Connect with us


President pledges bank loan concessions for SMEs from Budget 2024



President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of making the right decisions for the country’s economic development and during his address at the National Industry Excellence Awards 2023, which took place yesterday (01) at the Nelum Pokuna Theater in Colombo. 

He acknowledged that the decision to increase VAT by 18% was a challenging one, driven by the need to maintain economic stability. President Wickremesinghe highlighted that true leadership involves being honest with the people and making decisions that benefit the nation.

He expressed confidence in the youth leadership within the government and the group of young ministers dedicated to working for the country. President Wickremesinghe pledged to collaborate with them to improve the country’s economic situation by 2024.

Additionally, President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced his intention to address bank loan concessions for small and medium-scale industrialists in the upcoming budget, aiming to strengthen Sri Lanka’s export-oriented manufacturing economy. The National Industry Excellence Awards 2023, jointly organized by the Ministry of Industry and the Ceylon Industrial Development Board, is a step towards achieving this goal.

In this context, 300 successful entrepreneurs were recognized and awarded in various categories, including platinum, gold, silver and bronze awards, out of a pool of over 4,000 industrial entrepreneurs who had applied to compete in 21 major industrial sectors and 61 sub-industrial sectors.

Expressing his views further President Ranil Wickremesinghe said;

As I observed the award recipients today, it brought back memories of the challenges we faced last year. At that time, there were numerous uncertainties about the sustainability of our industries. The absence of electricity and the difficulty in obtaining bank loans had led to the closure of thousands of businesses.

Today, it’s truly remarkable to see a substantial number of individuals reinvigorating their industries and achieving success. Small and medium-scale industries have made a swift comeback in a relatively short period. However, some issues remain unresolved, particularly concerning bank loans and market access. Our foremost priority is to address these concerns.

In the upcoming budget, we aim to introduce measures that provide bank loan concessions to support small and medium-scale industries. This program is progressing steadily. We have devised comprehensive strategies to revitalize our nation’s economy, engaging in discussions with both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and our creditors.

Our primary focus always revolves around our capacity to repay the loans we’ve taken. To achieve this, we must consistently increase our income year after year. Gaining the trust of private creditors and multilateral creditors is imperative to reassure them of our commitment to loan repayment. This commitment must be ingrained in our actions.

A substantial portion of next year’s budget will be allocated to debt repayment and interest. Failure to meet these obligations could push us back into the old, precarious situation. Therefore, safeguarding our currency and fulfilling our loan obligations is of paramount importance.

In the past, when there was a budget shortfall, the solution was to instruct the central bank to print more money. However, this approach is no longer legally permissible and obtaining loans from banks has also become a challenge. These restrictions stem from the informal financial practices of the past.

To ensure our financial stability in the coming year, we must significantly boost our income. We have set specific revenue targets that we must work diligently to achieve. It’s crucial for the country’s progress and to prevent bankruptcy in the near future.

As a result of these financial constraints, we had to make the difficult decision to raise the VAT to 18%. This step aligns us with the practices of countries like India and Pakistan. Such decisions are never easy for any government. However, failing to take these measures would cast a shadow on everyone’s future. Therefore, making the right choices becomes imperative.

These decisions are necessary for the well-being of the country, even if they draw criticism from the public. Both my cabinet and I have willingly shouldered the responsibility of rebuilding our nation, which had faced economic collapse.

We made a deliberate choice not to revert to a state of dependency. Instead, we are committed to moving forward with our own strengths. Regrettably, during a cabinet meeting held last Sunday evening, we had to make this tough decision. While some may point fingers, failing to act would risk returning to the dire circumstances of the previous year. At the start of this year, our economic growth rate was a negative 0.7%. Today, it has improved to 0.5%, with further progress expected next year. This leaves us with a fundamental choice of whether to advance or regress.

This is the essence of leadership – the willingness to make difficult decisions and transparently convey the true state of affairs to the people. Through this decision, we can generate much-needed revenue to support small and medium-scale industries by repaying loans to banks. Without this step, these industries would face collapse, which puts industrialists in a challenging position. Thus, these difficult decisions must be made for the betterment of the country, even if they invite criticism. Our focus should remain on the nation’s well-being.

Regardless, let us embark on this journey with the resolute decision to rebuild our nation. This program offers us the opportunity to transform our country into a prosperous one, no longer dependent on external support. I hold strong belief in the promising future of this nation. We are in negotiations with international financial institutions, including the World Bank and while the path may be challenging today, I am confident that we will reap positive results in the next two or three years.

Looking ahead to 2024, I extend my best wishes to all, expressing our shared aspiration to bolster the nation’s economy further.

