President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he aims to make Sri Lanka a developed country by 2048 and that the youth of this country have been allowed to contribute towards this goal.

The President said this during the discussion held on the 22nd of this month through Zoom technology with the youth of the “2048 Youth Platform on the Journey towards a Developed State” program.

The youth were given an opportunity to question the President about the social, economic and political issues of the country as well as the problems faced by today’s youth.

Accordingly, the following are the questions that were posed by the youth and President Wickremesinghe’s responses:

Mr President, you always say that for the country to move forward, opportunities must be provided to the youth. Back in 1977, Mr J.R. Jayewardene allowed you to come forward as a young leader to contribute to the development of the country. You aim to make Sri Lanka a developed country by 2048. Have you commenced the process of training youth leaders for it?

First, we are working towards creating a situation where our country can move forward. When I took over the country, the country’s economy had completely collapsed. If we are unable to recover from this predicament, we will have no future.
During the agitations in the country recently, I took over this government and initiated measures to resurrect the bankrupt economy. The youth of the country have the opportunity to take part in it. One of the steps that I have proposed is to appoint five young people to every parliamentary oversight committee. The selection of members and chairpersons of the oversight committees has not been completed yet.
Similarly, we intend to legalize the youth parliament. There is an opportunity for new youth to come forward through the proposed Jana Sabha. In addition, we have invited the groups that joined the struggle but did not resort to violence, to participate in this process. I hope this move will produce the new leadership we need. I would like to assure you that we are now paving the way for it.

One of the main factors that will contribute to making our country a developed state is to guide the youth towards entrepreneurship. I would like to know what your vision is to bring young people forward as entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs began to emerge following the open economy in 1977. While these measures were initiated during the British era, entrepreneurs emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, after 1960, the number of entrepreneurs decreased because of the government’s tight economic control. In 1977, we were in a very competitive economic environment in Asia. However, today our economy is not competitive. From 1977 to date, we have not been able to join this program. A good example is the oil tank farm in Trincomalee. For 15-20 years, these tanks were not utilized. If not for LIOC, we would not even have this concession.

Many businesses in the country have gone bankrupt today. Our banking system has been safeguarded with the greatest difficulty. Our priority should be to strengthen our banking system. We should also make our economy competitive. The export economy should be strengthened. Young entrepreneurs can take over these bankrupt businesses and uplift them.
We need to look at how we could provide loans to young entrepreneurs. In a situation like this, if we are to forge ahead, our banking system needs to be strengthened.

If our rules and regulations for receiving foreign investments are further relaxed, the investment opportunities in this country will expand further. Everything needed for the garment industry was outsourced, the only advantage we had was labour. Today we have been able to produce these things locally. We send them abroad. This is how the value increase has been systematically done. It is in this process that youth should look for opportunities.