Today (18) President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met with the EU ambassadors at the Presidential Secretariat. The discussion centered on rebuilding the economy after passing the COVID-19 crisis.
The country was able to quickly deploy the public health system to address the health threat caused by the pandemic, explained President. The Public Health Inspectors with the support of the Police and Security Forces were able to engage in contact tracing accurately. It was not only those who were infected but also the associates of the infected were quarantined. These measures helped Sri Lanka to successfully combat the virus.
The next concern before the country is reviving the economy, noted President. The current growth rate is very low and the national debt is high, he observed.
To control this dire situation certain controls and restrictions on imports were needed. However, this does not mean Sri Lanka will be a closed economy.
At the same time President expressed his interest in developing domestic industries. Most food items, noted President, can be produced locally. Therefore, he stressed the need for Sri Lanka to modernize this sector. He also spoke of the importance of introducing organic fertilizer, better quality seeds and advanced technologies.
Presently, about 40 percent of the agricultural produce gets wasted due to lack of proper storage facilities. Therefore, underscored the President, there is a need to increase facilities in methods such as canning and drying fresh produce.
Given the current situation, said President, Sri Lanka would benefit from a debt moratorium. He also emphasized that taking further loans is not an option. Instead of further debt, Sri Lanka needs new investments.
President directed the EU delegations’ attention to projects such as renewable energy using solar and wind. He also expressed his interest in focusing on an IT based education system so that the youth are more exposed to new technologies. The number of students currently engaged in online learning platforms has increased. The UGC is also amending its act to allow more universities to enter Sri Lanka.
The EU delegation responded positively to President Gotabaya and discussed at length a number of ways their respective countries may be able to engage with Sri Lanka in these areas.