We are a resilient nation. Sri Lanka has faced many issues in the past… but with a visionary leader at the helm and out of the box thinking, we could reset the tone and move out of this mire,” stated the Chairman of People’s Leasing & Finance (PLC) Pradeep Amirthanayagam, referring to the socioeconomic headwinds challenging our economy.

The geographically strategic position of Sri Lanka, Amirthanayagam reasoned, is the country’s most compelling selling factor to attract foreign direct investment (FDI); the other being its workforce, given the level of education and expertise among Sri Lankans.

But he said we must not undervalue the significance of creating accessible infrastructure for investors.

“We have to remove the barriers and create a one stop shop – and make it easy to transact business in a proper manner without restrictions. Now you have to go from one office to another to get things done. It must be so that there is no wastage of time because investors get tired of having to wait around and long intervals to obtain approvals,” he stressed.

Commenting on PLC’s record-breaking profit after tax of Rs.4.6 billion, Amirthanayagam said: “From the perspective of being a state owned enterprise (SOE), it’s a phenomenal achievement.”

On his expectations of Budget 2023 for the leasing sector, Amirthanayagam asserted that “the key is liquidity – and it’s more important than profitability,” and added: “Leasing will take a backseat because of the import restrictions on vehicles and high interest rates.”

“As you know, in 2020 the country took a new turn where tax reforms and policy were concerned, and that has benefitted the leasing sector in the last two years. But the proposed taxes will impact our bottom line,” he observed, and went on to remark that “even if someone wants to take a lease, payback will be extremely difficult. So leasing companies will have to think out of the box.”

PLC’s chairman said that leasing companies will have to come up with new products and devices, and be able to reach out to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to individuals and to the transport sector in order to survive.

Since traditional exports of tea, rubber and coconut have slowed, he argued that Sri Lanka should focus on developing its non-traditional industries to strengthen the country’s competitive edge to better participate in international markets. And he shared his view that exports and tourism could be Sri Lanka’s ticket out of the economic crisis.

Amirthanayagam believes that to increase visibility as a desirable destination, we must communicate to potential tourists that “every dollar will go a long way in Sri Lanka at this point – as the purchasing power of a dollar spent here will bring a better return.”

He added that tourism is key to ameliorating the current state of the economy.

Referring to LMD’s Refresh Sri Lanka campaign, he noted that to engender civic-mindedness among young people, “the youth transact whatever they do on the go; and they are mobile and digitally savvy.” A digital platform is the most effective way to reach the youth and support a mentality reboot or transformation, he averred.

“I congratulate LMD for having embarked on such a mission. I think the time is very opportune to engage in this exercise; and I’d get under their (the youth) skin, find out what they want to accomplish and then move forward,” the business leader said, lauding LMD’s efforts to make a real change in society.

Concluding his interview on LMDtv, Amirthanayagam quoted the former British premier Sir John Major: “If it is not hurting us, the policy is not working.” And he went on to say that “we will be hurt. We will have to cut back on our expenses. It’s time for us to take stock of where we are in life, at work and in our respective businesses. If Sri Lanka gets its act together, we shall rise like the phoenix – and Sri Lanka would once again be great.”