The event also featured addresses from Minister of Industry and Health, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, as well as Ministers of State, Prasanna Ranaweera and Chamara Sampath Dasanayake. Notable figures in attendance included Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Ms Thilaka Jayasundara, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Anura Dissanayake, Chairman of the Ceylon Industrial Development Board, Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma, and various Ministerial Secretaries, heads of government institutions, prominent industrial entrepreneurs and distinguished guests.

(President’s Media Division)


Parliament approves suspension of state minister Dinana and SJB MPs Sujith and Rohana




The motion to suspend State Minister Dinana Gamage and two SJB MPs Sujith Sanjaya Perera and Rohana Bandara for a month was approved in Parliament with a majority of 57 votes.

Some 58 MPs voted in favour and one against. TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran voted against it. Two government MPs including Minister Vidura Wickramanayake and Mayadunna Chinthaka Amal and Opposition MP. A.H.M Fowzie abstained.

Other Opposition MPs walked out protesting against the decision by the Privileges Committee to change the decision made by the special committee appointed by the Speaker to look into the brawl between State Minister Gamage and two SJB MPs Bandara and Perera.

The motion was put to a vote after heated arguments by MPs of both sides.

Continue Reading


President advocates bold Climate Action at COP28




In a compelling address at the 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai, UAE on Friday (Dec.01), President Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged the historical significance of the UN Conference on Human Environment, emphasizing its goal to defend and improve the environment for present and future generations.

He referenced the alarming findings of the UNEP Report of 2023, titled “Broken Promises,” which warns of a 3-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.

Highlighting the challenges faced by developing countries, Wickremesinghe stressed the disproportionate vulnerability and impact due to lower adaptive capacities in Finance, Technology, and Climate investments. He cited the Independent High-Level Expert Group Report on Climate Finance, which underscored the need for at least a USD 1 trillion per annum to combat climate change.

The President commended the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for hosting the crucial event and expressed gratitude for their warm hospitality

Expressing concern about the lack of concrete measures in the Transitional Committee’s report on funding arrangements, Wickremesinghe called for a more transparent approach, particularly addressing issues of global debt relief. He questioned the wisdom of avoiding contentious issues, emphasizing the urgency of the climate crisis.

He advocated for climate justice accessible to all nations and proposed a resolution for a Climate Justice Forum. This forum, agreed upon at the 5th Forum of the Ministers of Environmental Authorities of Asia Pacific, aims to provide a platform for constructive and proactive engagements, with the proposal scheduled for the UN Environment Assembly on 6th February 2024.

Underlining the critical nature of the current period, the President urged immediate action to find effective solutions, thinking outside the box and investing in the Tropical Belt to tackle the Triple Planetary Crisis. The Tropical Belt, covering 134 countries and 44% of the Earth’s surface, holds rich biodiversity and potential for renewable energy. Wickremesinghe announced plans for a panel to report on the Tropical Belt Initiative, emphasizing its global impact.

As the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Sri Lankan leader linked the health of the Indian Ocean to climate change. He stressed the need for a sustainable Blue Economy to counter the adverse effects of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and extreme weather patterns.

The President also revealed plans to establish the International Climate Change University (ICCU) for capacity building and advancing research, operationalizing it next year. The ICCU aims to contribute significantly to global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In conclusion, Wickremesinghe’s address at COP28 outlined a comprehensive approach, blending regional initiatives like the Tropical Belt and the Indian Ocean with global measures, reflecting Sri Lanka’s commitment to climate action and leadership on the international stage.

The speech made by the President at the World Leaders Summit of the COP28 is as follows:

“Chairperson, Excellencies, Esteemed Delegates, At the outset let me congratulate his highness and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for hosting COP28 and extend to you my gratitude for your warm hospitality.

The UNEP Report of 2023 “Broken Promises” warned that we are facing a 3 degree Celcius increase in global temperatures by the end of the century. It is we; the developing countries are both disproportionately vulnerable and disproportionately impacted due to their lower adaptive capacity when it comes to investments in Finance, Technology and Climate.

The Independent High-Level Expert Group Report on Climate Finance highlighted that at least a Trillion USD per annum is required to combat climate change. The Transitional Committee on the Operationalization of Funding Arrangements in its Report of 4th November 2023 only calls for voluntary contributions to the “Loss and Damage fund”. The Report makes no mention of the funds needed or who the contributors are. It is silent on the issue of global debt relief. These are interconnected’

Nevertheless, four days later, the Technical Dialogue of the First Global Stocktake highlighted the requirements of a minimum of US$ trillion per annum. To arrive at a consensus not to take up a contentious issue is not a solution. Who are we fooling?

