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Eran outlines practical solutions aimed at resolving corruption and other issues



Continued From Yesterday
A National Land Bank

Another huge barrier you face when you are in business is, basically getting some land to set up a factory, industry or even an office. I am a person who came from your side (private sector) to this side (public sector) and I can share my view on this area of activity of obtaining land for a Multi model Transport Hub. I had to get involved with the UDA, CGR, CTB, Municipal Council, the state authorities; just to get a plot of land sorted out and it took nearly two years.

The President the other day said a National Land Council will be set up and a national land policy will be adopted. What I ask is, do it quickly rather than allow time to pass. We are taking it beyond that and we will create a National Land Bank. This is one of the huge obstacles, the businesses in our country face. That is why we want to make sure that we go in this direction.

Fuel and Energy issues

The other issue you are currently facing is fuel and energy. No easy solution and payment cannot be made as there is an immediate dollar shortage in the country. A few months ago MP Harshana Rajakaruna and I were at the COP – 27 meeting in Egypt where the President was in attendance at the meeting of leaders of countries meeting on energy and the environment. We were there as Members of Parliament with other Members of Parliament of South Asian countries. One of the things we don’t openly talk about is, we have a huge potential in sustainable energy; our policy is to open a system. Sri Lanka’s biggest hurdle is that we have closed our borders and we need to open them. Bigger issue is we have closed our minds and we have to open our minds and think out of the box.

Therefore, this potential can’t be tapped unless we have foreign investments and we heard our political parties saying that foreign investment will not be welcomed in the energy sector. What kind of nonsense is that? We are never going to do it with our savings because we know about our debt problem. Therefore, we have to open it up for foreign investment. I can’t understand their logic; what are we talking about here is solar energy and wind energy. We are selling the resources. Therefore we have to open up. We have so much of potential. Harshana and I had discussions with India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Sri Lanka’s needs can be met by more than that, we could even become an exporter of energy. Therefore we need to move in that direction.

Legal process

Other issues businesses have are legal issues. I must confess upfront I am not a lawyer, not a legal person. But there is a lot that has been written. Fair and equal treatment is absolutely important. Businesses also need guarantees against appropriations. When I was in Parliament first in 2010 – 2015, it was awful to see what the then government did.

The private sector lost confidence. We have constitutional guarantees. But despite the constitutional guarantees unlawful expropriation is a predominant concern of the private sector. State has the right to regulate, but not to unlawfully or indirectly expropriate. Fair treatment must be ensured and we will work on it.

We need to be seen as a reliable country where local and the foreign businesses actually can deal with us. This needs a lot of consultations on how we are going to do this. We need to make Sri Lanka a Centre for Arbitration in the region to move in this direction.

Centralised approvals for local BOIs

Why only the concept for foreign investments, why haven’t we thought about it? Several years ago when I was a banker I was asked how to develop ICT. I was not an ICT man but I was a developer. I was ask to take over the ICT. I went and looked at it. There were more drivers and clerks than ICT people there. I came up with a recommendation to shut it down and that is how the ICTA was started. Some of these reorganizations will have to be radical. I will give an indication that we will do the reforms; starting a new BOI for local businesses. We have to be radical in our thinking if we want to enable this country to go ahead. These are not new but other countries have done these things. Therefore, these things can be done.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Our foreign policy is that of an independent state. I like the old language that was used by Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike. A Non – Aligned country. Taking into consideration the security concerns of our neighbour India, the closed proximity we have, we have to work intelligently. But we are an independent state. That is our foreign policy. In this foreign policy we don’t care where the investment comes from. Rule of Law will be paramount. We have to have an empowered BOI. Exports will be given primacy. Value addition to high- end services, basically high tech manufacturing institutions, will be relooked at.


Harsha De Silva M.P gave the staggering statistics of State Owned Enterprises. I remember a former Prime Minister called me one day and said he wants to put Sri Lankan Airlines under me. I said Sir, wait a minute. I don’t want it. He looked very puzzled. He asked why? I said; Sir, there is no point in giving me the things that cannot be overturned by me. Everybody looked shocked. We have to stop fooling ourselves.

