Remarks of M.U.M. Ali Sabry PC, Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka at the 55th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank
Fellow Governors, President Asakawa, delegates, ADB Officials, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a privilege to chair this 55th Annual meeting of the ADB Board as Governors. The ADB has adapted rapidly to the challenges faced in organizing physical meetings since the onset of the pandemic, and today’s virtual meeting which has successfully connected much of the world is no exception. The ADB must be commended for ensuring that no obstacle has been placed in the path of carrying out its good work.
It is unfortunate that the ADB Annual Meeting which was to be held in Colombo later this year had to be postponed to a later year in light of the current pressing circumstances. It was a decision which was made after considering all the factors and in discussion with the stakeholders given the economic situation that Sri Lanka has been placed in.
As you are aware, Sri Lanka is currently going through a period of unprecedented economic issues. Even though there were fiscal decisions made that have contributed to this, this situation has been aggravated by certain factors which have been beyond control of the Government. A primary factor that set off this chain reaction was the Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting effect on the global economy. Sri Lanka has relied heavily on tourism to bring in its foreign inflows, and the pandemic effectively stopped that source of income almost overnight. The resulting lockdowns that Sri Lanka had to put in place for the protection of its citizens had a severe impact on the local economy as well.
Sri Lanka was slowly coming out of this difficult situation but was consequently hit with the devastating effect of the Russia-Ukraine war. The skyrocketing price of oil due to the war created an unexpected and unbearable hit on the already struggling economy, and there was very little Sri Lanka could do. This coupled with inflation, another global problem, has all but put our nation in a place of economic hardship on a scale not experienced before.
It is in these circumstances that Sri Lanka started discussions with the IMF towards a debt restructure and also with its bilateral and multi-lateral creditors towards finding a workable solution. We have already put in place measures to drive our nation towards reform and a sustainable path including the revision of interest rates and commencing the process to retain a Financial Advisor and a Legal Advisor to move ahead.
I must on behalf of our nation extend my sincere gratitude to the ADB and President Asakawa for the support extended to us in these tough times. The Government of Sri Lanka is hopeful for the future and is confident that with the support of its international partners we will persevere and come out of this crisis stronger than before. We look forward to the continued support of the ADB as we journey down this road.
I wish the ADB all the best for the second session of the Annual meeting scheduled for September 2022, and its continued success.