OMLANKA

Blue Green Budget reflects Govt's commitment to good governance: Mangala

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Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told Parliament that the Budget 2018, the Blue Green Enterprise Sri Lanka Budget, reflects the government's commitment to good governance, the principles of fairness, rule of law, and transparency that are the foundation of the Unity government.

He added that the proposals in the Budget are an embodiment of these principles. These proposals set the stage to empower Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, Sri Lankan SMEs, Sri Lankan youth, to take their future into their own hands, to compete on the global stage and win.

He was participating in the debate during the third reading of the Budget. During his address, he said: "I am delighted to begin my speech with the good news that today we received US$ 292 million as the first tranche of the Hambantota Port PPP joint venture. This is but the first step in realizing the true commercial value of the Port after 7 long years.

The joint venture PPP partnership with China Merchant Port Holdings (CMPH), a member of China Merchant Group which owns a network of 49 ports across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean, will enable Hambantota Port to benefit from the broader trade and shipping network that CMPH will provide access to.

These network benefits have already been demonstrated in the success of the Colombo International Container Terminal. CMPH has operated successful models of similar industrial ports in Asia and Africa and this proven track record gives us confidence that the partnership will result in vessel traffic and industrial investment, enabling the Hambantota port to finally generate the cash flows to make it a viable investment.

By linking with global value chains in goods and services, taking advantage of the trade-investment nexus, Sri Lanka can truly fulfil its position as an economic hub of the Indian Ocean. The Hambantota Port PPP will generate FDI, create exports and most importantly create jobs that will empower Sri Lankan youth. Jobs, empowerment, exports, and FDI are in fact some of the key focus areas of Budget 2018.

The 2018 Budget is founded on the themes of a Blue Green Budget and Enterprise Sri Lanka. This is a budget to harness Sri Lanka's marine and natural resources in a sustainable manner, whilst unleashing the true potential of our greatest resource – our people.

For too long our people have been suppressed by an overbearing state and by archaic legislation which are a vestigial link to our colonial past. Our education systems have excluded our talented youth and denied opportunities for the realization of their capabilities. Young entrepreneurs have been unable to access affordable finance to bring to life their business ideas.

As a result, our youth have become accustomed to waiting for the government to provide them with some relief – be it a government job, or some form of concession or handout. Our companies got accustomed to open ended protection from competition. Sri Lanka as a whole got stifled into a defensive mindset.

This Budget is the first step in a journey to reverse this mindset and to empower Sri Lankans to take control of their own destiny. The Budget focuses on liberalization to unlock the barriers to greater investment, trade, and start-up enterprises. It also allocates resources to provide training and skill development for youth to equip them with the capabilities to take advantage of such opportunities.

We envisage the day when the farmer's daughter becomes an agribiz-entrepreneur, when the fisherman's son becomes a seafood exporter. Sri Lanka needs to go back to its roots of being a nation of entrepreneurs, a nation of traders. To do this we must be open to global trade, embrace competition, and take on the world and win.

Whilst the government will not be a nanny state, we do not forget the vulnerable, and those who need the support of the state. The Budget has made substantial allocations to ensure appropriate safety nets and support for those adversely affected by market dislocations. However the government will not protect those who stifle competition at the expense of the greater good of society.

The bedrock of a vibrant and competitive economy is robust social infrastructure. A country's greatest asset is its people, and we have continued to invest heavily in our people. It is only then that our people will be empowered to be true shareholders in Enterprise Sri Lanka. Since the Unity Government came into power, there has been a conscious effort to enhance expenditure in education, health, and housing.

I have spoken a lot about Enterprise Sri Lanka – a key theme of this Budget. We envisage the modernization of Sri Lankan enterprise where entrepreneurship thrives, and small businesses have opportunities to tap into global value chains. But we have not in any way neglected traditional industry and the rural economy. Enterprise Sri Lanka will empower the traditional economy and help take it to the next level through the infusion of technology and access to markets."

 

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