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Delivering the keynote address during the inauguration of a Master of Science Degree program bythe Faculty of Graduate Studies at the Ratmalana General Sri John Kotelawala Defense University (KDU) for the academic year 2016,on 18 March, Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne stressed that in orderforpublic enterprises to be more profitable, competition needs to be introduced to the sector through public private partnership.

Deputy Minister Wickramaratne made this observation while pointing out the recent failures of some public enterprises to provide continued service to the people.

“We have had three blackouts since September 2015. It was a single event that caused in system failure. It is unacceptable to have any kind of blackout in the modern world that we live in. Competition has to be the principal and the driving force in these kinds of spaces, whether it be within public enterprises or across the public enterprise or between the public enterprise and the private sector. The process of competition has to be subject to effective sector specific regulations,”Wickamarathne charged.

ERAN WICKRAMARATNE YESTERDAY PARLIAMENT VEDIO CLIP.mpg - Google Drive.mp4_snapshot_09.35_[2016.04.13_08.11.49]

Colossal losses that state-run SriLankan Airlines was made to suffer since ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa chased away Emirates Airlines, and a questionable aircraft deal, is a national financial crime, Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne said.

SriLankan Airlines, which made profit of 4.4 billion rupees in 2008, the year in which the management agreement with Emirates Airlines ended, has lost 107 billion rupees since, then.

The Rajapaksa administration had cancelled the visa of then Chief Executive Peter Hill because he did not bump enough paying passengers to accommodate a large entourage of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a single aircraft, he said.

“The CEO had said ‘We should not offload all these passengers since they are citizens and they are paying passengers where there is a contract’,” Wickramaratne told parliament.

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Calling for improved performance in public entities, State Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne recently stressed the need for all planning activities of public enterprises to be tied to results.

Asserting that effective performance-oriented public sector management is an integral part of improving quality services, the minister said, “The public service in Sri Lanka at present is mostly evaluated and funded on the basis of how much spent, rather than on actual outcomes on performances. These services are financed with tax payers’ money. It is important that information on actual benefits is made available to the public and budgetary allocations are tied to outcomes.”

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“In 1979 ‘Air Ceylon’ was decommissioned &‘Air Lanka’ was established. Subsequently in 1998 ‘Air Lanka’ was privatized by the then SLFP lead government. 40% of its shares were sold to ‘Emirates’ for 70 million dollars. This was done through a 10 year strategic agreement based on a requirement of the then government. We are in no way against this move. It was this very same government which sold plots of land adjacent to the sacred site of ‘Somawathie’ to foreign institutions. They even went the extra mile by selling the paper factory. These decisions may have been correct or wrong given the day’s context. However in 2008, the 10 year strategic agreement expired. Emirates declined to extend the agreement any further. Post 2010 we were able to regain ownership of these market shares. The losses incurred by ‘Sri Lankan Air Lines’ at present stands at Rs. 12800 million. Only Rs. 900 billion has been allocated for 30% of the family units, who depend on the Samurdhi grant of this country. Juxtaposed against this scenario the losses incurred by one public entity exceeds nearly 15 times this amount” Deputy Minister Wickramaratne said.

Expressing his views during the Select Committee stage of the 2016 budget, a highly vocal Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne proposed that if required by former President and now Kurunegala District Parliamentarian Mahindara Rajapaksa, the incumbent government is able to sell ‘Mihin Air’over to him for a rupee.

Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne made this observation while lashing out at the now defunct Rajapaksa regimes lavish expenditure done in the guise of developing the public sector.

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Several of Sri Lanka’s state-run financial institutions are not a burden on the people following reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“There are SOEs not in financial sector providing goods and services that are loss-making, which are funded by the tax payer’s money,” Deputy State Enterprises Development Minister Eran Wickremaratne said.

“So the legitimate question does arise, ‘Why should the tax payer bear the brunt of it when the actually the state enterprises should be to provide goods and service at the highest possible quality and the lowest possible price?’ And that is the reason state enterprises should exist.”

 

 

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But there are some areas where the state need not be involved, and doing so only takes away income generating opportunities from a number of segments such as private businesses, home businesses and others. If the government gets involved, it becomes unfair competition, and that is what has been taking place. There is a crowding out effect.

 

 

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have come under harsh criticism in the recent past for their poor performance, productivity and profitability, and it is the public that paid the price.

With the change of government, and the appointments of fresh leaders, it is hoped the troubled entities would rectify their dismal performances and stop enlarging the hole in taxpayer’s pocket.

In an attempt to get a clear picture as to what the fate of these institutions will be, Mirror Business sat down with State Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne— a former banker and a highly respected figure in the private sector— this week for a comprehensive interview on what path the ministry would take to accomplish the strenuous task.

 

Following are the excerpts of the interview.

"I am Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. But above…

Posted by Eran Wickramaratne on Sunday, August 23, 2015

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What is really needed is investment. The former regime ran the economy through debt. Sri Lanka has now been ranked in the first 25 countries in the debt crisis in the world published by the Jubilee Debt Movement in London. Our Government in the first four months of this year has borrowed 40% less than the previous Government borrowed in the same period last year. We need to attract more foreign investments. Since investors knew that this Government would be dissolved soon, they wanted to wait to see what would happen in the next five years.

Q: How do you view the present political situation, which took an unexpected turn with some former Ministers joining the UNP-led coalition for good governance?

A: After the election of the new President, quite unexpectedly the presidency of the SLFP was given to President Maithripala Sirisena. On one hand it was a good move, but he had a dilemma on the other hand. He had pressure from the SLFPers to make decisions in their interest and not in the interest of the country. Therefore, they forced those politicians who are undesirable to be in the nomination list, including the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, several ministers and MPs whom the public would have rejected and had questionable actions in the past.

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