In a candid conversation, the former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka – Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke to Palki Sharma Upadhyay on the global leadership series on WION, about everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to the dire need of global leadership and on a lighter note about how he keeps himself busy with Hindi movies during the lockdown.
About how Sri Lanka coping with the pandemic – “The health workers, the military and the police are doing a wonderful job. The private sector and people are cooperating” Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged. “However, where the government made a lapse is that the equipment should have been arranged early in January. We should have got more testing kits, more face masks, more ventilators and we delayed on that. I hope they are sufficient now because we have to lift this lockdown partially and bring the economy back on. We need to keep testing like Germany and South Korea” he said.
On the outbreak being compared to the second world war and as a leader was it the most challenging period he has seen for the world during his lifetime, he said, “It is the most challenging period. Second world war or any war, you knew who the enemy was, but here we don’t know who was responsible (for the pandemic). As I mentioned in Dubai (citing the WION global summit: Dubai, 2020) we have seen the upside of globalization and now we are going to see the downside of globalization and no one thought it would come so fast. It is undermining all the economies. We are all in a very difficult situation globally and there is no global leadership to guide us that is the other problem.”
About the failure of leadership and World Bodies like the U.N Security council and W.H.O having come under a fair bit of criticism he answered, “It is a collective failure of the leaders and the institutions. The IMF, World Bank, W.H.O, the U.N – someone has to come forward & lead the world during a crisis, which is not happening.” The former Prime Minister then went on to cite several examples of people taking the leadership mantle during different crises historically from climate change and World War 2 to the economic downturn in 2008. “It is a global pandemic is not a national issue and a global pandemic needs a global response, he stressed.
On the question that Pakistan had sought waivers from lenders including China. Should Sri Lanka too ask China for a loan waiver in the light of these developments?
He responded, “We can ask China, but whether it is China or any other country, they will have to take a policy decision. Our problem is that the bulk of our foreign loans, about 50% of our debt is international sovereign bonds. Sri Lanka has to pay a billion dollars in a few months. We take it off our reserves and our reserves will come down. I can’t see any new money coming in. Earlier we balanced it out and now we are on the path to repayment. The government is in conversation with the IMF because they have restored the revenue to the levels that the IMF wanted, but it is going to be difficult. We are all going to be in trouble, if not in this year then by next year. The creditor countries must look favourably on the debtor countries.”
Finally, how does he spend his time during the lockdown and what does he recommend? He said, “I have been watching Hindi Bollywood movies. Recently watched Hotel Mumbai.” He goes on to mention watching a Hindi film about 3 friends going to Spain (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) and ends by asking a few movie recommendations from Palki.
(Source: Ceylon Today)