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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing the Forum on Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Trajectories and Pathways, expressed unwavering confidence in Sri Lanka’s potential to develop independently and alleviate the burden on external assistance.

“I think we in Sri Lanka should no longer think of asking others for help. But let’s make it on our own as many countries have done,” President Wickremesinghe asserted, underlining the nation’s determination to forge its path.

The President underscored the importance of diversifying financial resources beyond traditional channels. President Wickremesinghe emphasised that Sri Lanka’s reliance extends beyond financing solely from multilateral development banks. The engagement of the private sector, along with encouraging investments, has been identified as a crucial factor in generating the necessary funds to drive the country’s sustainable development initiatives.

In a bid to foster competitiveness and navigate economic challenges, President Wickremesinghe highlighted Sri Lanka’s proactive efforts to overhaul its economy. Drawing inspiration from successful models such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, the nation seeks to attract foreign investments and capitalize on emerging markets.

President Wickremesinghe’s address at the Sustainable Development Forum conveyed an unwavering commitment to self-reliance, economic transformation, and sustainable growth, positioning Sri Lanka on a trajectory of progress and resilience.

Following is the full speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe; “When the speakers before me were explaining the Sustainable Development Goals and what we have achieved so far, the question that arose in my mind was: what is the future?

I will be one of those participating in the discussions at the United Nations, which have been called for by the Secretary General. While discussing these issues with some of them and with

some of my officials here, I had to raise a few questions that I thought I would also place before you. Where do we go from here? We have the Sustainable Development Goals that you all accepted, and now we are evaluating the results halfway through. But the world has changed a lot since then. In addition to the Sustainable Development Goals, we had the Paris Climate Summit and the Glasgow Summit, and thus the whole issue of climate change.

Furthermore, we are also meeting in the aftermath of the adverse impact of COVID-19 worldwide. Sri Lanka is one of the worst-affected because COVID itself resulted in Sri Lanka becoming bankrupt. However, every country has suffered. There has been a significant setback to the global economy. Even if we look at the situation today, what progress do we see? In Europe, it is still stagnant. The US has been luckier with growth taking place and the on-and-off rise and fall of economic performance. China is still in the process of recovery. So the engines of world growth have come to a halt.

So, what is the cost of all this for us? How do we find the financial resources for the Sustainable Development Goals? How do we find the financial resources for climate change mitigation?

How do we find the financial resources for the global debt financing crisis? The engine itself, the engine of growth, has still not reached its fullest potential. It is in crisis. And with this engine of growth in crisis, we have also got to find the resources both for the Sustainable Development Goals and for climate change.

I am not speaking against these goals; these are goals that we have to fulfill. We have our commitment from the SDGs of 2030 to the climate change goals of 2050. Recently, the Secretary General called for an accelerated agenda. But all this requires the ability to find the resources. Some thought that the developer would be good enough to fund it. However, they are not. They certainly haven’t come up with the resources. And at the moment, I don’t think they have the resources, given the problems they are facing. So where do we find it? Is the world still ready for a period of fast growth? No. So we are in the middle of another crisis. So, first, we have to look at how to find the resources, what resources are available. We rely not only on financing from the multilateral development banks, but also from the private sector. The private sector needs to invest, and the private sector needs to issue bonds. Will that succeed in the case of many countries? Some may not be prepared to accept it, and the private sector may find that other countries are not suitable for investment. So, we are leaving about one third to 40% out of that. Then how does the rest grow? This is an issue we have to address. Where do we find the funding? Look at Sri Lanka. In 2019, we required an annual investment of 9% of GDP just to achieve the SDGs. In addition to this, we now have the climate change goals, and we are a country that’s bankrupt. So, where do we find the resources?

This is a question that all of us have. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, we will make the best effort. As a result of the debt crisis we’ve had, we are now taking measures to completely restructure the economy.

We are following the path that Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam have taken, so that we become a highly competitive economy and learn to find our markets. We can no longer be the sheltered small economy that we were earlier. I hope that we will succeed, but it means reworking, starting from the beginning. We have to invest in new technologies and bring in foreign investment and capital.

This is what we want to do because if we can develop on our own, then fewer resources will be needed for Sri Lanka, and more resources will be available elsewhere. So let’s not be a burden. I think we in Sri Lanka should no longer think of asking others for help, but let’s make it on our own, just like many other countries have done. Take Vietnam, a country completely destroyed by war, which was still able to become a world power. There are many growing economies like Vietnam. There are numerous instances, and we are situated in the area

of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. We are in East Asia, Southeast Asia. We are observing growth taking place. India holds potential for growth, and the Indian Ocean region is anticipated to be the next area of growth. So, we will strive to succeed on our own. However, can the whole world be supportive?

They are after you. While Sri Lanka has its share of the Sri Lankan coast, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be ample resources available for others. With three distinct programs needing attention, it is prudent for us to consider an integrated approach to resolving this. We need to determine the areas that deserve immediate emphasis and those that can be addressed later.

