The trouble with Lankans is that they always anticipate a troubled future: Dhammika Perera


Sri Lanka's business tycoons at the Fireside Chat held at Colombo Hilton on Wednesday. From left : Sumal Perera, Janak Hirdaramani. Dhammika Perera, Harry Jayawardena,,Merrill J. Fernando and Ashok Pathirage. Pic : Saman Ranaweera

by Sanath Nanayakkare

The Opposition says that the economic outlook for the country is gloomy and the government keeps talking about deficits, public debt, economic headwinds and weak growth. Therefore, depressive thought cycles seem to be entrenched in the minds of the people of Sri Lanka and no wonder the people are anticipating a bleak future, business tycoon Dhammika Perera said on Wednesday, attracting thunderous applause from a mammoth audience at the Fireside Chat organised by Sri Lanka International Chamber of Commerce(ICC).

The exclusive event comprised Harry Jayawardena, Sumal Perera, Dhammika Perera, Merrill J. Fernando, Ashok Pathirage and Janak Hirdaramani.

Dhammika Perera captured the imagination of the audience showing how precisely emotional intelligence can be nurtured and strengthened in all Sri Lankans, especially when he said public debt can be managed without tripping up economic growth while the country pays its way through the world.

"When the government asks, I offer them my technical advice. They take my advice but don't dare implement it, he said amid laughter.

"Policy responses to economic weaknesses are key here. It's just like you manage your home finances. You spend less interest payments than you earn every month and you ensure that you get the most out of your borrowed funds and then you have a sense of control over your money. Government debt to GDP is 253% in Japan. USA debt to GDP is 105%, Sri Lanka's debt to GDP is 80%. Without debt you can't grow. Not all of the debt Sri Lanka has is harmful. You need capital expenditure. If you manage your recurrent expenditure, if you have a good business plan and you have a realistic strategy to anchor it to an adequate return on your investment, everything should be fine. Sri Lankans have a very conventional attitude towards debt and this is something we are getting wrong. A government comes to power for, say, 5 years. That's 60 months which means they have 1,800 days to do their job. If they work on the job at hand, eight hours a day, putting their political activities aside, they will have at least 10,000 hours nett in their hands to deal with these issues. This is enough time but what happens is they spend more time on political work and lose their focus on the core issues, he said.

When asked what his take home message for the audience was Perera said,'Delete your unhappy mirror neurons. Activate your optimistic mirror neuron to see the logic that helps refute negative thinking. That's the way forward for us.'

Harry Jayawardena said if you want to be successful entrepreneurs, go ahead without giving in to failures. Take a cue from our politicians. They may fail and fail but they keep going, to uproarious laughter of the audience.

Ashok Pathirage said that banks are continuously reporting impressive results while the bottomline of other businesses is hurt and this trend is because of high interest rates.

Janak Hirdaramani said his company's strength is in manufacturing and that they have the larger interest in the overseas market and little interest in the Sri Lanka market.

Merrill J. Fernando said making a Sri Lankan brand global was his vision and he was glad that he made it with Dilmah tea.

Sumal Perera said in Sri Lanka taxes are high, interest rates are high, so debt is the way to go, amusing the audience.

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