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  • Rebuilding Sri Lanka following its challenges acknowledged and appreciated by the President of Uganda.

During his official visit to Uganda, President Ranil Wickremesinghe engaged in a formal meeting with HE Yoweri Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda, yesterday afternoon (20). President Museveni warmly welcomed Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, and following a friendly exchange, bilateral discussions commenced.

During the meeting, President Yoweri Museveni expressed his joy at President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s acceptance of the invitation for the official visit and lauded his significant role in revitalizing Sri Lanka’s economy. President Museveni commended the nation for its achievements in this regard.

The leaders delved into discussions about Sri Lanka’s new economic program, with President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighting the positive economic trajectory since entering into an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. He emphasized the anticipated growth in 2024.

Mr. Ali Sabry PC, Minister of Foreign Affairs, also shared his remarks. He noted that many in Sri Lanka initially viewed rebuilding the economy as a complex task but believed that President Ranil Wickremesinghe was the right person for the job. Minister Ali Sabry highlighted the President’s swift and effective efforts in achieving economic stability, earning widespread appreciation.

The conversation extended to discussions on further enhancing bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Uganda across various domains.

In attendance were President’s Senior Adviser on Climate Change Mr. Ruwan Wijewardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms. Aruni Wijewardena, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Uganda Mr. V. Kananathan and the Sri Lankan delegation.

 

  • Global leaders have commended the President’s initiative to bolster Sri Lanka’s economy.
  • Let’s examine the African President’s proposal, drawing the attention of leaders across the continent – Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry PC.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s recent visit to Uganda has significantly contributed to strengthening diplomatic ties with African nations that have previously been overlooked in Sri Lanka’s foreign relations. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry PC, highlighted the importance of these engagements, emphasizing the sizable population of approximately 1.3 billion in these African countries and the anticipated rapid development in the future.

In his special statement today (20), Minister Ali Sabry pointed out that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ‘Look Africa’ initiative has laid the groundwork for Sri Lanka to invest in African nations, marking the commencement of a new economic journey for the country.

In a special statement on the official visit to Uganda, where President Wickremesinghe participated in the 19th Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement and the G77+China Summit, Minister Ali Sabry reiterated the significance of broadening Sri Lanka’s engagement with Africa.

“Addressing the Non-Aligned Nations Conference yesterday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe touched upon global issues, particularly focusing on events in the Gaza Strip, Israel-Palestine, the future steps for developing countries, and strategies for alleviating the burden of debt and addressing climate change.

The President shared his perspectives on a range of topics.

Foreign leaders and ministers I engaged with expressed their commendation for President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s insightful speech. Simultaneously, the President engaged in discussions with several leaders from the Global South, specifically in the African region.

Notable meetings included talks with the President of Uganda, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Vice President of the Republic of Benin, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India. The discussions centred on enhancing bilateral relations between these nations and Sri Lanka.

I am optimistic that this visit will fortify relations with African countries that are often overlooked, despite their substantial population of 1.3 billion, and are projected to undergo rapid development in the future. The economic progress witnessed in Sri Lanka under President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership, along with the President’s pivotal role, garnered appreciation from all counterparts.

Reflecting on the past year and a half since President Wickremesinghe assumed office, there has been widespread acclaim for the notable advancements Sri Lanka has achieved. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni specifically lauded President Ranil Wickremesinghe for contributing to the reconstruction of the nation.

Additionally, the Non-Aligned Nations Summits provided a platform to present the current situation in Sri Lanka to the international community. This visit by the President has played a crucial role in fostering bilateral relations with numerous countries in the African region.

Furthermore, it’s noteworthy that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ‘Look Africa’ initiative has laid the groundwork for investing in African countries, marking the commencement of a new economic chapter for Sri Lanka. A notable example is the arrangement with the Republic of Benin, wherein mutual benefits are expected through the visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, official, and service passports from both countries.

As the Foreign Minister, I seized the opportunity to engage in bilateral discussions with counterparts from Bangladesh, Bahrain, Ghana, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, and others. These dialogues have been instrumental in strengthening friendships and fostering economic ties with these nations.

