Colombo, January 30 (Economynext): A future Sri Lankan government under the opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is not obliged to support deals with the International Monetary Fund or any other international funding agency as the current government does not have a mandate to sign such agreement.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government is in discussion to obtain $2.9 billion IMF loan once the sovereign debt-defaulted country agrees with all its bilateral creditors. Wickremesinghe government has already implemented many IMF demands that are required to be fulfilled before the global lender’s approval.
The Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa speaking at a Local Government election campaign in the Western provincial district of Kalutara said the current government has no mandate from the people.
Wickremesinghe was elected by the parliament in July last year backed by ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, a party which lost its popularity due to wrong economic policies which led to the country to an unprecedented economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe lost the 2020 parliamentary polls but entered the parliament through the only national list position got by his center-right United National Party (UNP).
Premadasa said his father, the then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa (1988-1993), also went for IMF loans, but he never slashed any relief measures given to the public.
“You must deal with the IMF not by bowing to them (IMF). If you stand straight, have a backbone like a lion and deal with the IMF then you can get facilities that are more advantageous for you,” Junior Premadasa said in the election campaign meeting.
“But now, the SLPP and the UNP are jointly going to the IMF, begging and saying, oh Lord IMF we will do anything you say.”
“We tell one thing to the IMF and the international financial institutions. A SJB government is not obligated to support any deal that a government like this with a president without a mandate.”
Analysts have predicted holding the local government polls could derail Wickremesinghe’s reform agenda as the main theme of the election would be economy and taxes. The country has seen rising protest over personal income tax hikes since last week.
Sajith Premadasa was initially invited to accept Prime Minister post in May last year when former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign after public protests following his supporters attacking unarmed protesters in the capital Colombo.
However, Premadasa did not accept the offer. But after Wickremesinghe was appointed as the prime minister, he expressed his willingness to accept the post.
Wickremesinghe was elected as the president later in line with the country’s constitution.
“You can’t blame the President right now, because the first option was given to the leader of the opposition to take over the country,” State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe told in an interview to EconomyNext on January 26 when he was asked about the opposition’s criticism.
“Had he become the Prime Minister, this (the economy) would have been the same state.”