All foreign debt will be paid in 2022 – Finance Minister

Basil Rajapaksa

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa assured that the government will meet all foreign debt due in 2022. Delivering the reply speech in the debate on Appropriation Bill 2022, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that the President and the Prime Minister have also assured their fullest support in this task.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government is expected to service US$ 500 million as foreign debt in January 2022 and US$ 1000 million in July 2022. He noted that the government has a suitable plan to service these debts. “We will pay every dollar that is due and we give that assurance with greatest responsibility,” he said.

Minister Rajapaksa also said that the country is presently going through a major crisis in foreign exchange reserves.

Minister Rajapaksa also said that while COVID-19 pandemic was the major blow to the economy of the country, the Yahapalana government was also a major factor in creating a serious economic crisis the country is presently suffering from.

“The Yahapalana government was a major factor that contributed to the economic downfall of this country. That is why they cannot even face an election with their earlier political party name. They had to rally around a different Party name to make it to Parliament. They were not able to compete in the election as the United National Party.” Minister Rajapaksa pointed out.

Speaking on the effect the pandemic had on the country’s economy, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa pointed out that Sri Lanka earned US$ 3607 million in 2019 while in 2020, it dropped to US$ 100 million. The Minister also pointed out that the country lost about USD 6,103 million from its usual foreign remittance in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The Finance Minister also said that the government has a long term, well-thought plan to rescue the country from its economic crisis despite the Opposition’s allegations that it does not.

“We cannot get out of this crisis immediately. Our plan is to gradually lessen the pressure we have on the economy right now. One of our main goals is to increase our imports. As a part of this plan we have been able to increase our exports. In 2017, we exported worth US$ 941 million. In 2019, it was US$ 979 million and in 2020 it was US$ 751 million. However in 2021, we have improved our exports up to US$1,232 million. Similarly, in 2020, we were able to send only 53,000 Sri Lankans as migrant workers. Considering this issue, this year we were able to send 100,000 migrant workers under the guidance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In the coming year we are planning to make three hundred thousand and earn a foreign exchange of US$ 8,000 million. It is important to understand that every dollar saved is an earning. So we have limited imports while encouraging local entrepreneurs to manufacture within the country as much as possible.” Minister Basil Rajapaksa observed.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa also noted that the country cannot attract foreign investments immediately. “Foreign investments in a way are businesses. So when a businessman invests, they expect many benefits. So, foreign investments will not flow into the country at the speed that we expect. We also have to face numerous criticisms and allegations when dealing with these foreign investors, hence, the government has to act cautiously as well. We need to focus on a long term plan to retain money in our country through such investments.” Minister Rajapaksa also added.

Speaking on the tourism sector, Minister Rajapaksa pointed out that it is the easiest sector to revive even though it was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Many of the Opposition MPs asked why we cannot manage the post pandemic tourism industry like Dubai and Maldives did. I do agree they have become role model countries in that area. However, we cannot fully open the country in order to improve our tourism industry as it may cost us lives. So we need to be extremely careful and well balanced when managing the economy and the pandemic.” the Finance Minister said. Minister Rajapaksa also said that the government is planning to focus on three main industries when boosting the country’s economy. “Considering our strategic location, we can improve our shipping services. Then the aviation service also has that same potential which also is closely connected to the tourism industry. Then most importantly our IT service is doing extremely well. It has created around hundred thousand freelancers who provide their service to foreign countries. However, there are many legal issues they have to go through when receiving payments. Thus, the government is presently trying to get the PayPal service to the country. If so, we would be able to create many freelancers who can work from their hometowns without working for big companies.” Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa also said.

The Minister also said that the government does not hide the fact that the country is going through a serious economic crisis, and requested all parties to support the government to successfully manage the situation.

(Source: Daily News)

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