Hence, through participation in such summits, our country aspires to further enhance bilateral relations with international partners and reap substantial benefits for the nation.”

Proposals for the draft legislation for safeguarding freedom of speech and expression and protection of creative rights was recently handed over to President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, at the Presidential Secretariat, by the committee appointed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

 Former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Public Performance Board Saman Athaudahetti chaired the committee tasked with drafting proposals for the new legislation
Committee members involved in this endeavour included cinematographer Ashoka Handagama, dramatist Rajitha Dissanayake, designer Anoma Rajakaruna and President’s Counsel Jagath Wickramanayake. The draft proposals align with contemporary international trends and standards, developed through consultations with stakeholders in film, theatre and the performing arts. The Draft Bill will adhere to the currently enforced Public Exhibition Control Ordinance passed in 1912. Committee Chairman Athaudahetti affirmed that the draft proposals offer solutions to various issues related to the creative arts. He emphasized that the implementation of this legislation will ensure the comprehensive protection of creative freedom.

 

  • President to address 19th NAM Summit and 3rd South Summit.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe is set to take centre stage at the upcoming 19th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the 3rd South Summit of the Group of 77 & China, scheduled from January 19 to 22, 2024, in Kampala, Uganda.

At the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Wickremesinghe will not only participate in these critical global gatherings but will also address both the NAM Summit and the South Summit. During his visit to Kampala, he is slated to engage in discussions with counterparts from the Global South, with a special focus on strengthening ties with leaders from the African region.

This year’s Summit is themed ‘Deepening Cooperation for Shared Global Affluence’ and will kick off with meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Senior Officials. The NAM, founded on the Bandung Principles and comprising 120 member-states, aims to advance the interests of developing nations, with Sri Lanka being a founding member and former Chair from 1976 to 1979.

Simultaneously, the Third South Summit, operating under the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind,’ seeks to enhance cooperation across 134 member states in areas such as trade, investment, sustainable development, climate change, poverty eradication, and the digital economy.

As the largest coalition of developing countries in the United Nations, the Group of 77 empowers the Global South to articulate and promote collective economic interests, strengthening joint negotiating capacity on major international economic issues. Uganda is poised to assume the chairmanship of both NAM and the G77 & China from Azerbaijan and Cuba, respectively.

Accompanying President Wickremesinghe are key delegates, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry, Secretary to the President E.M.S.B. Ekanayake, Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene and senior officials from the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The stage is set for Sri Lanka to actively contribute to shaping the global agenda for shared prosperity and cooperation.

 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe took centre stage in a recent roundtable discussion organized by the Consortium of Indian Industry (CII) and World Economic Forum yesterday (16), unveiling a comprehensive economic vision for Sri Lanka. The President emphasized the successful resolution of supply bottlenecks, the removal of import restrictions and the restoration of foreign exchange liquidity as key factors contributing to sustained economic growth.

Sri Lanka is actively expanding its trade agreements, with a recently completed comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore and an upcoming FTA with Thailand in February. Ongoing discussions with India, China, and Southeast Asian nations highlight the nation’s commitment to global economic integration.

President Wickremesinghe welcomed private investments, particularly in infrastructure development and the divestment of state-owned enterprises. Lucrative opportunities for potential investors were highlighted in key sectors such as telecommunications, financial services, and energy. The collaborative efforts with India on renewable energy projects, focusing on offshore wind and solar sources, underscored the commitment to sustainable energy solutions. Plans for a high-capacity power grid and bidirectional electricity trade further showcased the dedication to energy and power connectivity.

Bilateral trade and economic engagement were central themes, with plans outlined for liberalizing trade in goods and services, customs cooperation, and trade facilitation with India. The emphasis on technology cooperation and the use of the Indian rupee for trade settlement reflects a commitment to strengthening economic ties. Sri Lanka’s vision also extends to tourism and people-to-people connectivity, fostering cultural and educational collaborations.

Engaging with top Indian CEOs across various sectors, President Wickremesinghe discussed opportunities in supply chain efficiency, healthcare, consumer products, telecom, and clean energy. The roundtable positioned Sri Lanka as an attractive destination for diverse investments. Recognizing the importance of digital technologies in logistics, the President highlighted the potential for collaboration in enhancing infrastructure efficiency.