I believe it’s time for all of us to review this situation. We should review the SDGs, assess climate change mitigation efforts, and examine the global debt crisis. The objective is not to abandon any of these but to bring them together and then find a way to regroup for the next phase. I intentionally use the term “regroup” because, in battle, after some time when your forces are scattered, you gather them all and regroup for the next assault. Similarly, we need to regroup, strategise, and move ahead. This is what I believe. This is what we have been contemplating, and I think it’s a serious option for us to consider.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s interest in the religious and cultural revival, as part of the post-Independence resurgence, is enormous as evident from his attention to the minutest detail with regard to the implementation of the Maha Vihara excavation and the development of the Anuradhapura Sacred City, closely questioning the officials displaying his knowledge ability.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a statement, has said: Sigiriya and Anuradhapura can be considered as our heritage. Sigiriya is our greatest achievement and our civilization lies in this City of Anuradhapura. The Maha Viharayaya takes precedence there. The Maha Viharaya is the headquarters of Pali Buddhism. This time, during my visit to India, I presented Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an English copy of the Tripitaka.

Other development initiatives in the Anuradhapura Sacred Site region should be put into action based on this Maha Viharaya Development Plan.

During the time when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was Local Government Minister in 1947, the Anuradhapura Sacred Site was initiated. But up until now, we haven’t been able to complete this properly.

India began the construction of Nalanda University in the 1990s. Today, Nalanda University has been established as a major University. Many countries made contributions to it. Pakistan, a Muslim country, also built Taxila in the same way.

Despite the fact that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation, we were unable to finish the Maha Viharaya’s construction. We should all feel guilty about it.

New Law

The Department of Archaeology is sending me letters asking me to protect the archaeological sites. We are ready for it. But we must remember the basic work of this Maha Viharaya. A new city can be built at any time. But we have to proceed with the excavation work of the Maha Viharaya. These activities should be carried forward on the advice of the Maha Sangha of the Atamasthana.

A new law that will apply to Anuradhapura should be prepared. Additionally, a Committee is anticipated to be formed to carry out this activity with the concerned officials. Despite the existence of Departments and Corporations, this work is not overseen by a single administrative officer. We should focus on that as well.

If we start this project now, we can achieve some progress in the next ten years, but it will take at least 25 years to complete it. When these operations begin, Sri Lanka will develop into an archaeological hub.

Malwathu Oya is where the Sinhalese civilization first emerged. Before beginning the Malwathu Oya project, excavations at Maha Viharaya should be completed in the following two years. Retired archaeologists can be contacted if necessary. These initiatives are connected.

We have successfully completed the Sigiriya project with Senaka Bandaranayake, Roland Silva, and Shiran Deraniyagala. We should develop the City of Anuradhapura in the same way. When I went to Paris, I also discussed it with UNESCO.

We can also get assistance from Rajarata University in this regard. This area has to be developed so that visitors can remain for a few days. Therefore, it is important to prioritize and advance this programme. Once this is underway, we will receive support from around the world to carry out the project.

Anuradhapura has a rich history. While other countries emphasize their historical civilizations we have not paid adequate attention to it. If Dimbulagala excavations were done today, tourists from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos would come to visit the place. Let’s first finish the Anuradhapura work.

We should be proud of our history and civilization. We should showcase our history to the world. Therefore, if we develop our heritage, we will be able to reap high benefits from tourism.

A showroom by the name ‘Rajarata Civilization’ will be built here. It is necessary to establish a separate location for Buddhist culture. I also spoke with the Indian Prime Minister about how Kusinara and Sanchi were built. Such locations have been constructed in Hindu countries to draw Buddhist tourists.

Additionally, we are now discussing the establishment of the Maha Vihara University. We intend to carry out those tasks in-depth in accordance with the old Pirivena education. The historical City of Anuradhapura will gain from these endeavours.

Atamasthanadhipathi and Chief Sanghanayaka of Nuwara Kalaviya Most Venerable Pallegama Hemarathana Nayaka Thera as a leader who recognized the value of Anuradhapura, your efforts to re-establish the Maha Viharaya will be blessed by the Maha Sangha. Also, we express our appreciation for your desire to exchange Buddhist philosophy with other countries of the world as a centre of Theravada Buddhism in accordance with the international relations that existed in history.

In 1948 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike gazetted and developed the Anuradhapura Sacred Site. President J.R. Jayewardene along with the Central Cultural Fund worked to restore Jethavanaramaya and Abhayagiriya temples. But no one’s attention has been focused on other temple complexes of the Atamasthana.

In the Anuradhapura Sacred Site Development Plan, it seems that no attention has been paid to Lankaramaya. Therefore, I remind the National Physical Planning Department, Archeology Department, and the Central Cultural Fund to prepare a proper plan for the development of Lankaramaya within two weeks and include it in the Anuradhapura Sacred Site Development Plan. Otherwise, this Anuradhapura Sacred Site Development Plan will basically fail.

Also, I see it as a work of great national importance if a system of rules and regulations particular to this land can be prepared and gazetted to protect this sacred Anuradhapura city for the future, he said.

Anuradhapura Sacred City was founded by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike with the assistance of Nissanka Wijeyeratne, who was Government Agent of Anuradhapura District from 1958 to 1962.

At a time when the City of Anuradhapura was in a period of historic transition, the New Town of Anuradhapura was being built, and the residents of the old were being transferred to the new town. It was a time of some tension and of excitement. He managed this process of change with courage and remarkable political skills.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe met the President of Singapore Ms. Halimah Yacob at the Istana earlier today. The Singapore President said in a note on her official Facebook page that the two leaders had fruitful discussions, covering food security, renewable energy, and regional economic cooperation, amongst others.

