Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake who last week addressed the Asian Investment Conference 2016, said that although it is not easy to bring in reform, the 2016 budget proposals presented and approved by the Parliament had consisted of over 450 reform options where as the previous budget of 2015 was limited to a mere 62.
“The budget presented in November 2015 created new vistas for private sector investments with emphasis of “Public, private partnerships,” the Finance Minister told an audience comprising high profile invitees.
The conference was attended by ministers, deputy ministers, central bankers, economists, academics, investors, philanthropists, officials representing government agencies, representatives of Credit Suisse and held at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong.
Speaking further, Karunanayake said that upon assuming duties as the 20th Finance Minister of Sri Lanka, one of the most important issues he addressed was to critically analyze the national debt and also evaluate the veracity of the data and statistics relating to the recent past.
“Unfortunately the often read phrase of “lies, damn lies and statistics” fitted the scenario of economic rhetoric that had been churned out. We corrected the figures and resurrected the ‘near crisis economic legacy’ bestowed upon us,” he told the conference.
He pointed out that the new government’s sound economic policies rested on the medium term strategies of generating one million employment opportunities, enhancing income levels, development of rural economies, ensuring land ownership to all strata of society and the creation of a wide and strong middle class.
“Tourism sector is booming and the need for more hotels and accommodation for visitors keeps on enhancing and as such the budget provided many opportunities, benefits and concessions for tourism related investments.”
“Whilst addressing the decline in tax revenue over the years ,we provided immense relief to income tax payers bringing down the rate to 15% for most of the economic sub sectors excluding certain limited enterprises. The personal taxation threshold had been extended providing much needed relief,” Karunanayake opined.
He noted that although Sri Lanka is yet to reach self sufficiency in fish which provides ample opportunities for new investors to venture into profitably, the GSP facility relevant to the fishing industry curtailed by the European Commission during the rule of the last regime is to be restored within the near future.
“Our proposals for public infra structure development in Education, Health and Housing depict a huge increase but the principle of “Public, private partnership” will be adopted at all times,” the Finance Minister emphasized.
He further added that whilst the traditional industries like Gems and Jewelry, Apparel, etc. will be further promoted and developed, new options such as the creation of a financial center for the SAARC region in Colombo, termed as “Colombo International Financial Center” will come into existence.
“Our population is ageing and we are making provisions to provide due care for them. There will be ample opportunity for the entrepreneurs to venture into this sector and the government will provide necessary assistance. Our focused attention to eradicate corruption provides the ideal backdrop for new investors to visit Sri Lanka and seek the cascading benefits of good governance and transparency prevalent,” Minister Karunanayake pointed out.
The Asian Investment Conference is an invitation-only event to provide Credit Suisse’s clients with the opportunity to meet with the region’s policymakers, leading corporates, industry specialists and high-profile keynote speakers.