In conclusion, President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s dynamic vision, shared during the roundtable, underscores Sri Lanka’s commitment to economic prosperity, regional collaboration, and sustainable development. The dialogue with Indian CEOs lays the groundwork for robust partnerships and investments, fostering a new era of economic growth for Sri Lanka.

A special discussion on the statement made by the Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe saying “No matter who came into power, there is no other option other than the IMF”, will telecast today (17) at 10.00 pm on Rupavahini’s ‘Mahajana Dinaya’ Programme.

The opportune moment for investing in Sri Lanka’s renewable energy sector has arrived

  • Over the next few decades, everyone will undoubtedly reap the benefits of these investments.
  • Urgent global action is required to expedite climate change mitigation efforts.
  • Unfortunately, actual actions fall short of the committed initiatives.
  • Developing nations bear the consequences of global leadership failures – President emphasizes during the Swiss Green Technology Forum.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the present as an opportune moment for investing in Sri Lanka’s renewable energy sector, expressing confidence in its potential to yield substantial benefits for both stakeholders and consumers in the coming decades.

The President also underscored that investors venturing into this sector can anticipate a comprehensive and unwavering policy framework in the realm of renewable energy.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks during his address at the “Green Technology Forum” convened on January 15 in Davos, Switzerland. The event was coordinated by the Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on the theme of “Paving the way to an energy secure Sri Lanka,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the substantial potential of Sri Lanka’s renewable energy sector. He further outlined the government’s initiatives over the past two years to establish an investment-friendly environment in the renewable energy sector.

Emphasizing Sri Lanka’s dedication to addressing climate change, President Ranil Wickremesinghe elaborated on various measures, including the “Tropical Belt Initiative,” presented at the COP28 conference in Dubai.

Highlighting Sri Lanka’s commitment to sustainable and green development, the President emphasized the nation’s ambitious plans and determination to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored the pivotal role of the rapid renewable energy plan, describing it as a key component of Sri Lanka’s comprehensive efforts towards sustainable development and a crucial step in ensuring energy security.

Following is the full speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Green Technology Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

I thank the Swiss Asian Chamber of Commerce and their partners in organising this event for the invitation to speak today.

Background: Green Energy and Climate Concerns

There is an urgent need for acceleration of global actions towards climate change mitigation. There have been multiple global forums which have resulted in numerous commitments towards this end. However, actions have fallen drastically short of commitments.

The fallout of this failure in global leadership is borne largely by developing nations of the global south. When periods of drought extend beyond normal, undermining agricultural production, our food security is in jeopardy. When hydropower gets disrupted due to delayed monsoons, our energy security is in jeopardy. Droughts are often followed by a deluge, leading to flash floods and landslides, disrupting lives and livelihoods of under-privileged communities in particular.

It is very evident that there is a disproportionate impact of the adverse outcomes of climate change on developing countries. This brings to light the issue of climate justice and the need for a stronger contribution from the advanced economies towards adaptation and mitigation efforts in the global south.

That being said, Sri Lanka will forge ahead with its efforts towards climate mitigation. We have also recently launched the Tropical Belt Initiative at the COP28 in Dubai – this creates a framework for catalysing private investment in forests, energy, oceans, mangroves, in the countries of the tropical belt.

Today I want to focus on one key aspect of such efforts, which is our drive towards renewable energy.

Renewable Energy in Sri Lanka: Building on History

In fact, Sri Lanka is a country with a long history of renewable energy. Since independence Sri Lanka developed an extensive network of hydropower, commissioning its first major hydro-power plant in 1950. Hydropower was able to provide for most of the country’s energy needs until the 1990s. Even today, hydropower accounts for around 40% of Sri Lanka’s installed electricity generation capacity.

With hydropower largely exploited to the optimal levels, there has been an increased effort to include wind and solar power generation to the national grid. The government is now accelerating this process to ensure that by 2030, 70% of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs are fulfilled by renewable energy sources.