“Our friendship is anchored by strong people-to-people ties and cooperation across various sectors. There is much scope to deepen our ties. I wish President Wickremesinghe a productive visit in Singapore,” she noted in her post.

Meanwhile, in a significant step towards reinforcing bilateral ties, Singapore’s Minister for Defence, Dr. Ng Eng Hen, called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe today during President Wickremesinghe’s two-day official visit to Singapore.

The meeting focused on amplifying security and defence collaboration between the two nations.

The discussions between Minister Ng Eng Hen and President Wickremesinghe underscored the paramount importance of strengthening security partnerships in the South Asian region.

Singapore’s Defence Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen and President Wickremesinghe highlighted the necessity for consistent communication and coordination to effectively address common security concerns.

Both nations are set to harness their respective strengths to create a synergistic partnership that enhances the security landscape in the region.

President Wickremesinghe also met the Minister for Sustainability and Environment of Singapore Ms Grace FU Hai Yien.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the tourism industry is the leading sector that can quickly achieve the goals of building the country’s economy and the government has given priority to its promotion by taking many important decisions.

“While it takes time to get income from industry and agriculture, quicker earning can be obtained from tourism.”

President Wickremasinghe mentioned this yesterday at the opening of Hilton Yala Resort, the most luxurious hotel of the Hilton Hotel Group.

“During my trip to the Maldives in 1981, the country’s income from tourists was minimal but today arrivals have increased. While a tourist is charged around USD 200 per day in Sri Lanka Maldives charges about 700 dollars. Hence to develop the local tourism industry arrivals as well as the price should be increased.”

A large number of domestic and foreign tourists visit the Yala National Park on a daily basis and the President pointed out the need to develop the region in a comprehensive manner targeting them and to provide them with more facilities.

Wickremesinghe further said that the opening of Hilton hotel in Yala area as a high class luxury hotel gives the opportunity to attract tourists with high energy and create a new development in the tourism business and I am thankful to Melwa and Hilton Group for that. Our aim is to promote the tourism industry and take it forward. It is essential for everyone to contribute to that.”

Tourism should also be a source of employment and young people should be trained more. Many new proposals have been presented for the rapid development of tourism in this country. We also hope to deploy resources to generate short-term income and employment opportunities.”

Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism and Lands said that as a result of the President’s visit to India, the largest number of tourists is coming to our country from India.

“Our airlines operate flights to India about 80 times a week to meet this demand. New airlines have started flying to Sri Lanka while others currently flying to Sri Lanka have added capacity.”

He also said that the Hilton Hotel Group will be opening new luxury hotels in Nuwara Eliya and Negombo soon and the tourism industry of this country will get a wide contribution from these activities.

In addition a large number of foreigners have started investing in Sri Lanka today because of their willingness and desire to stay in the country.

“Statistics show that 31% of tourists coming to Sri Lanka are repeat tourists. Sri Lanka does not have to be a country with a specific destination for tourists.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged officials to accelerate efforts towards the goal of attracting 5 million tourists annually to Sri Lanka. These directives were issued during a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (16), where he engaged with a committee responsible for assessing the progress of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry enhancement program and proposing measures to establish the country as a prominent tourist destination.

During the discussion, comprehensive plans spanning short, medium, and long terms were thoroughly deliberated upon to enhance Sri Lanka’s appeal and comfort for tourists. President Wickremesinghe inquired about ongoing plans and the role of the private sector in promoting the nation’s tourism industry. Officials briefed the President on current initiatives and emerging trends.

According to the recommendations set forth by the committee tasked with establishing Sri Lanka as a leading tourist destination, the Ministry of Tourism and its affiliated bodies are formulating a strategic plan for up to 2025. Remarkably, 95% of this plan has already been completed.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also directed officials to identify a suitable location, in collaboration with the private sector, for the establishment of a high-class hotel school in Sri Lanka.

To enhance lodging options for tourists visiting Sri Lanka, the President issued additional directives. Officials have been tasked with investigating and compiling a report on currently unused buildings and historic bungalows. Additionally, they are to explore a program to unearth unexplored destinations and conceive new projects in tourist-centric areas.

With the aim of fostering a favourable investment climate, the President’s plan involves the establishment of an Investment Infrastructure Corporation, alongside the formation of a decision-making council. Emphasizing the significance of Provincial Tourism Boards across all 09 provinces, the President advocated for the creation of regional committees under each board.

Minister of Tourism and Lands, Mr. Harin Fernando, shared that several tourism promotion initiatives have been devised in anticipation of the forthcoming Asian Cup. He highlighted the unexplored potential in Central and Uva provinces, particularly in the Central Province where air quality remains pristine. Minister Fernando proposed developing this province as a sustainable tourism hub.

Addressing congestion issues at airports and parks, Minister Harin Fernando underscored the focus on enhancing visitor amenities.

Attending the event were key figures including Presidential Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, Presidential Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Lands Mr. H.M.B.P. Herath, as well as heads of various agencies. Also in attendance were committee Chairman Mr. Kavan Ratnayaka and other officials appointed to guide the transformation of Sri Lanka into a premier tourist destination.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana yesterday said in order to recover the country from the economic crisis, efforts should be made to limit the expenses and increase the income using new tactics and strategies.

