“Establishing the legal, regulatory and mgt infrastructure framework for the CIFC is the biggest challenge.”
Newly appointed Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs and former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Harsha De Silva who is also in charge of the Colombo International Financial City (CIFC) spoke to the Nation regarding several aspects of his new portfolio including the subjects coming under him, and what the Government has left to deliver on.
He also spoke of his biggest challenge of his life and career being in chargeof the CIFC, and on the direction towards which the country’s diplomacy should head in.
Q : What is your mandate in the new portfolio? What will you bring to the table and what reforms do you envision?
I am delighted to be offered this important position which I have taken. It is always an honour to work for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. I am thankful for the confidence placed in me by Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena. The subjects coming under Wickremesinghe are broad and very important to and for the economy.
As his only Deputy, I plan to work closely with him and support him by providing him with the professional and technical support required to implement his plans. There are State institutions such as the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Employees Trust Fund and such other funds, national policies, the Department of National Planning, the Department of External Resources, the Treasury which is the most important in terms of foreign financing, national plans, and various nationally planned trade agreements, which come under the purview of the Ministry.
There is a lot that needs to be done in this regard. National policies have to be sorted out. The scope is broad. We also have development related plans. We promised a highly competitive, knowledge-based, social market economy to the people and we must deliver this by way of implementation on the ground. There is a lot of work to be done.
Q : You have been put in charge of the CIFC. What does this entail and what has already been put in place in this regard?
I have taken the leadership of the CIFC. Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka will deliver in terms of getting the island ready by reclaiming the land, and other such hard infrastructure related aspects such as the sewerage system. While this is going on, I need to get the legal, regulatory and management infrastructure framework such as for an example the right kind of banks and financial institutions, in place and up to speed.
This is the biggest challenge I have undertaken. I am a man of delivery and the people know this from the work done in Geneva (the United Nations Human Rights Council), with regard to regaining the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (the European Union – EU) which is now already available to the country, and in relation to designing and developing the emergency ambulance service, the latter which will be nationwide very soon.
Several people including former Attorney General President’s Counsel Yuvanjana Wijayatilake, the former Chairman of the Board of Investment Thilan Wijesinghe and various private sector persons are working together on the matter. I will meet and discuss and assess the situation and take this forward.
Q : What in your opinion is left to be done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a subject which you were previously handling alongside former Minister of Foreign Affairs and incumbent Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera?
In terms of foreign affairs, the Ministry has delivered a hell of a lot. We extricated the country from where it was. We were being castigated by the international community. We turned it around completely. We established good relations. We sorted out Geneva, Brussels (EU) and India, amongst others. We now have stable global relationships. We have done the difficult job.
What incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake and his team have to do is to have sustainable national relations with the world, maintain such and build on such. We changed from traditional diplomacy to economic diplomacy. Political and economic diplomacy has been achieved. We are refocusing attention on putting in place the infrastructure necessary. We are acquiring the skill set. Forty-four of our diplomats are engaged in a focused, intensive 18-week programme at the Harvard University in relation to selling and marketing Sri Lanka’s capabilities in terms of investments.