We have resurrected the economy - Ravi
Finance Minister Ravi Karunananake has welcomed last Thursday's vote
in Parliament on the 'No-Confidence Motion' against him as an
overwhelming vote of confidence in him and his Ministry. Reacting to the
defeat of the motion tabled by the UPFA rebel faction in Parliament
against him, the Finance Minister in an interview with the Sunday
Observer said, the government has successfully turned around the
economic downturn. The Minister sees no reason for the 'no confidence
motion' initiated by the UPFA rebel group, and says his government has
been able to broadbase the economy, giving it purpose to take it
forward. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: One of the main allegations levelled by the Joint
Opposition (JO) is that the country's economy has collapsed and our
foreign direct investments have also declined. What is your response?
A: I think it is the other way round. The government inherited
an economy that was in shreds. We joined together and made the economy
acceptable to the world. Today, everybody wishes us well since we have
embraced pro-growth ways and means, and a corruption- free and all
inclusive growth. Therefore, I don't understand their logic. This is not
an economy built for one family. We have built an economy for all the
families in the country, unlike what we inherited from the Rajapaksas.
We have basically broadbased the economy and given purposefulness to
take it forward.
Q: Do you think this No Confidence Motion (NCM) was a blessing
in disguise for the Government to show its strength in Parliament?
A: I think so, and we could clearly show it in Parliament on
Q: The JVP also played a leading role to bring President
Maithripala Sirisena to power and extended support to make many
democratic reforms. What do you think led the JVP this time to vote in
favour of the NCM?
A: I don't think it has any effect on us. They don't vote for
the Government on issues because they think they have a vote bank of a
different nature. It is their political strategy and they are not in the
Government. So we don't expect much from them.
Q: Critics allege that you are always citing the Rajapaksa
debt burden to cover up your economic mismanagement. Your comments?
A: If they have even an iota of common sense, they will
definitely concede that we are right. We are just 16 months in
government. We have defused the economy which was virtually in a
precarious position. It was like a grenade where the pin was removed.
Japan, China, the EU, USA, India, Korea and Singapore are providing us
adequate financial aid, because they have observed that we have
integrated with the world. They see that we are working for the country
and its people and not for one family alone. That is the difference.
Today, Face Book and the social media are available to post anything or
read anything. But, the most important thing is we are putting the
economy on the right track and the people have realized it. The people
expect more because they had been suppressed for a long time, and would
like to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We will certainly fulfil
Q: VAT has hit the people hard and you have said some of the
taxes are only temporary. Do you have a timeframe when you would reduce,
if not eliminate these taxes?
A: We will consider reducing it as soon as possible, but I
don't want to fix a timeframe.
Q: There is still no sign of the swindled money which you said
would be recovered and put to development efforts. What is the progress
with regard to these investigations?
A: The investigations are going on, but we are going to work
within a democratic framework. It can work faster than we hope, but it
has also to be fair. Just because the previous regime harassed us on
unreasonable grounds, we are not prepared to do the same. We are moving
cautiously and intelligently.
Q: Aren't there any measures available to the Government other
than increasing taxes to address the debt burden?
A: Yes. What we are looking at right now is to reduce the cost
and increase revenue without putting more pressure on the people, and
also increase trade activities. At present, more investments are flowing
into the country. We are looking at the developed countries so that
benefits could ultimately be passed on to the people even though we are
a late starter.
Q: You have also come under pressure for increasing taxes on
cars. What was the rationale for the move?
A: The increase of taxes on cars is logical. There are so many
cars on the road and a lot of valuable foreign exchange is going out of
the country. So this is how we propose to rectify the situation. We have
discouraged imports until our infrastructure is developed. Now we have
started the construction work on the Rajagiriya road and we need to get
Q: What are the immediate challenges the Government is facing?
A: The immediate challenge I see, is the distortion campaign
engineered by certain unscrupulous elements trying to bring extremism to
the system. It is something the people should realize. We must ensure
that those who have robbed the nation will be brought to book soon,
which is one of our main concerns.
Q: As certain sections of the Government assert, do you see
any deliberate attempt by the JO to sabotage the forward march of the
A: Actually, there is no Joint Opposition. They are a
disenchanted and disunited small fraction who oppose President
Maithripala Sirisena. This disunited small splinter group is the one
that is basically trying to create mayhem, and it will be defeated