The Minister was speaking during the launch of a new bus to operate from the Mattegoda, Kudamaduwa area, acquired under the Indian credit line to enhance public transport in rural areas. The new bus will be operate from the Kesbewa depot on the from Mattegoda to Kudamaduwa, Polgasowita and Piliyandala.

The Minister speaking at the event said “in the current situation, it is very difficult for the people to use private transport modes at a big cost. As the Minister in charge, I know people in every area are facing difficulties due to transportation difficulties”.

“When I took over the responsibility of the Ministry, SLTB had become a loss-making institution. The main reason was the financial irregularities and frauds carried out by a handful of people. A large number of people had to be suspended due to the ongoing investigations.

As of last week, we had to disband the SLTB flying squad due to confirmation of information that it was involved in frauds”.

“Currently, the SLTB is being revamped according to a new system with the contribution of the current chairman and other officials. By 2025, we must make SLTB profitable.”.

The purpose of getting 500 new buses under the Indian loan scheme is also an effort in this direction”.

“Throughout history, there has been no Government that has not borrowed from foreign countries. Most of the development activities carried out in the country have been done with foreign loans obtained in this way”. The amount of tax revenue collected from the people was only to pay salaries, pensions, subsidies and loan interest. In the end, the country was unable to pay the loans taken after the Covid epidemic, the Easter attack and other situations. Due to this, the people had to face situations like fuel gas queues, electricity restrictions”.

“Even though the crisis has subsided, it has not been completely resolved. No matter who is in power, we should have a plan to pay this debt for another twenty or twenty-five years. An economic solution is needed for this economic problem. We should work for a program to limit the expenses and increase the income by using new tactics and strategies” he said..

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana and Director General of Government Information Dinith Karunarathna, at the media briefing to announce Cabinet decisions yesterday.

Enforcement of bilateral and multilateral agreements

It was decided in the Cabinet meeting held on May 22, 2023, that after entering into bilateral and multilateral agreements that are determined to be essential for national development, laws should be enacted to prevent deviation from those agreements without the consent of the relevant parties. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the President to advice the legal draftsman to prepare a Bill based on the preliminary draft prepared accordingly.

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Submission of regulations issued under the Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of 1969 for the approval of Parliament

Concurrence of the relevant parties have been rendered at the discussion held with them to lift the import limitations imposed in relevance to goods for which imports have been suspended temporarily by the Import and Export (Control) Regulations No. 02 of 2023 that has been imposed for limiting import by sustaining the limitation of import for passenger vehicles and cars and other selected goods.

Providing provisions for such, the extraordinary gazette notification No. 2341/38 dated July 20, 2023 containing Import and Export (Control) regulations No. 11 of 2023 has been published. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval for the resolution furnished by the President as the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to submit the said regulations to the Parliament for its concurrence subject to the provisions of Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of 1969.

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Integrated strategic communication programme to promote SL’s national ambitions and international image

The need has been recognized to implement a strategic communication programme in order to consciously manage a correct foreign policy by strengthening international relations and to raise Sri Lanka’s international image to face global and regional challenges.

Accordingly the Cabinet of Ministers approved the combined proposal presented by the Mass Media Minister and Foreign Minister to implement a joint communication programme by the Mass Media Ministry and the Foreign Ministry to promote Sri Lanka’s national ambitions and international image.

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Assigning the Govt. Rest House in Kataragama to the Kiriwehera Rajamaha Vihara

The Government Rest House building built under the Kataragama Pooja Bhoomi Planning Scheme has been assigned to the Kiriwehera Raja Maha Vihara for maintenance and operation for a period of five years and after the expiry of that period, the rest house has been handed over to the National Physical Planning Department. The Chief Incumbent of Kataragama Rajamaha Viharaya has requested that the said rest house building be given back to Kiriwehera Rajamaha Viharaya. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal made by the Minister of Urban Development and Housing to assign the said rest house building to the Kiriwehera Rajamaha Vihara subject to the settlement of the bills for the maintenance of the building, repair work, and related contractual services.

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Guidelines prepared under the provisions to the Office of Missing Persons Act

According to the provisions of Section 11(c) of the Office on Missing Persons (Establishment, Administration and Discharge of Functions) Act No. 14 of 2016, relevant rules and guidelines should be issued in advance, including the policies to be followed in relation to the implementation and performance of the powers, functions and duties of that office.

The relevant guidelines have been prepared taking into consideration the observations and recommendations given by the Attorney General. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval for the guidelines presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms to the Cabinet.

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Amendments to Code of Civil Procedure (101 Authority) (Pre-Trial Conferences)

Cabinet approval has been granted on September 27, 2021 to amend the Code of Civil Procedure so as to take appropriate remedies for the problems and challenges that have arisen after the implementation of the new provisions related to pre-trial proceedings introduced by the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act No. 8 of 2017 and to speed up legal proceedings and reduce the time taken to render judgments. The respective revised Bill has been prepared by the Legal Draftsman and the Auditor General’s clearance also has been given for the same. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms, to publish the said Bill in the Government Gazette and to submit for the Parliamentary approval consequently

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Award contract for the supply of aviation fuel for SriLankan at Doha, Kuwait

The existing contracts for the supply of aviation fuel for SriLankan Airlines Limited at Doha Hamad International Airport and Kuwait International Airport will expire on October 31, 2023. Bids were invited in accordance with Government procurement guidelines from Qatar Fuel Company and Kuwait Aviation Fueling Company (KAFCO), the only aviation fuel suppliers at each airport. As such, in accordance with the recommendation of the Cabinet appointed standing procurement committee, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation to award the contracts for the supply of aviation fuel to SriLankan Airlines’ aircraft for a period of 24 months to fuel suppliers at Hamad International Airport and Kuwait International Airport as a direct contract.