To reach this target requires a large investment of up to USD 11.5 billion. However, until recently the framework for private investment in the renewable energy sector has not been very conducive. Over the last 2 years several measures have been taken by the government to correct these shortcomings and ensure an optimal investment climate for renewable energy is in place.

Financial Reform

The first step was to ensure cost reflective pricing. Between 2014 and 2022 electricity tariffs had not been adjusted. This resulted in major cash flow problems for the Ceylon Electricity Board that sometimes led to payment delays to power suppliers. However, from August 2022 we have shifted to a cost-reflective pricing structure. Accordingly, electricity tariffs are revised every quarter to reflect costs on a forward looking basis.

The CEB, which has long been a loss making entity, returned a profit in 2023, enabling it to settle significant levels of past debt along with some balance sheet structuring. The company now has a strong balance sheet, a far stronger cash flow position, and a pricing structure that ensures liquidity.

Rigidities in the feeding tariff has also been a concern of past investors. However, this has also been addressed with greater flexibility being introduced to the tariff options, including choices between fixed tariff and variable tariff formulas.

In addition to internal reform, we are also putting in place the framework to attract green financing. Sri Lanka has developed the Road Map for Sustainable Finance, Green Finance Taxonomy, the SDG Investor Map and the Green Bond Framework, that is currently under formulation, creates the enabling environment for Sri Lanka to have a robust engagement in climate finance. The availability of sustainable finance will be an added boost for renewable energy investments in Sri Lanka.

Legislative Reform

There have also been legislative barriers to large scale private investment in the renewable energy sector. Those legal hurdles have also been cleared through necessary amendments to the Electricity Act introduced in 2022.

Institutional Reform

Thirdly, the government is in the final stages of implementing unbundling of the Ceylon Electricity Board. This will result in greater financial and operational autonomy for the distribution, generation, and transmission arms of the CEB, resulting in competition and transparency. Whilst private participation in generation is already available, the unbundling process will open up opportunities for private participation in distribution as well.

This major reform, implemented with the support of the Asian Development Bank, will ensure the CEB operates at the frontier of efficiency, delivering the best outcome for consumers and the most competitive and efficient producers of electricity. The draft legislation for this reform was already been published last month.

Infrastructure Improvements

The ambition of 70% electricity from renewals also requires improved system efficiency and upgrades to integrate more renewable energy, particularly from 2026. Investments will be required in storage, transmission, and distribution, along with the ongoing private investments in generation. Plans for this integration up to 2030 are in place and have begun implementation.

Future Outlook

Following the major reforms implemented in the energy sector in the last 2 years, there has been renewed interest in this sector. There are already large scale solar and wind power projects that have commenced implementation. A major Indian player has commenced implementation of a 350MW wind power plant that is expected to be commissioned in 2025. The same player is considering a further USD 750 million investment in wind power.

Wind power is a major opportunity for Sri Lanka. A recent World Bank report indicates that off-shore wind power in particular has the potential to generate power far greater than Sri Lanka’s requirements. Considering this, Sri Lanka and India are in advanced stages of talks regarding grid inter-connection to enable Sri Lanka to export surplus electricity particularly to the fast growing industrial belt in the Southern part of India. There is also tremendous potential for the development of green hydrogen in Sri Lanka.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka has ambitious plans to fulfil its sustainable, green development agenda. By 2050 the country has committed to achieving net zero. The accelerated renewable energy plan is a key component of this overall effort and is also an essential step on the path towards energy security. Renewable energy will also drive down costs of generation since at present Sri Lanka is compelled to rely on high cost heavy fuels during the dry season. Sri Lanka is in the process of establishing an international climate university, which will continue to unlock opportunities in green energy.

It is clear that Sri Lanka’s renewable energy policy direction is underpinned by multiple motivations and drivers. Therefore investors can expect a high degree of policy continuity in this sector going forward as well. This is the best time to invest in Sri Lanka’s renewable energy journey, and I have no doubt such investments will generate significant value for shareholders and Sri Lanka’s consumers over the next several decades.

