Crisis hit Sri Lanka’s economic reform needs to be intertwined with political reform in order to create a sustainable and prosperous economy for all Sri Lankans, the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, said on Friday (1).
Addressing a 183rd AGM of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) she said, “Every day, I see and hear examples about incredible ingenuity and inspirational efforts that are contributing to the well-being of every-day Sri Lankans.
“It also requires political stability and urgent action,” she said.
She also mentioned five key steps that she thinks Sri Lanka must take to revive its economy and build long-term solutions to benefit all Sri Lankans:
“First, the debt crisis must be resolved. We welcome the steps Sri Lanka has taken to go to the IMF, to hire debt and legal advisers, and begin debt restructuring talks. Those are positive moves. But there is much more that needs to be done to get Sri Lankan back on the path to sustainable economic growth. If talks are successful, this will be Sri Lanka’s 17th IMF package. Let’s make sure it’s the last. The reform measures Sri Lanka adopts need to address the root causes of this crisis so that the country finally makes lasting and decisive structural reforms that enshrine international standards of good governance and transparency for the benefit of all Sri Lankans.”
As Sri Lanka engages in debt restructuring and financial reforms, it is absolutely critical that all creditors are treated equitably and comparably.
She secondly mentioned the importance of investing in people. According to her it is vital to have a workforce with gender parity, with women literally at the table and in leadership roles.
“To build peace and stability, Sri Lanka must protect democratic values such as the rule of law, respect for human rights for all, equal representation and transparent government. When these democratic values falter, the private sector, civil society, and the independent press must hold the government accountable for its leadership and stewardship of this country”.
The right to peaceful protest must be upheld for all Sri Lankans and the culture of impunity must end.
“We call on the Government to foster independent institutions that operate transparently and build public trust in the reconciliation process, to ensure all Sri Lankans have access to a fair justice system, including further reforms to bring the PTA in line with international standards, and to engage with minority parties and a wide range of civil society organisations to bring political stability to the country”.
Third, the business environment and investment framework environment need improvements for the private sector to flourish. It is important to reduce red tape and make sure that there are no unreasonable obstacles to investors as they look for opportunities in Sri Lanka and bring in the foreign capital that the country desperately needs.
In 2020, US foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka was USD 13 million, bringing total active US investment in the country at the time to USD 274 million.
Fourth, Sri Lanka should seize this moment to shift to green technology and renewable energy sources.
“We are encouraged by Sri Lanka’s target to reach 70 per cent of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030 as part of a broader policy of climate action”.
She also said that Sri Lanka can grow its exports to and investments in the United States.
US-Sri Lanka bilateral trade relationship amounts to about three per cent of Sri Lanka’s GDP. By US estimates, Sri Lankan exporters to the United States provide direct employment for at least 180,000 people in Sri Lanka.