In the event of any inconsistency between the English translations of this document, the Sinhala text shall prevail.

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Construction of power line on 33 kilowatt double circuit zebra towers from Kerawalapitya grid substation to Nugape Junction

The Cabinet of Ministers had given approval on December 19, 2022, to authorize the Environment Minister to issue a gazette notification amending the existing Extraordinary Gazette notification No. 1466/26 dated October 13, 2006, to declare the construction of a power line on 33 kilowatt double circuit zebra towers from the Kerawalapitya grid substation to the Nugape Junction along the Mudianse Canal in the Muthurajawela Environmental Protection Area, as an authorized activity.

The Central Environment Authority has informed the Ceylon Electricity Board that instead of constructing the power line along the Mudiyanse Canal, it may grant the necessary approval for the construction along the boundary of the environmental protection area. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal made by the Power and Energy Minister to authorize the Environment Minister to amend the Extraordinary Gazette Notification 1466/26 dated October 13, 2006 and to issue a new Gazette Notification through the Central Environment Authority, declaring the work as a permitted activity so that the power line can be constructed along the proposed alternative route.

 
 
 
 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised the importance of capital, particularly financial and human, for driving growth. He noted that Sri Lanka’s historical capital formation efforts had been disrupted over the years, leading to current financial struggles.

He pointed out that while the country had accumulated capital up to 2019, subsequent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn had led to a decline in financial strength. He drew parallels with other nations, pointing out how capital influx had fuelled their growth and called for a focus on reorganizing and restructuring the financial system.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the 36th Annual Conference of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) of Sri Lanka day before yesterday (9) at the Kingsbury Hotel Colombo. He commended the nation’s collective efforts in navigating through challenging times, comparing the present to the previous year and acknowledging the reversal of gloomy circumstances. He asserted that the country now holds renewed hope and prospects for the future. The President also expressed his gratitude for the invitation and highlighted significant areas that will shape Sri Lanka’s future trajectory.

President Wickremesinghe also underscored the necessity of moving forward with confidence and determination. He highlighted the importance of constructive solutions over political distractions, cautioning against the detrimental effects of agitation without viable solutions, and mentioned the vacuum in political leadership that the nation experienced. He emphasised the need for consistent leadership to address pressing issues. However, the President praised those who stepped up to take on responsibilities and contribute to the country’s stabilization.

The President also highlighted his acceptance of leadership during the crisis and the subsequent efforts to stabilize Sri Lanka both politically and economically. He acknowledged the co-operation of various parties and individuals in these endeavours, emphasising the critical role played by those who united for the nation’s betterment.

Turning to economic challenges, the President addressed the issue of domestic debt optimisation and the potential sabotage of these efforts. He underscored the dire consequences if such endeavours were to fail, which would severely impact the nation’s banking sector and economy at large.

Addressing the issue of human capital, the President highlighted the significance of education and training. He noted the departure of skilled individuals from the country and expressed concern over the loss of professionals to other nations. He emphasised the urgent need for the establishment of vocational training centres and universities to address the skills gap and meet the demands of a competitive economy. He outlined plans to collaborate with the private sector and institutions to create a robust framework for education and training and stressed the importance of creating an environment that encourages professionals to remain in Sri Lanka.

While underscoring the importance of attracting investment, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the need for a competitive economy. He emphasised that Sri Lanka’s historical capital formation had faltered due to various reasons and underscored the importance of foreign investments and the Colombo financial zone to secure necessary funds. He stressed the role of a streamlined investment procedure and called for the development of a more appealing investment environment to compete with neighbouring countries.

President Wickremesinghe also discussed the legislative changes being proposed, including the devolution of powers to Provincial Councils and streamlined procedures for new universities. He mentioned plans for the establishment of multiple institutions to cater to the evolving demands of various fields. He emphasised the importance of human resource development, especially in universities, and urged the participation of organizations like the OPA to ensure the required human resources for future growth.

He emphasized that the key to Sri Lanka’s future success lies in the strategic management of financial and human capital in driving the country’s economic prosperity, marking them as pivotal factors for the nation’s future development to foster a thriving and competitive economy.

  • The new economic commission law ensures the timely processing of investment and trade applications.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the realization has dawned upon us and that rapid economic growth is only achievable through digital transformation. In today’s world, the 21st-century economy cannot compete effectively with out- dated 20th-century bureaucratic systems. To stay competitive, Sri Lanka must embrace change and modernize bureaucratic processes. By doing so, the nation can significantly reduce the time taken in administrative procedures, providing much-needed support to the people.

With the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Sri Lanka has successfully launched a crucial aspect of the new economy. The challenges that have been faced have underscored the importance of transforming into a competitive and export-oriented economy. To achieve this, it is not only essential to restructure the economy but also to empower and facilitate the private sector, particularly in the realm of trade. Trade plays a pivotal role as the essence of economic growth. Through trade facilitation, Sri Lanka can bolster its prospects for growth and advancement. The service that has been launched today is a vital component, contributing to both the restructuring of the economy and enabling digital transformation, the President said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while addressing the launch of key trade facilitation initiatives in Sri Lanka yesterday (08) at the Hotel Shangri La, Colombo.