 
 
 
 

  • President met with Northern Palm Industry – Plans to Form a Committee to Address Issues in the Palm Industry.
  • President Holds Discussion with the Bar Association of the Northern Province.

President Stresses Willingness to Make Tough Decisions for Economic Course Correction in Meeting with UNP Activists in Jaffna.

Ms. Akila Thirunayaki, a resident of Mulliyavalai, Mullaitivu, who recently clinched two gold medals in the 5000m and 1500m events, along with a bronze medal in the 800m event at the recent Asia Masters Athletics Championship in the Philippines, had the honour of meeting President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (06). This meeting took place at the Northern Province Governor’s Official Residence.

A 72-year-old retired prison officer, Ms. Thirunayaki showcased her athletic prowess from an early age and holds the position of the sixth sibling in a family comprising four brothers and nine sisters.

Having served as a prison officer before retiring, Ms. Thirunayaki has not only represented the country but has also clinched gold, silver, and bronze medals in various veterans’ tournaments held in Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

During the meeting, President Wickremesinghe engaged in a friendly conversation, inquiring about Ms. Akila Thirunayaki’s sports activities. Additionally, as a gesture of encouragement, the President presented her with a gift voucher, acknowledging her remarkable achievements in the field of athletics.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe convened a meeting with United National Party members from Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts at Walampuri Hotel, Jaffna, today (07) emphasizing his commitment to making unpopular decisions for the benefit of the country’s economy. He highlighted the significance of the Northern Province in Sri Lanka’s Tamil civilization and pledged to connect its economy to the national economy swiftly.

President Wickremesinghe stressed that with rapid economic development in the North, new job opportunities and investment prospects would emerge. He sought the support of all representatives in the region to contribute to the development of both the North and the country. The meeting, organized by Jaffna District UNP Organizer Former Minister of State Vijayakala Maheswaran, provided a platform for approximately 600 party members to directly present their concerns to the President.

A young artist named K.A. Ravi, presented President Wickremesinghe with a portrait during this the meetings, showcasing local talent.

The President commented on the occasion further said:

“I extend my gratitude to Mrs. Vijayakala Maheswaran for organizing this meeting. Among the pressing issues in the Northern Province, the matters of land disputes and missing persons have taken precedence. As a government, we have devised plans to provide expeditious solutions to address these concerns.

We are committed to resolving the land issue in the North and addressing the missing persons’ matter before the conclusion of 2025. Additionally, an on-going program is in place to provide housing for the displaced population.

To capitalize on the abundant wind and thermal energy resources in the Northern Province, we aim to increase energy production, with a focus on energy export. The production of green hydrogen and green ammonia has been prioritized.

Modern technology is set to enhance the agricultural landscape in the fertile lands of the Northern Province, aiming to establish an export-oriented agriculture sector. Recognizing the impending global population increase, our focus is on meeting the food requirements through increased export agriculture.

A dedicated program is underway to boost the tourism industry in the Jaffna district. Necessary infrastructure is being developed to enable global Hindu devotees to witness the Vel Procession in Jaffna. Special events such as the Esala Procession in August, the Kataragama Procession and Jaffna’s Vel Procession are strategically planned to attract tourists.

Initiatives are underway to provide the diaspora with new investment opportunities, particularly in the development of health and education in the North.

These economic reforms are poised to generate new job and investment opportunities in the Northern Province. The ensuing job opportunities will contribute to the improvement of living standards for the youth in the North.

While decisions aimed at strengthening the country’s economy may not always be popular, I am committed to making the necessary, albeit unpopular, choices to steer the country’s economy in the right direction. Let us collectively contribute to the development of the Northern Province and the prosperity of the entire country.”

Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, the President’s Director General of Community Affairs Mr. Rajith Keerthi Thennakoon, Former member of the Chunnakam Pradeshiya Sabha Mr. Suresh Kumar and several others were in attendance at this event.

In a parallel development, President Ranil Wickremesinghe joined a meeting with palm industrialists from the Northern Province today (07) at Thandei Chelwa Auditorium in Jaffna.

During the session, the President declared the formation of two committees tasked with investigating both social issues and challenges within the palm industry in the northern region. President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed that upon receiving the relevant committee’s report, essential decisions would be made to modernize the palm industry in the North.

