PM has laid foundation for knowledge-based competitive market hub – Harsha


By Saman Indrajith

Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Minister Harsha de Silva told Parliament, yesterday, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had laid the foundation for changing the entire economic structure of the country. 

"We have adopted measures to build a knowledge-based, competitive market hub in the Indian Ocean," he said during the budget committee stage debate.

National policies, economic affairs, resettlement and rehabilitation, Northern development, vocational training and skills development and youth Affairs expenditure heads were taken up for debate in Parliament, yesterday.

 "The country is stuck in a middle income trap and much has to be done to come out of it. Therefore, to equip the younger generation to face the future we have initiated a loan scheme for those who want to continue their higher studies, amounting to Rs. 1.1 million each payable in 12 years. They don’t have to pay anything for two years after they obtain their degree."

Responding to MP Bandula Gunawardena, Dr. de Silva said the previous administration had taken loans for the development of Hambantota at 6.3%, the current government had taken a loan to build the light rail service and the loan to construct the Kelaniya Bridge at only 0.1%. "In 2005, during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, commercial interest loans stood at USD 238.5 million, but by the end of his tenure by the end of 2014, it had shot up to USD 5,024 million. This was the outstanding by December 31, 2014. By the end of 2019, the outstanding will be USD 11,994 million. Over the past four years it has increased by 2.3% in comparison to the increase of 21% during the previous government.

 "There is a lot of work which is being undertaken by the ministry of national policies,"the minister said, adding that the Northern Province would be developed and more lands released. The government had also taken measures to build more houses, while the Kankesanthurai harbour would also be developed. 

 He said that the Jaffna water supply project and the Valachchenai Paper factory and several other programmes would also be carried out.

 "Prior to the elections Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke much about an electric chair and he said if Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the President, he would be condemned to the electric chair. "Now, he need not worry about it as we have resolved the electric chair matter."

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