Champika flays Amunugama for CEB privatisation proposal

Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka

Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka yesterday lashed out at Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama over the latter’s recent claim that the private sector should be allowed to hold stakes in the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Ranawaka said that the CEB would not be privatized, but it would introduce certain management reforms to make it a profitable government institution.

Ranawaka asked why Dr. Amunugama had failed to implement his strategies when holding key Cabinet portfolios in previous governments, especially in the Kumaratunga administration.

Dr. Amunugama on Monday claimed that the electricity sector should be released from the state monopoly and opened to the private sector.

Amunugama, a retired top civil servant, also noted that the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF had pressured the government to open the power and energy sector to the private sector and highlighted the CEB and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation losses.

Minister Ranawaka stressed that those who spoke about the losses incurred by the CEB did not take into consideration the invaluable service that institutions provided to the ordinary people and industrialists.

The CEB was able to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity to the industry and service sectors, despite the recent drought and the halting of costly power purchases from the private sector, Minister Ranawaka said.

Ranawaka noted that an agreement had been signed by the UNP-led UNF government in 2002, to privatise the CEB with the formation of six separate companies.

Meanwhile, CEB trade unions accused Dr. Amunugama of working to fulfil the needs of international lending organizations, such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Committee member of the CEB Joint Trade Union Alliance and General Secretary of the Lanka Viduli Sewaka Sangamaya Ranjan Jayalal said: “We strongly oppose the statement made by Dr. Amunugama that the CEB should be opened to the private sector.”

The pro–JVP trade unionist said that it was correct that the CEB was facing a severe financial crisis because of the present management and it needed to be subject to reforms but they would not allow the authorities to privatise the CEB.

Jayalal said that a comedy was being enacted by two government Ministers, Dr. Amunugama and Ranawaka. Minister Ranawaka was trying to be a cardboard hero while the Dr. Amunugama was explaining the government’s next step, which was to privatise the CEB.

Currently, the CEB is incurring a loss of Rs. 167 million a day; it sustained a loss of Rs. billion in 2011 and a loss of Rs. 45-50 billion was projected for 2012.

Courtesy: The Island