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Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake has refuted allegations that the government would privatise or sell public asset, adding that there were no provisions in the Budget-2017 to this effect.

The Minister said that  stakeholders representing all sectors of the economy had hailed the budget as a positive step towards transforming the economy into manufacturing economy as the budget provides concessions by way of tax holidays, concessionary and interest free loans to investors and the local producers to commercialize the agricultural
sector too.

“The biggest challenge the country faced was the debt trap which made the country unaffordable to bring any return on its development,” he said.

“As a result, the government’s revenue gradually deteriorated to an average of 11 % of the GDP by 2014. Now with increased efficiency and eradiation of corruption in the revenue collection, the state revenue has increased to 13.6 per cent of the GDP thus making it possible to meet the recurrent expenses for the first time,”
the minister added.

Karunanayake said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during his recent visit to China held successful discussion with Chinese authorities to convert these credits into equity.

“Accordingly, the Hambanthota Port which failed to bring return on its huge investment will be converted in to a joint venture between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China with the equity of over one billion US dollars,” he said.

He further said that this move would enable the government to retire a sizeable portion of the loan obtained for the Hambanthota Port. Similarly, Mattala Airport, Srilankan Airlines and Hambanthota Investment Zone will have Public Private Partnership Investment (PPP) without selling off or privatizing any assets of the nation.

Previously, the land at the Army Headquarters at Galle Face and a land at Hambanthota   had been given as a freehold to a foreign company to construct Hotel complex. Though there  was a 100 % levy on land purchased by foreigners these two hotels had been given
exemptions.

In addition, at the Colombo Port City the then government not only gave the foreign company the portion of reclaimed land as freehold. But no sooner this government came into office, it took the initiative to retake the land given freehold to China bringing them under the Sri Lankan jurisdiction.