Following Governor’s objections
Govt. pressures CBSL to endorse controversial payment platform project

NPP apolitical, will promote economic growth – Harsha


By Shamindra Ferdinando

On the instructions of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, his deputy, Dr. Harsha de Silva has initiated talks with the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy to iron out differences over proposed controversial National Payment Platform (NPP).

Dr. Coomaraswamy has been called for a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) on Wednesday evening at Temple Trees after The Island published his confidential letter to E. M. S. B. Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister.

In his letter, dated Feb. 15, Dr. Coomaraswamy strongly opposed proposal for a separate hybrid enterprise with the involvement of the CBSL and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) to facilitate single button transactions. Asked by The Island whether the government would go ahead with NPP against the backdrop of Treasury bond scams controversy and also in the immediate aftermath of heavy drubbing at Feb. 10 local government polls, Dr. de Silva said that he would work with ICTA and CBSL in that regard. The Deputy Minister said: "We discussed at CCEM with Governor Coomaraswamy and ICTA and agreed to come up with a possible solution shortly. I will coordinate with both sides. The objective is to create the right ecosystem for digital payments to ignite entrepreneurship in the SME sector across across the country for both domestic and export business."

Deputy Minister de Silva stressed that the decision on NPP had been apolitical and was meant to spur growth.

Dr. Coomaraswamy succeeded Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran in June 2016 in the wake of treasury bond scams involving the Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) in Feb. 2015 and March 2016.

Alleging that CBSL had been deliberately deprived of an opportunity to attend CCEM meeting on Jan. 10, 2018 at which the decision was taken, Dr. Coomaraswamy has pointed out that Sri Lanka could comfortably manage retail payment and settlement system as well as large value payment and settlement system with existing arrangements. The economist primarily opposed the project on the basis Sri Lanka with 21 mn population could manage on its own like the National Payments Corporation of India (NCCI), which catered to a staggering 1.324 bn people.

Dr. Coomaraswamy has also brought the move to the notice of President Maithripala Sirisena through Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers, in addition to the Secretary, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Secretary, Ministry of Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure and the Director General, department of Project Management and Monitoring.

The CBSL comes under the purview of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs.

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