Allaying fears that the private sector will fall by the way side under his presidency’s socially conscious economic development drive, presidential hopeful Anura Kumara Dissanayake said today that the path to prosperity lies in the coexistence of the state sector and a regulated private sector. An investment-friendly environment facilitated by consistent fiscal policy and reduced political interference, among other measures, he said, will contribute to this proposed vision. Certain areas of the economy managed by the state will need to be let go, he further said, with state intervention introduced where necessary to prevent monopolisation of essential goods and services.
“I believe the way forward for this country is in the coexistence of state and private sectors, instead of our depending entirely on one over the other,” Dissanayake told a gathering of business and political leaders at a panel discussion in Colombo this morning that featured a number of presidential candidates.
Accusing successive governments of letting the private sector down, the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader said no recent administration has set targets for the business community for the next ten years for their respective industries.
“We will identify crucial industries and will set targets for them for the year 2030. We invite the private sector to meet those targets and contribute to our development trajectory,” he said.
“What’s happened to the private sector today is that they have no clear idea which way the economy is headed and so have to worry about whether or not to invest their money at all. In place of this uncertainty, we will present to you a robust, long-term economic plan,” he added.
Dissanayake also vouched to end political interference in private participation in the economy.
“I would like to say to all business owners, you shouldn’t have to go behind a politician to secure investment or business opportunities. We will usher in an environment where your ability to do business won’t depend on political connections. We will put a end to that culture,” he said.
A National People’s Power (NPP) government, he added, will also regulate and create a proper legal framework for industry and commerce.
“You can’t declare your goods at the port because the market is flooded with contraband. You can’t declare your income at the Inland Revenue Department. You have one cashbook for your own accounting needs and another to show the government. Even if you pay your due income tax properly, you still have to compete with those who don’t,” said Dissanayake.
“We will guarantee equal opportunity for all businesses,” he added.
Explaining his vision for the state sector, the NPP presidential candidate said some areas of the economy run by the state should be let go.
“In one period, to expand the state sector using state capital, certain areas of the economy were brought in. Once that’s done, the state should let those go. I won’t say what those areas are, but we’ll hold discussions and select them. We’re ready for that,” he said.
“Similarly, there are other areas where state intervention is needed. We have a small market. For example, we only produce 3,800,000 metric tonnes of paddy a year – a production that is monopolised by a handful of players. That’s why paddy price in this country goes down while the price of rice goes up. That should not be the case,” he added.
Dissanayake also pledged a consistent fiscal policy that will be conducive to doing business.
“Your taxes change every year. At least for five years, a government should follow a consistent fiscal policy. We assure you that this will be the case, to make doing business less complicated. You shouldn’t cower in fear whenever a budget reading rolls around. Such a consistent fiscal policy will allow you to plan, project and direct your investments better. Instead of an ad hoc private sector, a planned private sector will be created for the people’s benefit,” he said.