo, Dr. Sirimal Abeyratne pointed out the need for reforms in the country’s internal and external finances, and debt management.

Dr. Abeyratne also emphasized the need for reforms to improve the business and investment climate in the country.
The need for reforms was also stressed on the country’s education sector and training systems that would provide high-tech skilled labor to the world market.

“Education needs to be liberalized. Foreign institutes need to be encouraged to directly establish campuses in Sri Lanka. We need to and have the capacity to establish a world-class university for the region and current bureaucracy prevents this from happening,” said Chief Strategist, CAL Partners, Purasisi Jinadasa.

Economist, Hasitha Premaratne told The Nation Gain that though the election announcement did not indicate that the economic uncertainty had been completely wiped out, added that it helped create a path towards certainty. “It indicates that the road to certainty has been fast-tracked,” he said.

When asked whether parties, when nominating candidates, should give priority those who have the expertise to drive the economy forward, Dr. Abeyratne and Premaratne said candidates could seek expertise of professionals in the event they were not competent in the respective subjects.