inimitable role in the economy
Lakshman Kadirgamar had made an indelible impact on the Sri Lankan
economy. His role in the economy during his eleven years of political
life was extensive. His entry into politics in 1994 proved indispensable
for the PA. He was the one who inspired confidence in the economic
policies to be pursued by the People's Alliance.
were considerable fears that the PA would reverse the liberalised
economic policies introduced by the UNP government in 1994. This
fear hung over the minds of the business community, as well as the
enlightened public. Kadirgamar assured the people in his election
broadcasts that no government would be impractical enough as to
go back to the outmoded policies of the past. It was his reasoned
statement that gave credibility to the economic policies of the
PA government. His assurances that the PA would not go back to the
rigid state controlled inward policies of past SLFP governments
were persuasive. Lakshman Kadirgamar had the power to convince the
people – a trait which the Prime Ministerial candidate did
presence as a key minister of the government strengthened the government's
resolve to continue market-oriented policies. It was the influence
of Lakshman Kadirgamar and the late Dr. Lal Jayawardena, a close
confidant of Chandrika Kumaratunga, that ensured the broad continuity
of economic policies and the characterisation of the PA economic
policies as open economic policies with a human face.
The first economic policy statement of the PA government enunciated
these policies in no uncertain terms.
said, the government stands committed to building a strong national
economy within a market framework. The principal engine of growth
is expected to be the private sector, both domestic and foreign.
The role of the State is to provide an institutional framework that
is wholly supportive of rapid private sector development. In order
to do this effectively, the government will pursue market-friendly
policies that support rather than supplant markets. Accordingly,
government intervention will be limited to areas where markets fail
to function effectively and therefore need to be strengthened or
supplemented, so that they serve the welfare of the people.
the first time since independence a change of government assured
a continuity of economic policies. The government announced its
commitment to continue market friendly open economic policies. It
too gave private enterprise the lead role in economic activity and
pledged to support private enterprise. There is no doubt that Lakshman
Kadirgamar was a strong influence in ensuring this continuity of
role in the economy did not end there. He changed the horrible image
of Sri Lanka as a killing field and placed in perspective the actual
conditions that prevailed in the country. He convinced the international
community that despite the terrible terrorist activities in the
country that the economy was functioning and that foreign investments
were unharmed. He was the prime person who infused foreign investor
confidence and convinced the international community that the country
was a relatively safe place for tourists.
his foreign trips he devoted time to meet business organizations
and address foreign business communities. His foreign mission was
wide-ranging, with commercial diplomacy being one important objective
of his. He believed strongly on the need for strengthening trade
ties around the world. Trade he believed was the vital lever of
economic growth for a small trade-dependent economy. This led to
his key role in forging, strengthening and expanding trade relations.
Indo-Sri Lanka and Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreements are
outcomes of his endeavours. He strove to develop a similar pact
with the US and enhanced trade relations with China. He pursued
trade diplomacy with a passion. He was able to add muscle to our
trade policies owing to both his office as well as his competence.
indirect manner in which he contributed to strengthening our trade
was by striving to improve the country's diplomatic service. He
strove hard to improve the quality of the Foreign Service personnel
and to enhance its capacity. This too had an impact on our trade
and investment. A professional foreign service was to him a pre-requisite
to effective diplomacy.
Kadirgamar's role and contribution was multifaceted. The continuity
of market-oriented economic policies, primacy for the private sector
in economic production and services, the international confidence
he built at a difficult time, his commercial diplomacy, and the
expansion of trade relations and enhancement of the capability of
the Foreign Service are among his singular contributions to the
intellectual capacity, understanding of economic policy, skills
of persuasion and the confidence he inspired were exceptional. Though
his contribution to the country's economy was crucial, yet it was
only one element of his total involvement in national affairs. He
is irreplaceable as a foreign Minister. He would be equally missed
on the economic scene.