Mr Dhammika Perera, the controlling shareholder of Hayleys Group and a host of other listed companies who is widely believed to be the wealthiest individual in the country, has proposed a seven-pronged strategy to overcome the currency crisis in Sri Lanka in a high-profile interview. with the Irida Divayina Sangrahaya.
In terms of the market value of his portfolio of listed stocks, he will be among the wealthiest, if not the richest in the country, analysts say. He has also publicly stated that he is the biggest taxpayer here, but it is unclear whether this relates to businesses or individuals. Most of the “rich lists” published in SL calculate wealth on the market value of listed stocks. But many other factors, including real estate holdings, shares of unlisted companies and many more, must be included in any accurate calculation.
Perera, who says he can identify “a myriad of ways” to make and save money, said in the interview that “it’s only now that everyone thinks making money is important. “.
“For the past 73 years, the country has had no plan to earn foreign currency. Therefore, only now, when a problem arises, a country like ours wants to make money inside the country. Previously, there was no plan to earn money for the country. Each year there is a deficit of approximately US$1.8 to US$2 billion. But a $2 billion debt solves the problem every time. So there was no need for anyone to generate dollars inside the country. But I think now the country is more aware of the need to generate dollars in the country, Perera said.
The Dhammika strategy covers a broad compass. This includes the construction of a “university city” accessible in less than 30 minutes from the ZAC with five internationally renowned universities; establishing a hub for low-cost airlines; providing opportunities for the private sector education industry to teach ICT courses; the construction of two hospitals like Mount Elizabeth in Singapore with internationally recognized facilities; improve the fishing industry; and make SL the country with the best business environment in Asia; he further sees untapped potential in the coconut industry.
He thus sketched out its seven components:
1. If the government builds a college town consisting of five universities, the country can save $2.25 billion. Each year, approximately 25,000 students leave the country to study abroad. As a result, US$30,000 per student per year is drawn to foreign countries from Sri Lanka. The government should build a university town consisting of five universities in a location reachable within 30 minutes from Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, where 150,000 students can receive education at a time (30,000 students in each university).
The management of these five universities should be entrusted to the top five universities with internationally recognized rankings. A program is to be launched to attract 25,000 foreign students per year. Including 25,000 Sri Lankan students in total for all 50,000 students, educational loan scheme is to be provided by public and private banks at a concessional rate. Through this program, 25,000 foreign students will enter our country, which will help the country generate annual revenue of US$2.25 billion.
2. Establish a low-cost airline hub to earn US$2 billion in the country. Fifty percent of tourists traveling to countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia use the services of low-cost airlines. In Sri Lanka, out of a total of 80,000 hotel rooms, only 20,000 are five or four star. The remaining 60,000 hotel rooms are rated three stars or less. For instant growth of the tourism industry and aiming for hotel rooms of three stars or less, Ratmalana Airport should be developed as soon as possible as an international budget aviation hub. This will attract approximately one million additional tourists to our country, in addition to the current annual tourist arrivals. Thanks to this, the tourism industry can earn 2 billion US dollars.
3. By offering private sector educational institutions the opportunity to teach ICT courses offered by all state universities in the country, we can earn 2 billion US dollars. Currently, in the labor market, there is a strong demand for jobs in the fields of ICT, engineering and programming. Using ICT, engineering and programming courses provided by all state universities in the country, an external degree awarding program is to be launched through private educational institutions.
Thereafter, every six months, an examination will be held according to examination procedures accepted by state universities and for those who pass this examination, an external diploma will be awarded. Thus, over the next five years, 200,000 students will be able to obtain the qualifications required for jobs in the IT industry. From which revenues of US$2 billion can be made.
4. Develop the coconut industry to earn US$600 million. Under current conditions, 1.5 million coconut seedlings are planted each year. Under a special five-year government subsidy program, four million coconut seedlings will be planted per year. As a result, a total of 20 million coconut seedlings will be planted in five years, from which an additional 1.2 billion nuts will be added to the coconut-related industry. By adding coconuts to the industry at a value of US$0.50 per nut, through this five-year plan, revenues of US$600 million can be achieved.
5. Build hospitals with internationally recognized facilities to earn $200 million. The construction of two such hospitals with internationally recognized facilities, such as Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, at government expense and operated by an internationally recognized hospital, will prevent people from traveling to foreign countries to obtain medical care. Thanks to this initiative, the country can save 100 million US dollars. Moreover, through promoting the brand of these hospitals with high quality medical and nursing services in the countries of the region, we will be able to attract foreigners to receive medical treatment in Sri Lanka. This would earn our country US$100 million. Therefore, Sri Lanka can earn a total revenue of US$200 million from this project.
6. Improve the fishing industry to earn US$1 billion. Currently, the annual fish harvest in India is 2,000 kg per square kilometer of ocean. The annual fish harvest in Sri Lanka is 900 kg per square kilometer. Introduce a new multi-purpose licensing system in addition to the existing licensing system for large owners of multi-day vessels engaged in deep-sea fishing.
With this license, they can double the number of multi-day vessels they have, but only one vessel can be anchored in the fishing port at a time. With this, they can use the additional vessel for deep-sea fishing. Also, a program is expected to be started to equip smaller fishing vessels with GPS-enabled Gemini Fish Finder equipment with four satellites to enable anglers to locate schools of fish in the sea; this will help them effectively double their fish harvest. This will result in an additional harvest of 500 million kilograms of fish, which could generate $1 billion in revenue.
7. Make Sri Lanka the country with the best business investment environment in Asia to earn US$3 billion. By increasing tax holidays and other benefits available to BOI investors and improving Sri Lanka’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index, Sri Lanka can earn US$1 billion from new investment projects .
Within five years, thanks to these new investment projects, 2 billion US dollars in export revenues will be generated. Therefore, Sri Lanka can generate revenue of US$3 billion from these new investment projects.