Emphasizing his commitment to equal rights for all in the region, the President underscored that he stands firmly for this principle. He also highlighted the non-political nature of promises, asserting that a thorough understanding and resolution of issues will be beneficial for everyone involved.

The event was attended by the Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda, Member of Parliament Angajan Ramanathan, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake and a significant number of industrialists involved in the palm-related industry.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also met with the members of the Bar Association of Northern Province and a group of businessmen at the Governor’s official residence yesterday (06) to discuss various legal and business related challenges in the Northern Province. The meeting provided an avenue to address concerns and explore potential solutions to enhance the region’s legal and business environment

 

  • Pivotal decisions necessary for economic development have already been implemented.
  • The primary objective of the government is to provide quick relief to the people – President says inaugurating the new Air Force Headquarters.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored that decisive actions would lead Sri Lanka to rapid economic growth this year. Despite facing criticism for these challenging decisions, he emphasized that they were undertaken in the best interest of the country. The President expressed his hope for unity in the New Year, urging collaboration among political parties to fulfil their collective responsibility in safeguarding the nation.

These remarks were made during President Wickremesinghe’s attendance at the opening ceremony of the new Air Force Headquarters at the Akuregoda, Battaramulla Military Headquarters this morning (01).

As the Commander-in-Chief, President Ranil Wickremesinghe was warmly received with military honours upon his arrival at the Air Force Headquarters, marking a significant event in the nation’s commitment to modernizing its defence infrastructure.

Continuing the auspicious occasion, President Ranil Wickremesinghe formally inaugurated the new Air Force Headquarters by unveiling the commemorative plaque. Subsequently, he actively participated in the observation of the parade organized by the Air Force.

In a symbolic display, Air Force planes soared in the sky, paying tribute to the President and highlighting the significance of the event. Following these formalities, President Wickremesinghe engaged in a cordial exchange with air force members, extending his heartfelt congratulations for the New Year.

Addressing the event, the President further stated:

Today marks a momentous occasion for the Air Force, commemorating 73 years of dedicated service. Throughout its history, the Air Force has played a pivotal role in rescuing citizens from the perils of terrorist wars, internal conflicts, and natural disasters. The inauguration of the modern Air Force Headquarters equipped with cutting-edge technology signifies a significant milestone, enabling the provision of technical expertise crucial for addressing future challenges.

The Air Force’s role in positioning Sri Lanka as a defence hub in the Indian Ocean is of immense significance. To fulfil this role effectively, our forces must advance with new knowledge and technology. The application of modern security knowledge not only aids in addressing domestic challenges but also empowers us to identify and resolve international issues.

The establishment of the Air Force Headquarters within the Army Headquarters today is viewed as an inaugural move towards the modernization of our defence infrastructure. As part of a comprehensive plan, the previous Air Force Headquarters office is scheduled to be transferred to the Police Headquarters, optimizing the use of existing facilities. Additionally, there are strategic intentions to dismantle the structures formerly housing the Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This ambitious initiative envisions transforming the vacated area into a vibrant tourist zone, aligning with broader urban development objectives and promoting economic diversification.

The present challenge before us is the task of rebuilding the country’s economy, a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of all citizens. Upon assuming the presidency, I inherited a nation grappling with a complete economic collapse. Consequently, the onus to revive the country’s economy was entrusted to me. Faced with a critical decision, I deliberated with the cabinet on whether to engage in political exercises or directly focus on the formidable task of economic reconstruction.

Contemplating the economic hardships confronting Lebanon, where an economic program encountered a two-year delay, and the extended recovery period of Greece lasting thirteen years due to political instability, I sought an alternative path. Unlike the extreme measures adopted by certain nations, like slashing public service wages by 50%, I was resolute in avoiding such severe actions. Recognizing a decline in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we opted for a more calculated and direct strategy. Through the implementation of clear-cut decisions, our aim was to attain a specific level of economic resilience by the end of 2023.

