PB critical of import restrictions

P.B. Jayasundera

President’s Secretary P. B. Jayasundera yesterday said that imports should be relaxed instead of imposing restrictions, in a manner that it would not be harmful to the government policy framework.

Dr. Jayasundera, the Secretary to the Treasury at the height of the war and former top Central Banker, was responding to a query about the CBSL proposal to restrict non-essential imports.

He said he was against the policies adopted by the Central Bank.

Explaining his views on restriction of imports, Dr. Jayasundera said, the importation of certain commodities had to be restricted and one was fuel for which a price mechanism had to be adopted.

“If the government does not ration fuel to the consumer, the country will have to soon change to renewable energy,” the President’s Secretary said.

Dr. Jayasundera asked why a country which spent USD 5,000 mn annually on oil imports could not commission a number of projects to generate renewable energy.

Jayasundera said that hence a certain component of imports such as raw material would be used to re-export as finished products, the imports shouldn’t be restricted and if we are to develop our economy based on information technology, then all imports required to achieve the objective should be allowed.

“The Central Bank has to take the necessary steps for the proper management of foreign exchange reserves and win the confidence of the foreign capital market, manufacturers and specially exporters,” the one time Treasury Secretary said.

He said in the current year, it was expected to increase the exports relating to information technology to reach USD 1.7 billion and increase it further in the future.

The officials of the Central Bank and members of its Monetary Board should change the country to an export oriented economy.

Jayasundera, whose expertise had been used even by previous UNP and SLFP regimes and even by former Treasury Secretaries R. Paskaralingam  and A.S. Jayawardena during Presidents  Premadasa and Kumaratunga, said that he proposed to the central Bank to introduce a Green Financial facility of Rs. 50 billion and “we must encourage the local banks to adopt such measures”, he said.

“The Central Bank should act as a catalyst in this connection instead of attending to the day to day functions of the bank”, he said.

Dr. Jayasundera said he had sent a set of proposals to the Central Bank in that connection and believed that there would be a positive response from it.

(Source: The Island – By Shyam Nuwan Ganewate)