President unveils initiative to boost Gov revenue through promotion of minor export crop cultivation
Colombo (LNW): President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised the vital role of strengthening the agricultural export economy as a key element in the broader strategy to rejuvenate the nation’s economy.
In alignment with this directive, the President unveiled plans for a specialised programme to enhance the cultivation of minor export crops. The initiative includes efforts to promote cocoa cultivation in Kandy, Matale, and Kurunegala districts, along with the reinstatement of coffee and cinnamon cultivation in the near future.
During a Special District Coordination Committee (DCC) meeting at the Matale District Secretariat on the 25th, President Wickremesinghe announced the implementation of a budget proposal granting freehold deeds to licenced landowners nationwide, coinciding with Independence Day on February 4th.
President Wickremesinghe also emphasised the allocation of Rs. 10 million to a specific regional secretariat dedicated to the development of underdeveloped villages under the upcountry development programme for the next five years.
Addressing concerns about revenue generation, the President stressed the need for officials to present new proposals for revenue collection in the district, emphasising that solving the country’s economic problems requires a focus on both expenditure and revenue.
The President highlighted the potential for transforming the Matale district into an agricultural hub and stressed the importance of executing this programme through a well-structured plan, involving collaboration between the public and private sectors.
The meeting, attended by political authorities and government officials of the Matale district, saw the President’s direct intervention in resolving long-standing issues, including the drinking water problem for kidney patients, allocation of land for displaced people, highway development, consolidation of specific areas, and the management of wild elephants.
While addressing the meeting, the President expressed increased government focus on education and inquired about the absence of education-related issues. He reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to prioritise and address educational concerns, including implementing a programme to encourage greater student participation in the G.C.E Advanced Level Examination. Additionally, the President announced the upcoming establishment of a formal initiative offering vocational training to young individuals after completing the Advanced Level Examination, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to the national economy.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s full statement:
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 Galewela-Dambulla-Habarana areas, especially in light of the on-going plans for the Hingurakgoda 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 programme, 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 modernisation programme to rejuvenate and diversify our agricultural sector.
While acknowledging that these objectives cannot be realised instantly, a strategic timeline of 5 to 10 years has been envisioned to attain these goals. The transformation of Agrarian Service Centers into Agricultural Modernisation Centers, 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, recognised for its agricultural potential, offers favorable 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 revitalise and popularise cocoa cultivation in the regions surrounding Matale, Kandy and Kurunegala. The implementation of this programme 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 endeavors 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 centers across the island into a singular institution.”
State Minister for Defense 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 attended the event.