To fortify the nation’s economy, timely and essential decisions must be made. Our aim is to attain a 3% economic growth rate this year, with a commitment to advancing even more rapidly. Several countries have expressed their support, raising inquiries about our ability to service the incurred debt in the future. To address this concern, it is imperative to diversify and create new sources of income, ensuring the sustainability of our economic recovery.

Last year, the government revenue reached Rs. 3.1 trillion, constituting 12% of our GDP. As part of our strategic vision, we aim to elevate the GDP to 15% by 2026. In the year 2024, we have set a target of achieving Rs. 4.2 trillion in government revenue, necessitating a revision of the Value Added Tax (VAT).

In our pursuit of fiscal responsibility, we anticipate a primary surplus of 8 decimals. However, it is essential to maintain a primary surplus at 2.3 until 2025 as we diligently work towards these objectives. Despite the inherent challenges, our commitment to a comprehensive program aimed at strengthening the country’s economy remains unwavering. Acknowledging the inherent difficulty of the task at hand, I have carefully considered the challenges associated with the decisions we are making. It is not without recognizing the complexities and obstacles that I have pondered these choices extensively. The weight of the responsibility lies in understanding that without taking these decisive measures, we risk facing a recurrence of the last economic crisis.

Conversely, implementing this program represents an opportunity for the country to forge a path toward a better future. Despite the difficulties, the potential for positive transformation and sustained growth is significant. It is with a clear understanding of these considerations and a steadfast commitment to the well-being and prosperity of the nation that I have made these decisions for the country.

Assuming the role of the presidency was not driven by a desire for popularity but rather a commitment to nation-building and securing a prosperous future for citizens and their children. Consequently, challenging decisions must be made for the greater good. I have communicated these decisions to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who have concurred, and I express gratitude for their support.

Recognizing the challenges associated with tax collection, we have sought assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to establish a new revenue authority. These collaborative efforts aim to elevate the country’s economy to approximately 5% by the fiscal year 2025-2026.

The current trajectory falls short of our aspiration for future generations, necessitating a growth target of 8%-9%. Deliberations are underway to chart a course towards achieving this ambitious goal.

In assuming the responsibility of making challenging decisions to fortify the nation’s economy, I bear the accountability for these choices. It is incumbent upon fellow politicians to recognize their duty in safeguarding the nation. Collaboration is imperative as we unite to bolster the country’s economic foundations. A collective effort is pivotal in ensuring swift development post-2024. I earnestly call upon everyone to contribute to this shared endeavour.

In attendance at this significant event were distinguished individuals including State Minister for Defence Mr. Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence General Kamal Gunaratne (Retired), Governor of the Western Province Marshal of the Air Force Mr. Roshan Gunathilake, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Air Force Commander Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera and a cohort of esteemed military officers, encompassing retired Air Force personnel.

 

As we step into the year 2024, we find ourselves facing both challenges and the prospect of revitalizing the beloved nation. While each of us holds myriad personal aspirations, the realization of these goals is intrinsically tied to the resurgence of the country from its current state of crisis.

Through the unwavering commitment of all the citizens and their resilience throughout the past year, we achieved a foundational success in saving the country from financial distress. However, in order to achieve economic stability, we must continue to forge ahead in this demanding path – one that is not adorned with flowers but presents formidable challenges.

The responsibility to contribute to this national resurgence rests upon every Sri Lankan. Recognizing and fulfilling this collective responsibility is crucial for the rebuilding of the nation. January, named after God Janus, the God of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. God Janus possessed two faces to see the past and the future, serves as a reminder for us to reflect on the shared responsibilities.

Let us, in the spirit of the New Year, commit to fulfilling these responsibilities for the greater good of the country acknowledging both the past and the future. Through responsible and dedicated efforts, let us strive to make the New Year a prosperous one.

Ranil Wickremesinghe,
President,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

The annual Sri Pada season began yesterday after processions, carrying the Sacred Casket of Relics of the Buddha, Sacred Objects, and the statue of God Saman from the Sri Pada Raja Maha Viharaya in Galpoththaawala, Ratnapura, reached Sri Pada yesterday morning. Here, the Maha Sangha carrying the Sacred Casket of Relics to the upper precincts of Sri Pada

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