Reproduced below are excerpts of an article that appeared in the business pages of The Sunday Leader of February 7, 2010 under the heading “Towards A Controlled Economy” where the interviewee was veteran banker Ranjit Fernando who left the Board of Commercial Bank of Ceylon under seemingly controversial circumstances last week.
Quote “The private sector suffered for 30 years and all expected 2010 and the post-war period to be one of growth, unfortunately that has not happened, a corporate manager said.
Former NDB Bank C.E.O./director Ranjit Fernando speaking to Benchmark recently said that the private sector is still waiting for the peace dividend.
Fernando, now chairman of United Motors Lanka said, ‘So 2010 appears to be where we were in 2008 and 2009; no different. Unless fundamental changes are made, I don’t think the climate is going to be different just because we have defeated the L.T.T.E.,’ he told Benchmark’s Special Correspondent Ms. Savithri Rodrigo.
‘I also believe that in the past four years we have made significant movement towards governmental authority and the private sector is relegated to a second-class position today.
I say this because the belief of the Government is in the state sector. You find a reintroduction of state-sponsored food authorities. The era which people have forgotten is when we had to wait in a queue to obtain a shirt or saree! That was a state-dominated economy.’
Continuing, Fernando said, ‘For much of the past four years we had hyperinflation which affected the private sector, because factor costs increased and could not be passed on. Those who targeted foreign markets were hampered by an administratively managed exchange rate, which were borne by the private sector.
Above all, this is a regime of high taxation, which taxed more from the private sector than what was available to investors in any project. Touching on F.D.I. and its prospects for Sri Lanka, Fernando maintains that ‘we could have been another Singapore in the S.A.A.R.C. region,’ but he believes that we don’t ‘have the correct policies with regard to F.D.I.’
‘Investment will find its way to Sri Lanka if the climate is conducive. We must target the correct sectors and companies that we want to come in. Another concern is the preoccupation with the amount of money that is brought in by a foreign investor.
It should be focused on how many jobs the enterprise would create. That is how we should look at F.D.I. It should not be a blanket invitation for all to come in,’ he added.
Elaborating further, Fernando said, ‘Although the war and the finishing of the L.T.T.E. was a necessary condition for growth, it was not a sufficient condition for growth. Because we need to unite the country and solve the fundamental question that has plagued this country and brought on the war that lasted 30 years.
It is eight months since the end of the war. Unfortunately, no meaningful steps have been taken to address the fundamental issue of the ethnic question.’
Stressing on the seriousness of the issue at hand, Fernando alluded to certain politicians ‘whose political survival depends on continuing this issue’, which he said, ‘we must face.’..”Unquote
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