Deviation from Chinese-led development drive costs SL dear – Joint OppositionJanuary 28, 2016, 10:46 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Having realised that Sri Lanka couldn’t rely on Western funding for development projects, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was now seeking Chinese support, the Joint Opposition said yesterday.
It alleged that the government had shunned the Chinese, having condemned all Chinese-funded projects, including the USD 1.4 bn Colombo port city development launched during the previous administration.
Colombo District MP Dinesh Gunawardena, Matara District MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, former External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris and former Galle District MP Baddegama Samitha thera yesterday discussed several contentious issues at a media briefing at N.M. Perera Centre, Borella,
Leader of the Joint Opposition MP Gunawardena alleged that the country had to pay a very heavy price for suspending the port city project. Gunawardena pointed out that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration hadn’t succeeded in securing Western financial assistance and that was why it had decided to mend fences with Beijing.
Sri Lanka’s recent participation in the opening of the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank in Beijing by President Xi Jinping had highlighted the new government’s turnaround, the Joint Opposition said. In fact, the World Bank had been opposed to the move, the MP said, adding that the Colombo port city project was yet to resume.
China set up the banking project to rival the World Bank, IMF and the ADB.
Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves had been under tremendous pressure over the past year due to deteriorating international markets in addition to sharp decrease in crude market, Gunawardena pointed out.
MP Gunawardena recalled the circumstances under which the government had scaled down economic ties with China in the immediate aftermath of the January 2015 presidential poll.
The Joint Opposition challenged the government to brief Parliament on the current status of the economy.
Alleging that Sri Lanka’s participation in the World Economic Forum hadn’t brought any tangible benefits to the country, the MP challenged the government to reveal the names of those who accompanied Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the recently concluded event. Gunawardena alleged that the Colombo Economic Forum, too, hadn’t brought any benefits, though the government portrayed the event as a major success.
Gunawardena, who is also the leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, alleged that the government couldn’t comprehend that West and even the Arab world lacked the wherewithal to make investment due to financial turmoil.
Former Agriculture Minister Abeywardena alleged that the government was planning to agree to a series of constricting IMF conditions. He claimed that if the government gave in to IMF conditions, VAT could be drastically increased. The MP speculated on the possibility of the government having to present a mid-year budget in such an eventuality.
Both Gunawardena and Abeywardena warned of dire consequences in the even of the beleaguered government going ahead with the agreement which they called disastrous. Such an agreement would cause further hardships to those who had been struggling to make ends meet, they said, claiming that Sri Lanka was on the brink of a crisis like the one Greece was faced with.
Gunawardena stressed that Western powers wouldn’t help Sri Lanka.
Abeywardena pointed out that the new government’s harebrained position on China had boomeranged and today the country was facing an uncertain future due to short-sighted polices of the UNP.
MP Gunawardena castigated the government for accepting USD 1 bn from an unidentified investor to overcome the financial crisis. He said the unprecedented transaction exposed the precarious financial situation in the country and the failure on the part of the government to take remedial measures.
Gunawardena pointed out that the Reuters had reported Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake having refused to divulge the identity of the investor though he was identified as a Belgian.
The investor has promised to transfer the money in two equal tranches from banks in Brussels and Luxembourg; the news agency quoted the minister as having said.
Responding to a query by The Island whether the Joint Opposition believed that Sri Lanka should adopt austerity measures as well as IMF conditions meant to overcome the crisis, both Prof. Peiris and Gunawardena said it did not. They explained that the previous government had adopted a strategy to develop the country without being dictated to by international lending agencies and Western powers.
Gunawardena, however, said that even oil rich Norway had been compelled to release sovereign bonds due to the present crisis.
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