Colombo, June 2 (Daily Express): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has tightened his grip over the country’s economic and foreign policies through the two ministerial portfolio shuffles carried out by President Maithripala Sirisena recently.
In Wednesday’s shuffle of junior ministers’ portfolios, banker and Wickremesinghe loyalist Eran Wickramaratne was made State Minister of Finance to assist the new Cabinet Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera, who is not familiar with the turf.
Wickramaratne is not only politically close to the Prime Minister but their views on economic matters match. Wickremaratne will also be an ideal foil for the new Cabinet Minister of Finance, as Samaraweera and he operate on the same wavelength as regards where Sri Lanka should be heading in economic matters.
Both share with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, an eagerness to make Sri Lanka a part of the global manufacturing chain, increase exports, and attract FDI.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dr.Harsha De Silva, a professional economist who believes in making Sri Lanka an integral part of the globalized economy, becomes the new Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs. Significantly, the Cabinet Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs is Prime Minister Wickremesinghe himself.
As per the understanding between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, reached when they came to power in January 2015, Wickremesinghe would be in-charge of the government’s economic and foreign policies. It is in the light of such an understanding that President Sirisena has been appointing Wickremesinghe’s nominees to head ministries dealing with economic and foreign affairs.
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena has been made State Minister of Enterprise Development, a post held earlier by Wickramaratne. Abeywardena does not belong to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) , but he is no stranger to economic affairs, having held the portfolios of Investment Promotion and Economic Affairs earlier.
The other significant appointment is that of Wasantha Senanayake as State Minister of Foreign Affairs. A member of the UNP, Wasantha Senanayake is the great grandson of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister and founder of the UNP, D.S.Senanayake. He is also a relation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s.
With Wickremesinghe loyalist Ravi Karunanayake as the new Foreign Minister, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry too is effectively in the hands of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. To underline this, the newly appointed Foreign Minister made it clear on taking over, that the Foreign Ministry will from now on be practicing “commercial diplomacy” with the aim of promoting exports and attracting FDI, a thing close to the Prime Minister’s heart.
Significantly, Karunanayake has not blamed the Prime Minister for shifting him from the powerful Finance Ministry to the Foreign Ministry. In an interview to a local daily he blamed a section close to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa which is still influential in the government.
(The featured image at the top is that of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe)