President asserts responsibility for challenging policy decisions
January 02, Colombo (LNW): President Ranil Wickremesinghe attending the opening ceremony of the new Air Force Headquarters at Akuregoda, Battaramulla Military Headquarters expressed his hope for unity in the New Year and asserted that he bears responsibility for the challenging decisions made.
He called for collaboration among political parties to fulfil their collective responsibility in safeguarding the nation, deflecting attention from the ongoing criticism.
Despite facing backlash for the policy decisions implemented by the government, he defended them, claiming they were made in the best interest of the country.
As the Commander-in-Chief, President Wickremesinghe received military honours upon his arrival at the Air Force Headquarters, presenting this as a significant step in the nation’s commitment to modernise its defence infrastructure.
While inaugurating the new Air Force Headquarters, he participated in the observation of the parade organised by the Air Force, showcasing a symbolic display of Air Force planes soaring in the sky as a tribute to the President.
Today marks a momentous occasion for the Air Force, commemorating 73 years of dedicated service. Throughout its history, the Air Force has played a pivotal role in rescuing citizens from the perils of terrorist wars, internal conflicts, and natural disasters.
The inauguration of the modern Air Force Headquarters equipped with cutting-edge technology signifies a significant milestone, enabling the provision of technical expertise crucial for addressing future challenges.
The Air Force”s role in positioning Sri Lanka as a defence hub in the Indian Ocean is of immense significance. To fulfil this role effectively, our forces must advance with new knowledge and technology.
The application of modern security knowledge not only aids in addressing domestic challenges but also empowers us to identify and resolve international issues.
The establishment of the Air Force Headquarters within the Army Headquarters today is viewed as an inaugural move towards the modernisation of our defence infrastructure.
As part of a comprehensive plan, the previous Air Force Headquarters office is scheduled to be transferred to the Police Headquarters, optimising the use of existing facilities. Additionally, there are strategic intentions to dismantle the structures formerly housing the Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This ambitious initiative envisions transforming the vacated area into a vibrant tourist zone, aligning with broader urban development objectives and promoting economic diversification.
The present challenge before us is the task of rebuilding the country’s economy, a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of all citizens. Upon assuming the presidency, I inherited a nation grappling with a complete economic collapse.
Consequently, the onus to revive the country’s economy was entrusted to me. Faced with a critical decision, I deliberated with the cabinet on whether to engage in political exercises or directly focus on the formidable task of economic reconstruction.
Contemplating the economic hardships confronting Lebanon, where an economic programme encountered a two-year delay, and the extended recovery period of Greece lasting thirteen years due to political instability, I sought an alternative path. Unlike the extreme measures adopted by certain nations, like slashing public service wages by 50%, I was resolute in avoiding such severe actions.
Recognising a decline in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we opted for a more calculated and direct strategy. Through the implementation of clear-cut decisions, our aim was to attain a specific level of economic resilience by the end of 2023.
To fortify the nation’s economy, timely and essential decisions must be made.
Our aim is to attain a 3% economic growth rate this year, with a commitment to advancing even more rapidly. Several countries have expressed their support, raising inquiries about our ability to service the incurred debt in the future. To address this concern, it is imperative to diversify and create new sources of income, ensuring the sustainability of our economic recovery.
Last year, the government revenue reached Rs. 3.1 trillion, constituting 12% of our GDP. As part of our strategic vision, we aim to elevate the GDP to 15% by 2026. In the year 2024, we have set a target of achieving Rs. 4.2 trillion in government revenue, necessitating a revision of the Value Added Tax (VAT).
In our pursuit of fiscal responsibility, we anticipate a primary surplus of 8 decimals. However, it is essential to maintain a primary surplus at 2.3 until 2025 as we diligently work towards these objectives. Despite the inherent challenges, our commitment to a comprehensive programme aimed at strengthening the country’s economy remains unwavering.
Acknowledging the inherent difficulty of the task at hand, I have carefully considered the challenges associated with the decisions we are making. It is not without recognising the complexities and obstacles that I have pondered these choices extensively.
The weight of the responsibility lies in understanding that without taking these decisive measures, we risk facing a recurrence of the last economic crisis.
Conversely, implementing this programme represents an opportunity for the country to forge a path toward a better future. Despite the difficulties, the potential for positive transformation and sustained growth is significant.
It is with a clear understanding of these considerations and a steadfast commitment to the well-being and prosperity of the nation that I have made these decisions for the country.
Assuming the role of the presidency was not driven by a desire for popularity but rather a commitment to nation-building and securing a prosperous future for citizens and their children. Consequently, challenging decisions must be made for the greater good. I have communicated these decisions to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who have concurred, and I express gratitude for their support.
Recognising the challenges associated with tax collection, we have sought assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to establish a new revenue authority. These collaborative efforts aim to elevate the country”s economy to approximately 5% by the fiscal year 2025-2026.
The current trajectory falls short of our aspiration for future generations, necessitating a growth target of 8%-9%. Deliberations are underway to chart a course towards achieving this ambitious goal.
In assuming the responsibility of making challenging decisions to fortify the nation’s economy, I bear the accountability for these choices. It is incumbent upon fellow politicians to recognise their duty in safeguarding the nation.
Collaboration is imperative as we unite to bolster the country’s economic foundations. A collective effort is pivotal in ensuring swift development post-2024. I earnestly call upon everyone to contribute to this shared endeavour.
Present at this event were various individuals, including State Minister for Defence Mr. Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence General Kamal Gunaratne (Retired), Governor of the Western Province Marshal of the Air Force Mr. Roshan Gunathilake, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Air Force Commander Air Marshal Udeni Rajapaksa, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, and a group of military officers, which also includes retired Air Force personnel.