Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that although the country is going through a major foreign exchange reserve crisis, the government will cover all external debts due next year, adding that the president and prime minister have also secured their full support in this task. He said that despite the opposition’s claims, the government had a well-thought-out long-term plan to save the country from the economic crisis.
Delivering the response speech at the third reading of Budget 2022 in Parliament on Friday, December 10, the minister said the government is expected to repay US $ 500 million in external debt in January 2022 and US $ 1,000 million in July 2022. He said the government had an appropriate plan to service these debts. “We will pay every dollar owed and we give that insurance with the utmost responsibility,” he said.
The third reading of the 2022 budget was passed on Friday by an overwhelming majority of 93 votes in Parliament, with 157 votes in favor and 64 against.
Minister Rajapaksa said the government does not hide the fact that the country is going through a severe economic crisis and called on all parties to support the government in successfully handling the situation. The minister said that while the Covid-19 pandemic has been the blow to the economy, the Yahapalana government has also been a major factor in creating a severe economic crisis from which the country is currently suffering. “That’s why they might even face an election with their old political party name. Therefore, they had to go along with a different party name in order to be represented in Parliament. They have not been able to compete in the elections as a UNP, ”he said.
Commenting on the adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, Finance Minister Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka earned US $ 3,607 million in 2019 while last year it fell to US $ 100 million. The minister also said the country lost around US $ 6,103 million of its usual foreign remittances this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We cannot get out of this crisis immediately. Our plan is to gradually reduce the pressure we have on the economy at this time. One of our main goals is to gradually relax import restrictions and increase exports. In 2017, we exported goods worth US $ 941 million. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, exports exceeded US $ 979 million, US $ 751 million and US $ 1,232 million.
“Likewise, last year we only sent 53,000 Sri Lankans as migrant workers. This year, we sent 100,000 migrant workers. In the coming year, we plan to send 300,000 workers and earn US $ 8,000 million in foreign currency, ”Minister Rajapaksa said.
He said the country cannot immediately attract foreign investment. “Foreign investments are like businesses. When a businessman invests, he expects many benefits. Foreign investment will not flow into the country at the rate we expect. “
Speaking on the tourism sector, Minister Rajapaksa said it is the easiest sector to revive even though it has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.