Climate justice must be available to all the people and all the countries. In this background, Sri Lanka will propose a resolution for a Climate Justice Forum which was agreed upon at the 5th Forum of the Ministers of Environmental Authorities of Asia Pacific to be moved at the UN Environment Assembly of 6th February 2024.

The Climate Justice Forum will provide us a platform for constructive and proactive engagements. The Secretary General of the UN highlighted, “The era of global boiling has arrived”. The enemy is at the gates. We are still procrastinating. We are still forming our battalions to take the fight to the enemy. Therefore, this fortnight is critical.

It will determine whether we are capable of providing a leadership. Let us prove we can do so by action and delivery.

Sri Lanka is committed to the 1.5 degree Celcius limit. We are facing a drastic situation to await the disaster. We must think outside of the box. We must Invest in the Tropical Belt to tackle the Triple Planetary Crisis.

The Tropical Belt constitutes 134 countries covering 44% of earth’s surface, and will by 2030s be home to roughly 50% of world’s population. Most of the world’s remaining primary forests are tropical, along with its coral reef systems. The rich biodiversity of the Tropical Belt enhances biological carbon sequestration and can shield the world from instabilities in weather.

Furthermore, the energy generation potential from solar, wind and biomass are significantly higher in the tropics than that of other areas on the earth. Yet, anthropogenic activities in the Tropical Belt can easily lead to an imbalance in the equilibrium of this region.

So much so that some scientists predict that the Tropical Rain Belt could shift away from the Equator by the 22nd Century. Large scale investments in Renewable Energy, Pollution Control and Nature-based Solutions will lead to significant transformative changes in the entire world by enhancing carbon sequestration.

Therefore, Sri Lanka and other concerned countries will convene a panel to report on the Tropical Belt Initiative. A multi sector plan distributed not only among the whole tropical region but the whole world. As the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Sri Lanka is focusing on the interdependence between the Indian Ocean and climate change.

A healthy ocean generates oxygen and absorbs the carbon and heat produced from global warming. Mangroves and sea grasses sink more carbon than land forests. However, the rapid climate change is altering the marine environment with rising sea levels and temperatures, Ocean acidification, coral bleaching, habitat destruction and extreme weather patterns. These phenomenon have a direct impact on human lives by disrupting ocean biodiversity, the Ocean dependent food patterns, and coastal livelihoods. Member states and partners of IORA will work towards ensuring a sustainable, Indian Ocean for future generations.

The Tropical Belt initiative and the Indian Ocean IORA program combined will form the largest global sink for carbon sequestration. Addressing the climate change need, up to date scientific knowledge, and the effective use of these findings

Therefore, at COP27, I proposed to establish an International Climate Change University (ICCU) for capacity building and advancing research, necessary to contribute to the crucial efforts to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We will be operationalizing the International Climate Change University (ICCU) next year.

Ministers Mr. Ali Sabry, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella, Mr. Kanchana Wijesekera, and Member of Parliament Mr. Madhura Withana represented the government, while Members of Parliament Mr. Champika Ranawaka and Mr. Ajith Mannapperuma represented the Opposition. Additionally, Senior Adviser to the President on Climate Change Mr. Ruwan Wijewardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Director of International Affairs Mr. Dinouk Colomboge, Adviser to the Ministry of Finance Mr. Deshal De Mel, and President’s Private Secretary Ms. Sandra Perera were also present on this occasion.

Continue Reading


Depression in south-west bay of Bengal expected to develop into cyclonic storm




The National Meteorological Centre’s forecasting division has reported that the depression over the South-West Bay of Bengal is set to intensify, evolving into a deep depression within the next 12 hours and further progressing into a cyclonic storm by tomorrow (December 3).

As of the latest update, the depression is situated approximately 490 kilometers North-East of Trincomalee. 

The system is anticipated to move in a West-North-Westward direction, tracking near the North coast of Sri Lanka and progressing towards the North Tamil Nadu coast of India by Tuesday (December 5).

In light of this development, cloudy skies are expected over most parts of the island. 

Showers exceeding 100 mm are forecasted in the Northern, North-Central, Eastern, and North-Western Provinces, as well as other regions of the island after 1:00 p.m.

Strong winds, reaching approximately 50 kmph, are likely over the Northern, North-Central, North-Western, and Southern Provinces, including the Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts. 

The public is urged to take necessary precautions to minimize potential damages caused by temporary localized strong winds and lightning during thundershowers. 

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2023 Sri Lanka Mirror. All Rights Reserved