The efforts to streamline processes are just the beginning; the implementation of the new economic commission law will further expedite applications, be it for investments or trade, within specific timeframes. This transformation requires a comprehensive overhaul of regulations and perspectives, going beyond the establishment of a one-stop Centre. Embracing change across the board is crucial to Sri Lanka’s success in today’s dynamic economic landscape.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further mentioned the importance of trade facilitation and digital transformation and said that it has become evident when considering the effectiveness of a one-stop Centre. Without these essential elements, progress stagnates, hindering our restructuring efforts. Simultaneously, Sri Lanka is actively exploring new markets and has already signed free trade agreements.

The President further mentioned that an application to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reflects the pursuit of vast opportunities in a significant market. However, gaining access to such markets hinges on trade facilitation and digital transformation. Engagements with India to upgrade trade arrangements highlight the advantages of trade facilitation. It has proven beneficial in dealing with major players like the European Union and American markets, enhancing the nation’s trade prospects. Trade facilitation and digital transformation are vital for propelling Sri Lanka into new markets, streamlining processes, and maximizing economic opportunities on the global stage.

The President stressed that a crucial aspect of the efforts is the promotion of trade integration, closely linked to the ease of trade facilitation. Enhancing Sri Lanka’s position in the ease of doing business index is a priority in this regard. To achieve this, a well-functioning global trading system is essential, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has played a significant role in this arena since its establishment after the fall of the Berlin Wall, contributing to the era of globalization. The WTO serves as the arbitrator on the rules of trading, ensuring a fair and regulated global trade environment. “We extend our gratitude to the International Trade Centre (ITC), which has been instrumental in supporting our efforts to promote trade integration,” the President mentioned. “Their valuable assistance has been pivotal in advancing Sri Lanka’s trade objectives and fostering economic growth. Through trade integration, facilitated by organizations like the WTO and the ITC, we are optimistic about improving Sri Lanka’s position in the global trade landscape and enhancing the ease of doing business for the benefit of our nation’s prosperity.

Indeed, there are current concerns surrounding trade, particularly with regard to talks of decoupling and de-risking. While globalization has shown its flaws, it has also contributed significantly to the rapid economic development of Asian regions, such as East Asia and Southeast Asia. We believe that South Asia can similarly benefit from this process. Therefore, it is essential that the global trade system remains uninterrupted and continues to function effectively. To ensure stability and progress, we are committed to abiding by the rules set forth by the WTO. It is crucial for all nations to adhere to these rules and not deviate from them. A sudden departure from the principles of globalization can have detrimental effects on economies and hinder the path to development. If there is a need to make changes to the rules governing global trade, it should be a collective and consultative process, involving the consent of all nations. This way, we can collectively address any shortcomings and work towards a more inclusive and sustainable global trade system. Our goal is to maintain a fair and equitable trading environment that benefits all nations and fosters continued economic growth and prosperity.

We recognize that the current situation concerning global trade can have far-reaching impacts, especially for smaller economies like Sri Lanka’s. As the saying goes, ‘When elephants fight, it’s the grass like us that gets trampled.’ We are determined to prevent any negative consequences on our region and its development. This is a crucial moment for South Asia and the Indian Ocean to flourish, and therefore, we are committed to upholding the rules set by the WTO. Any changes to these rules should be made collectively, with the consent of the majority, as outlined.”

The President appreciated the work that has been done in the plant quarantine sector and assures to continue the efforts in other areas and sectors as well.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Shehan Semasinghe, Kanaka Herath, Dilum Amunugama, Deputy Ambassador of the Embassy of Germany Mr. Olaf Malchow, Director International Trade Centre Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal and other officials attended this event.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised that Sri Lanka has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing climate change goals. Going forward, Sri Lankan architects will play a pivotal role in this endeavour. They will need to integrate climate change criteria into their designs, ensuring that the built environment aligns with sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. Integrating sustainable and environmentally conscious practices into our architectural designs will be instrumental in achieving our climate goals ahead of the set timeline. Also, together, we can build a resilient and environmentally friendly future for Sri Lanka, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change and protect our planet for generations to come.

The President further mentioned prominent examples of significant architectural achievements such as the grand dagobas, including Ruwanwelisaya, Abhayagiri, and Jetavanaramaya, as well as iconic structures such as Sigiriya, which stand as prime examples of exceptional architecture recognised worldwide. These architectural marvels are further exemplified by the structures found in Polonnaruwa. Notably, even during a period of decline, architectural endeavours persevered, evidenced by the expansion of the Dalada Maligawa with its octagonal design, and the construction of the Kandy Lake under the reign of the last king.

President Wickremesinghe further stressed that, throughout history, Sri Lanka has showcased its architectural prowess, evident in remarkable structures such as the Trinity College Chapel, Kelaniya Vihara, Lake House building, Peradeniya University, Independence Square, and the Art Gallery, among others. The iconic Parliament building designed by Jeffrey Bawa, has added to this rich architectural heritage.

