Only exports can salvage economy from debt crisis – Minister Bandula

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena declared that it is only through increasing exports the Sri Lankan economy, which has been challenged by foreign debt servicing, can be salvaged in order to realise a better future for the country’s next generation. He made this remark at the Sri Lanka Export Promotion Vision Forum, organized by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade on 29th August at NSBM Green University. The forum was the first large-scale, public meeting the minister had with the nation’s exporter community since assuming duties.

“A three-pronged strategy based on market diversification, product diversification, and shifting towards high-technology sectors is needed to achieve a significant increase in exports”, Gunawardena stated. He opined that a substantial amount of borrowing via sovereign bonds during the previous government has put the economy under a severe stress with a large number of bullet payments falling due over the coming years. Meanwhile, the minister revealed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has gazetted the Export Development Council of Ministers in terms of the EDB Act, which has not been convened for more than 20 years, resolving a longstanding impediment in terms of addressing the issues of exporters expeditiously. Gunawardena assured the exporters that the government would take prompt action to provide solutions to the difficulties faced by export industries with regard to sourcing raw materials from overseas due to the recent restrictions imposed on imports. He also pledged to establish an EXIM bank in the mould of a development bank in Sri Lanka like in other countries to facilitate access of capital to entrepreneurs.

During the event, the representatives of industry associations pointed out that the Department of Commerce, which currently comes under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must be brought within the authority of the Trade Ministry.  Minister agreed with the suggestion and promised to draw it to the government’s attention.

A large number of exporters took part in the forum, and the event was also graced by State Ministers Lasantha Alagiyawanna and D.V. Chanaka, Trade Ministry Secretary Badra Jayawardena, EDB Director General Chitanjali Dissanayake, and BOI Director General Sanjaya Mohottala.

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