Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today said that the Government would seek an international partner who could manage and invest in the country’s state owned national airline carrier after the airline recorded a massive debt of 3.25 billion U.S. dollars, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Speaking to reporters, Wickremesinghe said that Srilankan Airlines was a ‘landmine’ for the country’s economy with its high debts and the government would take over part of its debts in order to seek for an international partner or investor.
He further said that cabinet approval had also been granted to search for a partner for the national airline carrier.
The Government has already allocated 201 million U.S. dollars to run the airline up to October and would in the meantime call for proposals to search for an investor.
“The airline cannot continue like this and as a government we can only pay part of the debts. If we do not, the airline will collapse and the economy will also collapse. This is not a small figure,” he said.
The prime minister further said that he ordered the national carrier to cancel four Airbus aircraft it has already ordered, which he said had still not started manufacture.
“We have ordered four aircraft but we have to see how we can dispose off them. They have not started manufacturing the airbus yet so we have informed them we are not going ahead with it.”
Wickremesinghe, soon after being sworn to power last year in a parliamentary election, ordered a criminal investigation into alleged corruption at the national airline during the previous regime, saying that it involved ‘billions of dollars’.
Meanwhile speaking on the present state of the island’s slow paced economy, Wickremesinghe said his government was attempting to turn it around and expressed confidence of gaining international investments.
He also vowed to adjust the country’s finances in order to repay the country’s debts which he said had mounted during the previous government. (Colombo Gazette)