The President emphasised that, if remarkable architectural feats were accomplished 2,000 or 1,000 years ago, there is no reason why the same level of excellence cannot be achieved in the present and in the future. The responsibility to create a lasting impact through architecture was entrusted to the Architects.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks at an international conference on Architecture, organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sri Lanka Chapter, in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Italian Embassy of Sri Lanka, on the theme: “Architecture: A Lasting Impact,” held on Saturday (5) at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo.

The vision to transform Colombo into a beautiful city is already in motion, with plans provided by Surbana Jurong Pvt Ltd, a Singaporean government-owned international consultancy company focusing on infrastructure and urban development. Similar plans have been prepared for Trincomalee, aiming to enhance the development in that region as well. Additionally, Surbana Jurong is actively involved in creating a tourist zone from Verugal Aru to Batticaloa and Arugam Bay areas, contributing to the growth of the tourism industry.

The focus on expanding the tourist industry is expected to create opportunities for non-government universities in Sri Lanka. The recent enactment of the new Act, allowing provincial councils to establish universities, marks the beginning of this endeavour. There is a growing need for skilled professionals, including engineers, architects, IT specialists, and others, with the demand estimated to be at least 10,000 engineers alone.

To address these requirements, discussions are underway with Japan, which has shown a willingness to assist, as in the past. Despite challenges posed by the recent crisis, the commitment to progressing these plans remains strong, with the hope of securing the necessary support to meet the country’s developmental needs.

Envisioning the future, the potential for architects to participate in the development of the Port City holds significant promise. A notable portion of the Port City land is under government ownership and is slated for diverse utilization. The involvement of the private sector in this initiative offers an added avenue to harness architectural expertise. This exploration requires collaborative dialogues involving relevant chambers and stakeholders.

These emerging opportunities symbolise valuable prospects for Sri Lanka. Seizing these chances has the potential to establish a notable standing for the nation. It’s imperative to acknowledge that as India’s progress persists, architectural possibilities might also arise there. Those with established recognition could potentially tap into this market, mirroring the engagement of architects in Africa for house design.

Effectively orchestrating these prospects is critical for architects’ personal growth and the broader advancement of the discipline. By tapping into these potentials, Sri Lankan architects can substantially contribute to the country’s advancement, while carving an illustrious identity for themselves on both regional and global platforms.

The President acknowledged that his expertise lies primarily in the field of the economy and not architecture. As the discussion revolves around architecture and the lasting impression it creates, the President opted not to delve into the topic extensively. It was emphasized that ancient architects achieved the task of leaving a lasting impression through their work.

Numerous architects have contributed to this legacy with their creations. However, the present challenge lies in not only preserving this rich heritage but also elevating it to meet global standards. This endeavour comes at a time when the construction industry is facing a downturn, a consequence of the recent crisis. Over the past two years, this sector has experienced significant setbacks, resulting in the unfortunate loss of numerous jobs and a noticeable reduction in available projects. However, amidst the challenges faced by the construction industry, the country now stands at a critical juncture. The last two years have witnessed a downturn in the construction sector, leading to job losses for many and a decline in available projects. Despite these difficulties, there is a pressing need to preserve and elevate this architectural legacy to international standards.

The future lies in how the nation can continue its architectural journey and build upon its heritage to create structures that not only exemplify Sri Lanka’s identity, but also meet global standards. Emphasising innovation and creativity will be crucial in revitalising the construction industry and rekindling its growth for a promising future.

In the past, the economy predominantly revolved around concrete-based development, primarily directed at infrastructure such as roads and irrigation projects. However, the resulting debt burden has contributed to the current crisis. This situation doesn’t mandate a complete halt to construction; rather, economic restructuring calls for a shift in focus to other sectors. While revitalising construction is desired, it may not reach previous levels. Furthermore, there’s a need to encourage our construction companies to explore international opportunities.

As part of this approach, the government is looking to involve private companies in building homes and structures. This is just the beginning. It will create more affordable housing for people of low and middle incomes. Government land that’s worth more than the buildings on it, can be used for this purpose, while relocating people there, and give the land to private companies to build affordable homes and apartments. This will also free up space in Colombo for other developments. It’s like a cycle – more buildings, more possibilities. Imagine what could happen if they repurpose places such as Welikada Prison or even the railway area. Certain buildings on Mount Mary can be retained, while the rest can be used for new projects. Many areas could benefit from this. And the cost of land today makes it feasible. The Treasury is working on the details to start next year or the year after, as the economy strengthens, this could become a reality.

The government is actively engaged in the promotion of tourism, with a target of increasing tourist arrivals from 2.5 million to 5 million, and potentially up to 7.5 million. This endeavor entails diverse categories of accommodations, including various styles of bungalows. The restoration of historical structures to create smaller boutique hotels and the revitalisation of larger hotels in various regions across the country represents a significant focus area. This ambitious goal involves doubling the existing capacity. It’s important to note that the majority of this expansion will be realised through the construction of new buildings or the renovation of existing ones, thereby offering yet another avenue for the involvement of architects.

A third strategic initiative involves the expansion of our existing investment promotion zones, with current discussions revolving around the establishment of expansive zones spanning thousands of acres, which will be gradually opened up. This expansion is set to facilitate the construction of additional factory buildings to accommodate growing industries. With Sri Lanka’s increasing role as a logistical hub, there will also be a heightened demand for logistics buildings, which are relatively straightforward to design.

