Sri Lankan economy: ‘An upward trend’

Economic growth

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The leader spoke to DW about the country’s reconciliation process and economic outlook.

DW: Prime Minister, people say that the reconciliation process is crucial for your country’s economic success. What measures are you taking?

Ranil Wickremesinghe: Well, we’ve started the whole process of bringing them [all political groups] together. The fact that we’ve all got together at elections and was able to form a government is, I think, the first sign of success.

The TNA [Tamil National Alliance] and the JVP [Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna] came into the opposition – one as the leader of the opposition and the other as the chief opposition whip – and we are agreed, in principle, on the need for reconciliation. There’s no division in that regard among the main parties. There may be a few dissident voices in parliament.

We do express different views as to how the process should take place. But already, for instance, a large number of people [political prisoners] have been released; we have no persons under detention. We still have a few [in prison] while they’re either being prosecuted or convicted.

But even in those cases, we’re discussing what relief can be given. The lands outside Jaffna, to a large extent, have been handed over. There are still about 3,000 to 4,000 acres in Jaffna. We just handed over 650 acres last week.

And we will be fixing dates for the transfer of most of that area. It’s a question now of how do we look at the missing persons, how do we deal with these issues, the accountability for which we are talking with South Africa on a TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] process.

Religious leaders have also come up with the idea of a confessionate council. We’re looking at a new constitution, which will ensure equality to all. So the process has started. It’s now a question of continuing it and concluding it successfully.

How long will it take before the economic situation in your country improves? What is your target? Do you say in 2017 we have to be here or there?

I could see an upward trend from about 2017. But economic development takes much longer – five to 10 years. We want to show some results by the fifth year and then the tenth year. It’s a question of keeping up with it. It’s not only what we do but also what our successors are going to do.

In terms of GDP growth, what do you expect within the next two years?

Well, this year, we have to watch what’s happening globally. But we would like to generally move up to about seven-and-a-half percent growth.

Are you worried about the general global economic outlook?

I am a bit worried about how it will impact our cost of living. But with the government holding together and we do our restructuring, investments will keep coming to Sri Lanka. It will still be one of the bright spots [in] South Asia.

What about the situation in China? Does it somehow affect the situation in your country?

It does. I mean, when China depreciates its money [the renminbi] their currency affects all of us. And [it also has an impact on] Chinese investments in Sri Lanka. It affects everyone.

Where could these investments go? At the moment they are quite focused on infrastructure. Is this the most important area where you need investments?

In Infrastructure it’s [through] government [Chinese] Exim bank loans. Other infrastructure would be in manufacturing, and maybe in tourism.

And one last question regarding the peace process, are you happy with the way things are going at the moment?

Yes. But once our groups come back after having discussions in South Africa, then we have to get on to the next year. (

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