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Keynote speech by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development,

Wednesday, 20 September 2023
H.E. Rani Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka
New York

Keynote speech by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka
at the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development,
20 September 2023

Madam moderator, I will make my contribution to debt sustainability by reducing the time taken to make my contribution.

I would first bring to your attention the fate of the middle-income countries because there is no common framework, there is no procedure for the middle-income countries. I read your example of Sri Lanka. When bankruptcy was declared, all external financial dealings came to a halt. We are heading for a major political crisis again but thanks to the fact that Sri Lanka had to apply for a re-graduation and was able to obtain in a short time, with the gift of fertilizer from the U.S government, we were able to prevent another political crisis taking place. Therefore, I would first highlight on the need for a plan for the middle-income countries in financial difficulty.

Secondly, while discussing all the proposals that have been put forward, we must also look at what is available in the global economy. This year the projected global GDP is 105 trillion US dollars. Of this 91 trillion US dollars is the public debt. So, we are working on this assumption. We have to use what is available to begin with. Currently 100 billion dollars is available as a part of the IMF Resilience and Sustainability Trust. In the interim, let us utilize this fund. The first step is to get the IMF Resilience Fund to start functioning.

Then the Secretary General's SDG stimulus calls for $500 billion dollars to be made available annually to developing countries as well as converting short-term lending into long term debt at lower interest rates. This still has to be realized. So, we must now focus on making a success of the program of the proposal put forward by the Secretary General. I will also say, while this is available, there are two other proposals that were made here. One, is the World Bank proposal to ease out subsidies on fertilizer and fuel. I think this is a proposal worthwhile considering if the money saved can be redirected to other areas. Secondly, is the WTO proposals on trade finance. Yes, that’s needed. We have to ensure that there is money available for expansion of our export.

While we go into these issues which will take time, you cannot rush into it. What are the reviews that we can give people. There I would recommend President Ruto’s proposal on writing off giving a review of the debt of those low-income countries. I know there are genuine concerns of the creditors which we must take into account but, I would recommend that we focus on President Ruto’s proposal and we build on it. There has to be concrete relief available to the low-income countries. If we don’t provide that relief immediately, I think we can right off all the other proposals we have. We have to address this issue. I will not take more of your time. But to the UN on this issue I say, we have received solidarity in words. Madam, when will we achieve solidarity in action?

I, thank you.

Link to the video : https://youtu.be/-Sad0d6xQKc