Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that engaging in traditional politics will not provide solutions to the pressing issues the country is facing today and should take on a new approach to resolve them.
Pointing out traditional politics or slogans will not solve the crisis or benefit the people, he noted that it was not possible to solve problems without the stability of policies.
“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We in Parliament must think afresh. We must find a new path and a common framework through dialogue to formulate long-term policies which would help us find solutions to the problems affecting the public," he said.
Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement yesterday (20), the former Prime Minister said that once a set of long term policies are agreed upon, they can ask people to decide who or which party could execute it better.
"Japan, Great Britain, India and Canada do the same. Why can’t we do it here? If we can arrive at a consensus, that will herald a new era of politics," he said.
Wickremesinghe said the economic crisis before the country now is far greater than the situation depicted by the President. “In the midst of the worst economic and political crisis we have faced in 34 years, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa only mentioned the issue relating to foreign exchange."
The former Prime Minister also questioned a number of the government’s recent policy decisions. “How does the government plan to provide relief to state sector employees as announced? Will the government reduce expenditure or increase it? This is a country with a revenue deficit of Rs. 1000 billion. So how does the government plan to bridge the gap,” he asked.
Wickremesinghe also questioned the government’s proposal to revise the VAT and impose both VAT and GST on goods and services. “In which country do we apply GST and VAT on the same goods?,” he queried, pointing out that it has also been proposed to collect these taxes through the Ministry of Finance and not through the Inland Revenue Department. “What powers do the Ministry of Finance have to carry these functions out?,” he further questioned.
He also noted that the burden of the economy now lies on the shoulders of Samurdhi grant receivers, trishaw drivers, small scale traders and low income families. “Middle class was created through the open economy. When the economy collapses, the middle class also collapses.” he said.
Wickremesinghe also pointed out that several individuals and companies have continued to increase their profits by making use of this dire economic situation.
Detailing the current state of crippling government debt and falling revenue, Wickremesinghe said it was important for the Finance Minister to inform the Parliament on how he plans to honour Sri Lanka's debt obligations.
“By February, he must inform the Parliament and tell us if we will seek the assistance of the IMF or present another viable solution instead,” he said. “This issue cannot be ignored,” he stressed.
The former Prime MInister also called on the government to respond to the grievances of the hard hit tourism, SME and housing sectors. He also questioned the government's lack of funds to pay pensions by 2035, and also the inability to bear expenditures related to future power and energy needs, digitization and climate change.
He observed that foreign investors have lost faith in Sri Lanka due to ad hoc policy changes and lack of foreign exchange. “We cannot say the economy collapsed due to Covid as other countries also went through the same but their forex reserves increased during the time,” he said, pointing out that these issues need short term, mid term and long term planning and solutions.
Wickremesinghe stressed that it is not the duty of the parliament now to either protect or cause the collapse of the government. “Instead we must protect the people and instil in them a sense of hope about the future of this country,” he said. “We are responsible to the youth of this country and we have destroyed their faith in us,” he added.