These represent just a few of the concepts we’re considering. As the economy gains momentum, it’s likely that we’ll witness an increase in the construction of skyscrapers, high-rise structures, and residential homes. However, strategic planning is crucial to determine the locations, methods, and integration with our evolving transportation system. This is the direction I envision for the future, and it’s where our dedicated efforts must be focused.

The re-planning of Kandy Town to potentially extend its boundaries up to Teldeniya, along with considerations for incorporating Peradeniya and potentially Talatu Oya, are subjects currently under committee deliberation. The committee will be responsible for making informed decisions regarding these proposals. Notably, the extension of the new town and bridge to Peradeniya is viewed as a significant priority. These opportunities signify important prospects for development. Similarly, Galle is engaged in evaluating the enhancement of its urban landscape, particularly the sea frontage.

Additionally, it is likely that other regions, such as Nuwara Eliya town, will also require reimagining and redesigning in new locations. This presents a significant task. The pertinent question is whether we are prepared to embrace this challenge, which we must undertake. Collaboration with international counterparts will also be essential for successful execution.

The impending tasks are undoubtedly of substantial magnitude. However, there is another crucial aspect that warrants attention. Sri Lanka remains steadfast in its commitment to climate change objectives. Notably, upon assuming leadership, adjustments were made to hasten the timeline from 2060 to 2050 for achieving climate change targets. Recent discussions at a UN session, prompted by the concerning fires in Europe, have spurred a re-evaluation of this timeline. There is a contemplation of expediting these efforts even before 2050. This endeavor’s feasibility rests, in part, upon available resources. Consequently, architects now face the imperative of aligning their designs with climate change criteria, marking a significant shift in their role and responsibilities.

Reflecting on the past, Jeffrey Bawa’s remarkable work, such as the Kandalama project, highlights a growing trend of impressive designs in various scales. Sri Lankan architects are excelling in creating climate-responsive buildings, outperforming their counterparts elsewhere. Future laws and regulations will demand climate-adaptive constructions. An innovative concept emerges: establishing the International Climate Change University, comparable in size to Peradeniya University, within the former Kotmale Skanska camp. This presents significant opportunities. Presently, architects have a mission: leaving a lasting impact, reminiscent of historical achievements. The ability to achieve greatness in the past prompts a pertinent question: Why not now and in the future? This call is directed towards those pioneering architectural progress. The blueprint is set, and the drive to establish an enduring legacy rests with the architects of tomorrow.

Deputy Chief of Mission U.S. Embassy, Douglas E. Sonnek, Acting British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall, Representatives from the Italian Embassy in Colombo, and nearly 350 people, including architects from Sri Lanka and South and Southeast Asia, attended the event.

The ‘Yal Nila’ special luxury train from Mount Lavinia to Kankesanthurai commenced operations on Friday night.

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana who joined in Yal Nila’s inaugural journey having a conversation with a group of passengers.

Formulation of a new Medical Act within six months :

Proposal to be drafted for establishing WHO standard benchmark level 4 lab facility:

President Ranil Wickremesinghe led a follow-up meeting at the Presidential Secretariat to bolster the nation’s healthcare system. He directed the formulation of a new Medical Act within six months with the aim of addressing shortcomings in the present Medical Ordinance and thereby provide better healthcare and protect citizens’ well-being.

A high-level Committee, consisting of the Secretary of Health, Legal Draftsman and President of the SLMC, was assigned to examine the provisions of the Medical Ordinance and formulate a new Medical Act with appropriate provisions.

To address immediate medical needs, an additional allocation of Rs. 30 billion was approved for medical supplies under the Provision to Ministry of Health, sufficient for the next three months.

On President Wickremesinghe’s directions to the NMRA to expedite the approval process for FDA-approved drugs and reference drugs from other countries that collaborated with the Health Ministry, the NMRA sought to obtain Cabinet approval to make the necessary amendments to the NMRA Act that will ensure faster access to critical medications.

The meeting resolved the issue of staff shortage at the NMRA. The President called for a detailed report to strengthen the role of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) in regulating medical products and ensuring public health safety.

Efforts to improve medicine distribution and inventory management were discussed, with the President emphasizing the need for a web-based system to provide real-time information on available medicines and their distribution among hospitals with immediate effect as discussed during the meeting two weeks ago.

A five- member committee led by A.K.Seneviratne, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury was appointed to, among other tasks; devise a simple and transparent scheme for the procurement of quality drugs and medical devices.

The Ministry of Health requested the Department of Management Services to amend the Service Minute to align nurse recruitment qualifications with current healthcare requirements. The President urged health officials to consider recruiting and training individuals with Arts and Commerce Stream qualifications as nurses.

Additionally, the President instructed the Health Ministry and NMRA to draft a proposal for establishing WHO standard benchmark level 4 to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of medical products.

The Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Adviser on National Security to the President Sagala Ratnayake emphasized to the health officials to immediately submit a list of unusable hospital equipment and equipment or related materials or goods that will expire or be removed within two years.

The meeting concluded with a commitment to promptly implement the proposed reforms, aiming to build a robust and accessible healthcare system for all citizens.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Health Minister Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella, Chief of Presidential Staff and Senior Adviser on National Security to the President Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Health Janaka Sri Chandraguptha, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Health officials and Finance Ministry officials attended the meeting.

Page 6 of 96

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