Efforts should be made to strengthen the agricultural export economy and increase the government’s income
President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored the imperative of fortifying the agricultural export economy as a pivotal component of the program aimed at revitalizing the nation’s economy.
In accordance with this directive, the President announced the forthcoming implementation of a specialized program designed to boost the cultivation of minor export crops. Furthermore, efforts will be made to popularize cocoa cultivation in Kandy, Matale and Kurunegala districts. Additionally, plans include the re-establishment of coffee and cinnamon cultivation in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, President Ranil Wickremesinghe mentioned that the budget proposal to grant freehold deeds to the licensed landowners will be implemented island-wide in parallel with the Independence Day on February 4th.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks during his attendance at the Special District Coordination Committee (DCC) meeting held Nov (25), at the Matale District Secretariat.
The President further conveyed that the allocation of Rs. 10 million to a specific regional secretariat, dedicated to the development of underdeveloped villages under the upcountry development program, will persist for the next five years.
The President pointed out that in every DCC meeting, the expenditure of money is mentioned but the officials do not present new proposals for revenue collection in the district and emphasized that the focus should also be on new revenue generation to solve the economic problems faced by the country.
In line with this, the President highlighted the potential for transforming the Matale district into an agricultural hub. The President explained on the necessity of executing the program through a well-structured plan, emphasizing the collaborative efforts of both the public and private sectors.
During this meeting, attended by the political authority of the Matale district and government officials, the direct intervention of the President facilitated the provision of solutions to numerous long-standing issues in the district that had remained unresolved for an extended period.
The political authorities of the Matale district, alongside government officials, attended this meeting where the direct intervention of the President facilitated the resolution of numerous longstanding issues in the district.
Special attention was dedicated to addressing critical issues during the meeting, including the humanitarian concern of resolving the drinking water problem for kidney patients. The allocation of land for the displaced people of Ambangamuwa Divisional Secretariat, the development of highways, the consolidation of Galewela-Dambulla-Habarana areas into a cohesive region and the long-standing issue of managing wild elephants were also key focal points of discussion.
The President underscored the government’s increased focus on education and inquired about the apparent absence of issues related to education in this meeting. He reiterated the administration’s commitment to prioritizing and addressing educational concerns.
The President asserted the necessity of implementing a program aimed at encouraging increased student participation in the G.C.E Advanced Level Examination. Additionally, he announced the forthcoming establishment of a formal initiative designed to offer vocational training to young individuals, thereby enabling them to contribute meaningfully to the national economy subsequent to completing the Advanced Level Examination.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe provided additional remarks, stating,
“We anticipate transferring the District Development Fund to the District Committee within the current year. Furthermore, a sum of Rs. 10 million has been allocated to each Divisional Secretariat for the development of underdeveloped areas in the highlands. We intend to sustain this financial support for the next five years.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 epidemic and the recent economic crisis, numerous projects came to a halt. We anticipate the retrieval of funds by the end of this year following the receipt of the bankruptcy discharge certificate. Consequently, all suspended projects are scheduled for implementation starting from the upcoming year.
Particular emphasis should be placed on the strategic development of the Galewala-Dambulla-Habarana areas, especially in light of the on-going plans for the Higurakgoda airport. The anticipated rise in tourist numbers to these regions necessitates a comprehensive development plan for these three cities to ensure systematic and sustainable growth.
Furthermore, all land licenses issued under the Land Development Act are scheduled to be converted into freehold deeds. As part of the foundational program, 10,000 land deeds will be distributed at the Dambulla stadium. Additionally, there are plans to grant freehold rights for lands allocated by the Land Reforms Commission in Colombo.
In every District Committee meeting, the predominant query pertains to the allocation of funds, yet my concern lies in identifying the means to acquire the necessary funds for these expenditures.
In accordance with the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the option to print money has been prohibited, as stipulated in the amended Central Bank Act. Concurrently, accessing credit has become a challenge due to existing debt obligations. Consequently, our path forward entails a concerted effort towards income generation to navigate the financial landscape in the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, addressing the budget deficit and trade balance deficit has been a challenge due to a lack of comprehensive strategies. Particularly starting next year, it is imperative to focus on these two sectors with the aim of bolstering state revenue at the district level.
To achieve this, a pivotal shift towards reinstating an agricultural-based economy is essential. Since 1972, the emphasis on the agricultural economy has diminished, with minimal development seen beyond the small tea plantation sector. Immediate attention is required to initiate an agricultural modernization program to rejuvenate and diversify our agricultural sector.
While acknowledging that these objectives cannot be realized instantly, a strategic timeline of 5 to 10 years has been envisioned to attain these goals. The transformation of Agrarian Service Centres into Agricultural Modernization Centres, in collaboration with the private sector, is part of the proposed plan. The emphasis will be on augmenting the production of existing crops and introducing new crops into the agricultural landscape.
The Matale district, recognized for its agricultural potential, offers favourable conditions for the cultivation of both upcountry and Rajarata crops. As such, there are plans to systematically develop this area according to a novel and comprehensive strategy.
Various institutions have already indicated their interest in investing in cocoa cultivation, highlighting Sri Lanka’s potential to produce premium-quality cocoa second only to Guatemala. Despite the current absence of cocoa in Sri Lanka, there are plans to revitalize and popularize cocoa cultivation in the regions surrounding Matale, Kandy and Kurunegala. The implementation of this program is envisioned as a collaborative effort involving both the public and private sectors.
Following the rejuvenation of cocoa cultivation, the focus will shift to coffee cultivation. Additionally, dedicated efforts are underway for cinnamon cultivation, with the overarching objective of promoting the cultivation of minor export crops through an innovative and comprehensive plan.
This initiative is not confined to government efforts alone; active participation from the private sector is integral to its success. A long-standing proposal to lease government corporation-owned land to these entities is now in motion. The proposed lease periods are envisaged to be 60 years for coconut plantations and 40-50 years for other agricultural activities.
The intention is to allocate these lands to young farmers, enabling them to implement modern agricultural methods. The government is committed to supporting the endeavours of these young farmers, underscoring its overarching goal of establishing Matale as a prominent agricultural district.
Efforts to enhance education are of paramount importance. There is a concerted focus on increasing the number of students participating in the General Education Certificate Examination (GCE). Following Advanced Level Examination, a strategic direction will guide youth towards vocational training, fostering the creation of a skilled workforce within the country. To facilitate this, a comprehensive plan is underway to consolidate the 400 vocational training centres across the island into a singular institution.
Notable figures present at the event included State Minister for Defence Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, State Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Rohana Dissanayake, Governor of Central Province Lalith .U. Gamage, Members of Parliament Janaka Bandara Thennakoon and Rohini Kaviratne, Matale District Coordinating Committee Chairman Member of Parliament Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Chairman of the Central Provincial Council L D Nimalasiri and Matale District Secretary Tejani Thilakaratne, along with other officials.