SoEs need to be reformed. I am going to tell you what our policies are. Our philosophy is limited government ownership in strategic areas. There are strategic areas, such as, finance, food and energy. But you know to do things better. I don’t think the government needs to be involved. You are the entrepreneur, you know the market you know better, therefore, you should be doing things. Now the number of SOEs have risen from 105 to 250.And the losses have risen to more than a trillion rupees. We believe in Public -Private Partnerships. We looked at various models of PPP.

We see now the institutions are put under different ministries and the ministers are managing them through their secretaries, like chief executives giving instructions to commercial enterprises. We want to move away from that. We want to take the people who know what to do to be in-charge of them. That is why that structure is important and the businesses can lead those structures. One more thing, bankruptcy can also be avoided. Therefore, we need a law on bankruptcy and on reorganizing bankruptcy. Preliminary work was done and the AGs Dept. played a key role in it.


We need to take this country to the next level. It is not going to be easy. I think we have a 2- 3 year struggle on our hands. Stabilization first, as Dr. Harsha said. If I use the word diaspora here, this word has been redefined with Sri Lanka’s conflict in mind. That is why I purposely use the words Overseas Sri Lankans. Sri Lankans living overseas are not a liability; they are one of the biggest assets this country has. Their educational level is very high, they have the technology and the foreign currency, so many huge advantages and we want to welcome them here. If they decide to have dual citizenship they will be given it. Their 2nd generation born abroad will be given permanent residence and we will open our doors to them and their investment. Why should we close the door on these biggest assets we have?

Education for all

Physical location is a great advantage this country has. We are the hub of the Indian sub-continent in education and human resources. Airport, ports, logistics are available.

SJB policy is that every child in this country must have access to higher education.

Though education is a public good the supplier need not necessarily be the government. Private sector too can be a supplier.

Two private sector medical colleges opened by the private sector previously were shut down due to protests by left wing political parties who are against private sector contributions towards education.

The responsibility of the government is regulation in providing education.

We want to preserve our societies and families. We don’t want our youngsters going abroad, looking for greener pastures or for shelter in other countries. This not only about the economy but also about values culture, family society etc.

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Leading US-based international trade finance services provider to set up in Sri Lanka



Chairman, iBEX Global, Maverick Robinson (R) with MD Jayamal Hewage

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Leading US-based international trade finance services provider, iBEX Global, will officially set up in Sri Lanka soon.

Chairman and founder of iBEX Global, based in Atlanta, Georgia, Maverick Robinson who is currently in Sri Lanka, at a special event held recently at Galle Face Hotel, said that Sri Lanka is the third country after UAE to launch their operations.

“We have been following developments in Sri Lanka since August 2022 and have appointed Jayamal Hewage as our Managing Director, Robinson said.

Hewage is the Group Managing Director of Jayamal Holdings Group of Companies.

Robinson said that iBEX Global was set up four years ago by him in the US in the thick of the COVID pandemic at a time when companies were shutting down.

Robinson added: “We saw a huge vacuum for logistics and international trade finance services, mainly to import personal protective clothing (PPE), like masks from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. At that time the supply chains and support services were completely in disarray but we quickly gathered a professional team, created and opened a new supply chain, helping to save and protect the lives of many.

“By doing this we proved that there is opportunity in crises and we see similarities in Sri Lanka and this is why we decided to open here. Our primary focus centers on providing international trade finance services tailored to each customer’s unique needs.

“We see that with better marketing networks, attractive packaging and product financing (of which we are experts) Sri Lanka’s exports could be increased by almost 20% in less than a year.”

Meanwhile, Jayamal Hewage said: “In Sri Lanka we intend to cater to medium, small and macro sized companies and those who come on board with us will be provided technical advice on product development, superior packaging and other technical advice, all free of charge.

“iBEX Global can even offer financing up to USD 10 million for companies to develop their product range.

“They would also be linked with new global markets that were not accessible to them.

“Our services also include Standby Letters of Credit, Bank Guarantees, RWA Documents, Documentary Letters Credit and many other similar services.”

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Sri Lanka slips in Economic Freedom



Sri Lanka ranks 116 out of 165 jurisdictions included in the Economic Freedom of the World: 2023 Annual Report, released by Advocata Institute in conjunction with Canada’s Fraser Institute. The current ranking represents a decline in the economic freedom of the country which ranked 104th during 2020.

