12/07/2022, 17.54
SRI LANKA
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Beyond aid, Wickremesinghe wants to build the country of 2050

by Melani Manel Perera

Sri Lanka’s president opened the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2022. In his view, the country cannot work its way out of its current crisis by returning to outdated economic systems; reforms need a “competitive social market economy”. To this end, Colombo should be turned into a global logistics hub via port development, while the country undergoes energy transition and agricultural modernisation.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday spoke at the inaugural session of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2022, underway at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, in the presence of representatives of international financial institutions and investors.

In his address, the president noted that the country must introduce a new economic system for 2050 rather than implement reforms that do not offer solutions to the current economic crisis.

In fact, as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades, recovery cannot be achieved through outdated systems.

Taking a long-term perspective, Mr Wickremesinghe stressed the need to develop the country’s port infrastructure, switch to hydrogen as an energy source, and modernise agriculture.

On the short run, it needs foreign currency and debt restructuring, but loans alone will not solve problems. Reforms need an economy, one that can face 2050 and is not stuck in 1950.

To survive, Sri Lanka must develop competitive sectors. “You’ve got to compete with China. We’ve got to compete with Japan. You’ve got to compete with Korea. You’ve got to compete with India,” the president said.

To that end, “we’ve got to build a highly competitive social market economy. But it must benefit all, not only a few.”

For next year, 300 billion rupees (about US$ 815 million) are needed for the energy sector, focusing on alternative sources so that the country can engage in the energy transition in the medium term, in particular through the use of green hydrogen energy.

The president also reiterated his country's ambition to become a major logistics port hub, with the development of the East terminal in Colombo Harbour, with the first choice given to Japan.

Together with Hambantota and Trincomalee, “you have three best ports available in the region.”

Lastly, there is agriculture. “Small holding agriculture may be modernised” to benefit the economy and the people. Work must be done to get agriculture ready for exports. “It can be done, but it requires high technology and more than that, the willingness to go ahead.”

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