- Pivotal decisions necessary for economic development already implemented
- Primary objective of Government is to provide quick relief to the people
President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored that decisive actions would lead Sri Lanka to rapid economic growth this year. Despite facing criticism for these challenging decisions, he emphasized that they were undertaken in the best interests of the country.
The President expressed his hope for unity in the New Year, urging collaboration among political parties to fulfil their collective responsibility in safeguarding the nation.
These remarks were made during President Wickremesinghe’s attendance at the opening ceremony of the new Air Force Headquarters at the Akuregoda, Battaramulla Military Headquarters yesterday.
President Wickremesinghe formally inaugurated the new Air Force Headquarters by unveiling the commemorative plaque. Subsequently, he actively participated in the observation of the parade organized by the Air Force.
Addressing the event, the President further stated: “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 vital 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 modernization 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, optimizing 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.
“To fortify the nation’s economy, timely and essential decisions must be made. Our aim is to attain a 3 percent 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, government revenue reached Rs. 3.1 trillion, constituting 12 percent of our GDP. As part of our strategic vision, we aim to elevate the GDP to 15 percent by 2026. In 2024, we have set a target of achieving Rs. 4.2 trillion in government revenue, necessitating a revision of the Value Added Tax (VAT).
“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 recognizing 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.
“Recognizing 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 percent by the fiscal year 2025-2026.
“The current trajectory falls short of our aspiration for future generations, necessitating a growth target of 8 percent to 9 percent. 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 recognize 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.
State Minister for Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne (Retired), Western Province Governor Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke, 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 cohort of esteemed military officers, encompassing retired Air Force personnel were also present.
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