UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that countries including Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan must pursue the path of a market economy explaining the burden of financial recovery would be too great for the State alone to handle and hence protection and promotion of the private sector was essential.

Taking part in a webinar organised by Indian media organisation, Sphere Travel Media to discuss the impact COVID-19  on the Asian region. the former Prime Minister said  that unless governments step forward with measures that would encourage the growth of the private sector,the economic recovery in Asia would take many years.

“Tax concessions alone would not be an attraction for new businesses, but governments must ensure a comprehensive system of Ease of Doing Business is introduced . Our scale of private sector businesses in Asia are much smaller than that seen in the US or Europe, hence not only must we promote new businesses, but we must also protect the existing businesses from going bankrupt”, he added.

The UNP leader said that the economic power of the world was shifting from the traditional Western powers to the emerging Asian markets. “We must develop our own markets, we have the power to do so with the largest market space in the world”, he explained.

Using the example of Sri Lanka, he expressed concerns over the shrinking markets for our exports. “We have seen a decline in demand for our exports in Europe and the US, the pandemic is forcing us to turn our attention to Asia. If we do so we can create a new global market-place that will benefit all Asian countries.”

Highlighting the Bay of Bengal as a key area of focus for post COVID-19 recovery,  Wickremesinghe explained that not only should a marketplace be created in the region, but regional tourism should also be explored. Citing the Caribbean tours as an example, he questioned as to why a similar model could not be adopted in the Bay of Bengal servicing many South-Asian nations including Sri Lanka.

He added that  for emerging markets having debt more than US $3.2 trillion awaiting repayment this year, the demand for commercial loans will see countries such as Sri Lanka face higher interest rates.Along with the debt servicing due, the countries in South Asia will also be forced to increase their expenditure in health care, forcing them to seek out alternative forms of revenue, he said.