Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced plans to divest government-held shares of seven state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The move comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the financial burden on the state and boost the country’s economic growth. At a recent discussion held at the presidential secretariat, Wickremesinghe defended the decision, stating that the State should not engage in business and should instead focus on providing essential services such as education and maintaining law and order.
Sri Lanka’s Growing Financial Burden
Wickremesinghe explained that Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than on education. This has led to a significant financial burden on the state, which is struggling to repay its loans. The President believes that divesting the seven SOEs will not only reduce the financial burden on the state but also help repay the country’s debt.
The Seven SOEs to be Divested
The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares:
Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd
Sri Lanka Telecom PLC
Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd
Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel)
Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo),
Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing)
Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC
The State-Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said. President Wickremesinghe holds the Finance portfolio.
Not all of these SOEs are loss-making, and the President acknowledges this fact. However, he argues that the state must still divest its holdings to help repay its debts. “If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” Wickremesnghe said.
Why the State Should Not Engage in Business
The President defended his decision to divest the SOEs by arguing that the State should not engage in business. “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business,” he said. He also pointed out that many other countries, including India, have started to divest their SOEs. “India is selling their airports, profit-making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too,” Wickremesinghe said.
The Path to Recovery and Rapid Development
Wickremesinghe believes that divesting the seven SOEs is a crucial step towards reducing the financial burden on the state and boosting Sri Lanka’s economic growth. The country has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and has been struggling to recover from the economic fallout. The President believes that following India’s example and divesting its SOEs will help Sri Lanka embark on a path of recovery and rapid development.
President Wickremesinghe’s decision to divest government-held shares of seven state-owned enterprises is a significant step towards reducing the financial burden on the state and boosting Sri Lanka’s economic growth. While not all of the SOEs are loss-making, the President believes that divesting these holdings is necessary to help repay the country’s debt. He also argues that the State should not engage in business and instead focus on providing essential services such as education and maintaining law and order. The divestment of these SOEs is a crucial step towards Sri Lanka’s path to recovery and rapid