Mahinda at log­ger­heads with Man­gala over ship­ping in­dus­try lib­er­al­iza­tion

Says his min­istry nor in­dus­try stake­hold­ers con­sulted It is a wrong pro­posal and I am to­tally against it” Says would only al­low it if for­eign­ers will­ing to in­vest heav­ily

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - BUSINESS NEWS -

Ports and Ship­ping Min­is­ter Mahinda Sa­ma­ras­inghe said he was broad­sided by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera’s bud­get pro­posal to lib­er­al­ize for­eign own­er­ship in the ship­ping and freight for­ward­ing in­dus­tries, which Sa­ma­ras­inghe said that he would not al­low to take place un­less for­eign­ers in­vest heav­ily. “I don’t know who pro­posed this from the Fi­nance Min­istry. It is a wrong pro­posal and I am to­tally against it. I will in­form the par­lia­ment. I will not sign this gazette. I don’t want to sign a gazette that will send over 500 lo­cal com­pany own­ers and em­ploy­ees home,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe said dur­ing an in­ter­view on a state-owned tele­vi­sion chan­nel.

He noted that Sa­ma­raweera had not con­sulted with nei­ther him nor the Ports and Ship­ping Min­istry with re­spect to the pro­posed changes to re­move the 40 per­cent limit on for­eign par­ties to own­ing ship­ping agen­cies and freight for­ward­ing com­pa­nies.

“How can they amend a gazette is­sued by our min­istry in 1992 with­out hav­ing dis­cussed it with me. Who else can amend a gazette like this? The Fi­nance Min­istry can­not do that. If they do that, some­one can file a case against it since by law I, as the Ports and Ship­ping Min­is­ter, have the au­thor­ity to do any amend­ment. Not any­one else,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe said.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion dy­nam­ics be­tween the United Na­tional Party and the Sri Lanka Free­dom Party (SLFP), which form the na­tional unity gov­ern­ment—which the rul­ing politi­cians claim is pos­i­tive for the econ­omy—were also ex­posed dur­ing this in­ter­view.

“This is a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. SLFP is a part of this gov­ern­ment. There­fore, if they are bring­ing a pro­posal like this, and if an SLFP min­is­ter is in charge of that sub­ject mat­ter, they need to spe­cially talk to the min­is­ter and his min­istry. But they did not do so,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe said.

He went on to say that Sa­ma­raweera had not dis­cussed the planned lib­er­al­iza­tion with the in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.

“We are talk­ing about an in­dus­try that earns US$ 800 mil­lion in for­eign in­come. This for­eign in­come is all kept within the coun­try. They also in­vest part of this in­come. These stake­hold­ers should have been en­gaged but they had not been en­gaged,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe said. He said that he had in­formed these view­points to Sa­ma­raweera im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the bud­get speech, and that fur­ther dis­cus­sions will take place with Sa­ma­raweera to con­vince him of the ar­gu­ments made by the lo­cal ship­ping in­dus­try and the SLFP, and to maybe al­low for­eign­ers to fully-own lo­cal ship­ping agen­cies only if there are big in­vest­ments.

“If the for­eign­ers can in­vest at least US$ 100 mil­lion, then I can tell the lo­cal in­dus­tri­al­ist that this is good for the coun­try, and that they should com­pete. Oth­er­wise, I will not al­low our lo­cal com­pa­nies and in­dus­try to be stran­gled, de­stroyed and handed over to the for­eign­ers,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe said, al­though adding that for­eign in­vest­ments to the in­dus­try would most likely not be forth­com­ing.

How­ever, Sa­ma­ras­inghe praised Sa­ma­raweera for pre­sent­ing a for­ward-look­ing, non-pop­ulist, fun­da­men­tally strong bud­get to bring in for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments, which are re­quired for the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment.

“Min­is­ter Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera is an ex­pe­ri­enced and prac­ti­cal min­is­ter. He brought var­i­ous bu­reau­crats and in­dus­tries to the ta­ble and gave them lead­er­ship,” Sa­ma­ras­inghe had also said. The Fi­nance Min­is­ter who had spo­ken at a post-bud­get fo­rum had said that al­though the ship­ping in­dus­try had in­formed him of their dis­plea­sure with the pro­posal, Sri Lanka can­not con­tinue to be a ‘nanny state’ and lo­cals must com­pete with for­eign­ers.

Mahinda Sa­ma­ras­inghe

Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera

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