Speaking ahead of the final vote, Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera said that the 2018 Budget is founded on the themes of a Blue Green Budget and Enterprise Sri Lanka.
“This is a budget to harness Sri Lanka’s marine and natural resources in a sustainable manner, whilst unleashing the true potential of our greatest resource – our people. For too long our people have been suppressed by an overbearing state and by archaic legislation which are a vestigial link to our colonial past. Our education systems have excluded our talented youth and denied opportunities for the realization of their capabilities. Young entrepreneurs have been unable to access affordable finance to bring to life their business ideas. As a result, our youth have become accustomed to waiting for the government to provide them with some relief – be it a government job, or some form of concession or handout. Our companies got accustomed to open ended protection from competition. Sri Lanka as a whole got stifled into a defensive mindset,” he said.
The Minister said that the Budget is the first step in a journey to reverse the mindset and to empower Sri Lankans to take control of their own destiny. He said the Budget also focuses on liberalization to unlock the barriers to greater investment, trade, and start-up enterprises. It also allocates resources to provide training and skill development for youth to equip them with the capabilities to take advantage of such opportunities.
“We envisage the day when the farmer’s daughter becomes an agribiz-entrepreneur, when the fisherman’s son becomes a seafood exporter. Sri Lanka needs to go back to its roots of being a nation of entrepreneurs, a nation of traders. To do this we must be open to global trade, embrace competition, and take on the world and win. Whilst the Government will not be a nanny state, we do not forget the vulnerable, and those who need the support of the state. The Budget has made substantial allocations to ensure appropriate safety nets and support for those adversely affected by market dislocations. However the Government will not protect those who stifle competition at the expense of the greater good of society,” he added.
The Minister also said that the proposals in Budget 2018 for further liberalization of markets are designed in a manner to promote competition and contestation in markets.
He said competition drives innovation, productivity improvement, and service excellence, all of which in turn support better and more affordable products and services for citizens, and will enhance living standards in Sri Lanka.