The report measures the economic freedom of individuals—their ability to make their own economic decisions—by analyzing the policies and institutions of 165 jurisdictions. The policies examined include regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, legal system and property rights, and sound monetary policy. The 2023 report is based on data from 2021, the last year with available comparable statistics across jurisdictions.

Sri Lanka’s decline in score was driven by 4 out of the 5 sub indicators of economic freedom registering declines in their respective individual scores. These indicators are the size of government, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and the regulation of credit, labour, and business. The only indicators that registered an improvement in its score is the indicator of legal system and property rights.

“The report captured a stark warning: Sri Lanka’s economic freedom declined prior to the economic crisis of 2022, a testament to the vulnerability of nations with limited economic freedom in the face of economic turmoil. If the country is to recover, Sri Lanka must prioritize economic growth within the framework of maximising economic freedom for its citizens to trade, work, and transact freely in a stable monetary and fiscal environment” said Dhananath Fernando, Chief Executive Officer at the Advocata Institute.

The number one spot is now occupied by Singapore, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Other notable countries include Japan (20th), Germany (23th), France (47th) and Russia (104th).

Venezuela once again ranks last. Some countries such as North Korea and Cuba can’t be ranked due to lack of data.

The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 100 countries and territories. It’s the world’s premier measure of economic freedom.

The report was prepared by Professor James Gwartney of Florida State University and Professors Robert A. Lawson and Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University.

According to research in top peer-reviewed academic journals, people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer lives.

For example, countries in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of US$48,569, compared to US$6,324 for bottom quartile countries. Poverty rates are lower. In the top quartile, less than one per cent of the population experienced extreme poverty (US$1.90 a day) compared to 32 per cent in the lowest quartile. Finally, life expectancy is 81.1 years in the top quartile of countries compared to 65 years in the bottom quartile.

“Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute said.

See the full report at

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EFC calls for political will to realise competitive and relevant labour law reforms



The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) was recently invited for a series of meetings with political representatives including the Prime Minister and the Executive Council of the Parties in the Opposition to discuss labour law reforms to be introduced through the proposed Employment Act. The meeting with the Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, which was held at the Temple Trees was attended by the Commissioner General of Labour, a representative of the Bar Association, officials of state enterprises and trade unions. The meeting with the Executive Council Members of the Opposition Parties was held in the parliamentary complex and was chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa. MPs Lakshman Kiriella, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Eran Wickramaratne, Nalaka Godahewa and Chandima Weerakkody represented the Committee at this meeting.

The EFC led the private sector which was represented by several business chambers at these meetings. On behalf of the private sector, the Director General of the EFC, Vajira Ellepola highlighted the importance of proceeding with labour law reforms which are critical for investment promotion. During the discussions, EFC’s DG reiterated that the private sector had made submissions to successive governments calling for labour law reforms. Despite the fact that such regimes have also declared their intention to reform the existing law, they lacked the political will and conviction to realise those reforms to benefit all stakeholders, he averred.

“Our current labour law is essentially the same as what existed a few decades ago, regardless of substantial socioeconomic changes that have taken place in a highly competitive global environment,” EFC’s DG remarked. He further noted that if Sri Lanka is to remain relevant in a highly competitive global market, labour law reforms are imperative for business growth which in turn will create resilient and sustainable organisations.

The objectives of labour law reforms were broadly summed by the EFC during these discussions to include promotion of investment, creation of new and better job opportunities, strengthening social security and creating an enabling environment for employees and employers to realise the full potential of information and technology driven modern world of work. To achieve these objectives, several key changes were mooted by the EFC. While transforming the labour law to embrace the changes in the modern socio-economic fabric, the EFC also called to recognise the influence of the digital transformation of the world of work, and urged for a dynamic private sector-driven economic growth for the national economy to remain competitive and sustainable. Taking stock of the globalised market economy and flexibility to grow and adjust is also imperative, EFC pointed out.

“In the above backdrop it is important to address labour law reforms on a priority basis to permit greater flexibility of enterprises to attract investment which in turn will generate employment” observed Ellepola who tabled the proposals under three main pillars of laws relating to the termination of employment, conditions of employment and laws relating to industrial/labour relations. He also drove home the message that in the Sri Lankan context if economic reforms are to yield optimum results, they should be complemented by administrative, legal and educational reforms.

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