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With the government announcing that Sri Lanka’s Budget 2017 is scheduled to be presented in Parliament on November 10, Nation last week asked a cross section of business leaders from Sri Lanka’s private sector to elucidate their expectations and thoughts to policymakers gain an insight over the perception. Here are some of the responses we received.

ravi-karunanayakeExpect a revenue-focused Budget
Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake last week pledged that the government is marching forward on a long-term development plan and it would present its national budgets to strengthen its forward march. Addressing a media briefing, the Finance Minister noted that Budget 2017 has focused on how to increase the government’s revenue thereby reducing cost of living.  He also said that 410 proposals were made by Budget 2016 and majority of them have been implemented by now and, rest of the proposals will be implemented according to a given time frame in the cause of time.

suresh-shahFocus on job creation – Suresh Shah
Director/CEO at Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC
A budget that sets a foundation to create jobs since job creation is the most important thing we need to do from an economic perspective. Not daily paid jobs but permanent jobs that come with a decent monthly remuneration.

hanif-yusoofThere should be consistency in policies – Hanif Yusoof
Founder/President of Expolanka International (Pvt) Ltd
Hopefully the guidelines and road map to transform Sri Lanka to a regional and commercial hub will be finalized and wrapped up expecting the budget to be an investor-friendly with focus on ease of doing business in Sri Lanka. Bring clarity to the land act and changes to the draconian laws of the exchange control.  Policies such as these are the key for foreign direct investment and pleased to note that the government has shown positive indication on this.  Most importantly, is consistency in policies which would hit confidence of Sri Lanka entrepreneurs and foreign direct investors to enter the market and set course to much required economic policies.

dinesh-weerakkodyTourism and higher education key – Dinesh Weerakkody
Chairman at the National Human Resource Development Council of Sri Lanka – ‎
Ministry of National Policy and Economic Affairs
Development-oriented, invest more on building tourism assets to ensure the tourism industry becomes a sustainable industry, more investment in higher education, currently only 0.3 % of GDP. Ensure policy consistency.

ravi-abeysuriyaCapital Market needs a Master Plan – Ravi Abeysuriya
President of the Colombo Stock Brokers Association
The most critical step for developing the capital market of Sri Lanka is to formulate a national level capital market development master plan with the participation and commitment of all key parties such as the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Public Enterprise Development, Securities and Exchange Commission, Insurance Board of Sri Lanka, Colombo Stock Exchange and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Without the highest level buy-in and commitment, the critical pieces of the capital market development puzzle will continue to remain unfinished and any institutional-level master plans will continue to face implementation challenges.
On the regulatory side, enacting the new SEC Act is the highest priority in order to strengthen regulatory powers against securities law violations, allow demutualization of the Colombo Stock Exchange and establishing a central counterparty clearing and settlement mechanism, provide for the development of new capital market products, introducing mandatory disclosure and reporting standards and enhance investor protection. The demutualization of the stock exchange is also a top priority and requires passing both the new SEC Act and the Demutualization legislation.

Dr. Lalithasiri GunaruwanYahapaalana agenda is already in the dust-bin – Dr. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan
Senior Lecturer at Colombo University and a Former Secretary to the Ministry of Highways
I simply have no hopes regarding the coming budget, as much as I did not have any hope when the last “so-called” budget was presented.

Any national budget will be meaningful only if such is properly anchored in a national economic/development policy/strategy. Do we have even a rough idea of any such framework?  President is looking at one direction, PM another direction, and MoF seemingly looking in a totally different direction. Economic parameters seem to be having no guidance, neither administratively nor politically. Yahapaalana agenda is already in the dustbin, and the elements are pretty much back on the same old track. Unsolicited proposals regarding development projects are entertained shamelessly while those who did the same before are being blamed for corruption and increased public debt.
International lenders/forces appear to be ready to fish out in the muddy pit…..  What hope can any rational one have ???

My hunch is that there will be a “speech”, but no realistic “budget” other than, may be, a collection of numbers!

jonathan-allesCreate conducive environment for private sector – Jonathan Alles
Managing Director/CEO of Hatton National Bank Plc

The forthcoming budget is crucial to recommence the stalled development activity. The private sector needs to play a key role in the economic expansion of the Country and hence it is essential to create an environment which is conducive.

Fiscal reforms are an urgent necessity in order to drive sustainable economic growth and to maintain stability in key economic variables. Also, it is extremely important to ensure that consistency in policies is maintained as ad hoc policy changes could result in lowering investor confidence thereby hampering the envisaged growth.

We should strive to facilitate FDIs into the Country and every effort should be made to encourage investments. Further in order to boost economic growth SME and exports are two key segments that need to be incentivized and developed.

With regard to the banking sector in particular, the budgetary proposals should not restrict capital augmentation of banks thereby affecting the ability of the banking sector to support the expected growth in the economy through facilitation of investments.

gihan-newBudget should have a long-term focus – Gihan Pilapitiya
General Manager at United Motors Lanka Plc & a Former Chairman of the Ceylon Motor Traders Association

The budget this year has to focus on consolidating the efforts taken at the last year’s budget on the development of the economy with a long-term focus. It is also important that some of the gaps created due to the last year’s budget and some outside budget proposals affecting the automotive trade is corrected at this budget in order to create a level playing field in the automotive industry.

A country cannot go forward by supporting the used car imports and ignoring the feasibility of the established companies that contribute to the development of the economy and employ a considerable portion of the workforce in addition to supporting the creation of foreign employment.

The new system introduced by the government in determining the values of the imported vehicles mainly based on the cubic capacity of the engines had created an imbalance in the natural competitiveness among products. There is also a major gap in the rates applied for engines less than 1500cc and the on the engines that are less than 1600cc. The lower rate applied for the less than 1500cc cars favouring mainly the Japanese domestic cars is clearly a wrong way forward for a government.