Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday revealed that Sri Lanka has suffered a whopping loss amounting to Rs. 25 billion over the years, owing to loss making public sector enterprises.
Speaker Jayasuriya was speaking at the launch of the handbook on ‘Governance for Chairmen and Directors of Public Enterprises’. The event was held at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.
Underscoring the importance of reforming and evaluating the public sector performance for the betterment of the economy as well as the general public, Jayasuriya stated that the government, since 2015, has taken several far reaching initiatives to restore transparency, accountability and good governance in managing the public sector.
These measures include appointing various independent commissions, enactment of the Right to Information Act and the proposed National Audit Act, Public Finance Act and many more.
“Public Enterprises play an important role in the public delivery system. Some of them are essentially infrastructure developers and related service providers. Their development expenditure essentially reflects Government vision and the public investment strategy. They are an integral part of the National Budget and as such, funding arrangements are met from both domestic and foreign sources. Some of the enterprises are dominant players in the banking and financial services industry.”
They are trend setters in that sector. Some operate in other important areas such as education, health and social security whilst others are predominantly service providers in the agricultural industry, engineering, construction and trade, Jauyasuriya said adding that; “their products and services need to be at fair price while ensuring profitability, viability and accountability of the enterprise.” Jayasuriya also urged the need to appoint, non -politicized independent, professional board of directors in managing public enterprises to provide a better service for the country.
Speaking at the event, World Bank Country Director Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough stated the total turnover of 55 strategically important state owned enterprises in Sri Lanka amount to Rs 1.5 trillion, which is equivalent to 13 % of GDP in 2016.
“Around 400 State owned enterprises are operating in Sri Lanka today. Public enterprises represent major part of public sector institutions and therefore, their governance matters the most.”
However, Riddihough quoting a survey done by the World Bank to ascertain the general public perspective on services provided by the public sector in Sri Lanka, said that the summery of the results showed that many Sri Lankans are not happy with the performance of the public sector as well as the quality of the services provided by these institutions.
She also urged the need for the Sri Lankan government to adopt a holistic approach to instill good governance practices in public enterprises and to come up with speedy and proactive reforms to improve the quality of essential services, cut red tape, and reduce bureaucracy to garner desired social and economic targets.