Speaking at an event organised by the European Chamber of commerce, Sri Lanka's prime minister promised liberalisation of the economy prior to the next budget, expressing his support for breaking down barriers for competition.
The event was entitled 'Sri Lanka-the next Asian Economic Miracle’.
Stating that GSP+ was key to Sri Lanka's economic development, Mr Wickremesinghe was quoted by the Daily Mirror as saying:
“We have the ability to develop our economy and strengthen our democracy. Open market leads to open societies and we are committed to both. Now this is a challenge for Sri Lankan domestic investors. How do we utilize these opportunities."
"GSP plus gives us the opportunity to deal with 6,500 products that could be marketed in Europe. I don’t think we can manufacture 6,500 products, no one can. What are the areas we are going to focus on. How do we go ahead. It is by collaborating with foreign direct investors. We should make sure that our private sector is strong enough for investment."
"I know there are Government regulations which are actually barriers. Before the next budget there will be another round of liberalization. I hope to make a statement on the economic policy prior to the budget. We are having a tight fiscal policy because of the debt situation. We need to find space to pay the debts which amounts to Rs.4.2 trillion."
Meanwhile the finance minister Mangala Samaraweera said the new tax policies would change the direct/indirect tax ratio to 60 /40, whilst the minister for development polices and international trade, Malik Samarasinghe promised several free trade agreements.
Mr Wickremesinghe added, “we need to look at the productivity as well, productivity means a workforce dedicated to productivity. Part of the gains will have to be shared with the workforce. We have to move towards a minimum pay or allowances of US$400. There is a large low wage-based industry developing in Myanmar and Bangladesh. We cannot and should not compete with them."
"The world is changing, new technologies are coming in. So where do you want be. Is it the low end T-shirts industry or middle part of 3D printing industry. We are also looking at tourism, we are opening up for domestic tourism. We have only one direct flight to Europe by Srilankan airlines, if others want to fly it is open. So we will be inviting you to discuss with you on how to make use of these opportunities and how to work with you, to create jobs and incomes for the people of Sri Lanka. This is a time where we can stage a revolution. This could be done through peaceful means.”