In his intervention at a high-level panel at the World Leader’s Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, the President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the country’s experience in debt restructuring and the need for a comprehensive approach to address the challenges faced. He also emphasized the urgency of debt restructuring to avoid instability, and advocated for a separate, innovative process for middle-income countries to address their unique challenges. The President made these remarks during Round Table 2 entitled “Debt and SDR Channeling” moderated by Ms. Nadia Calviño, the Chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Vice President of Spain on 22 June. President Wickremesinghe, who was welcomed at the Summit by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, spoke in response to the moderator’s questions on Sri Lanka’s experience in the debt relief process as a middle-income country facing challenges as a result of not being subjected to the common framework. Elaborating on Sri Lanka’s experience, President Wickremesinghe referred to the country having “taken ownership” of its debt and the economic restructuring programme. He also emphasized the need for timely and automatic access to concessional financing, and referred to the costs incurred in the process.
Calling for improved interaction between creditors and debtors, President Wickremesinghe proposed a new approach to addressing geopolitical issues which tend to influence discussions on debt coordination. Expressing his deep appreciation for the role of the IMF in Sri Lanka’s coordination which facilitated discussions with creditor groups, the President observed that ongoing negotiations with Japan, India, and China with regard to trade integration and development programmes also aided the process. He also appreciated the role of the Paris Club in this process. Looking to the future, President Wickremesinghe opined that the debt architecture would be far more efficient if there were a mandatory requirement for the formation of an official creditor committee with IMF coordination, based on the quantum of holdings of sovereign debt of the country in question. He also emphasized that the global architecture and Multilateral Development Banks/International Financial Institutions would need to find a better solution to providing emergency financing to countries in debt distress, while taking credible steps towards macroeconomic reforms.
Moderator Calvino appreciated the clarity and brevity of the President’s presentation of Sri Lanka’s experience and challenges, and for highlighting how important it was to have a menu and not a one-size-fits-all approach, how time was of essence, and the need to have political stability to implement such a challenging process. She commended the Government’s leadership efforts in building a road map, initiating a clear process of debt restructuring, and in conveying a positive message on the growth agenda. The other leaders that spoke in the round table were President of Tunisia Kaïs Saied; Prime Minister of Rwanda Edouard Ngirente; Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva; President of the African Development Bank Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina; and the former President of Chad Mahamat Idriss Deby.
On the sidelines of the Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also met the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 22 June. At the meeting, the President apprised the UN Secretary-General on progress in Sri Lanka’s process of debt restructuring and economic recovery, as well as on the Government’s Climate Prosperity Plan. Secretary-General Guterres assured the President of his strong and continuing support towards Sri Lanka’s economic recovery, debt sustainability, and the progress made in achieving the country’s SDG agenda.
President Wickremesinghe also met the Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva on the sidelines of the Summit on 21 June. During the meeting, the President appreciated the support extended by the IMF to Sri Lanka by granting the Extended Fund Facility to overcome the economic challenges. The President also briefed Managing Director Georgieva on progress in the reforms undertaken by the Government as per the agreement with the IMF. He further observed that, in spite of the pain of the reforms to the Sri Lankan people, the country is currently at a stage of economic recovery due to the adoption of certain measures, as evident through a decline in inflation, stabilization of the exchange rate, and an increase in foreign revenue via tourism and remittances. The President also briefed the Managing Director on the Government’s Climate Prosperity Plan including the move towards renewable to optimize on the economic benefits for the people. Managing Director Georgieva welcomed the strong, but much-needed action and reforms undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka to move towards economic recovery and debt sustainability. The President invited the IMF Managing Director to visit Sri Lanka to observe the developments firsthand.
President Wickremesinghe also met the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Janet Yellen on the sideline of the summit on 22 June. The President expressed his deep appreciation to Secretary Yellen for the support extended by the U.S. towards Sri Lanka in debt relief measures, and in increasing financing for the country’s sustainable development. He appreciated Secretary Yellen’s leadership role in this regard. The President also apprised the U.S. Treasury Secretary of Sri Lanka’s progress with the IMF process and on the discussion with the country’s bilateral creditors. Secretary Yellen was also apprised of the Government’s growth agenda and on the Climate Prosperity Plan. Secretary Yellen welcomed the opportunity to meet the President and obtain in person an update on the current status of Sri Lanka. She reassured the President of the continued support of the United States towards Sri Lanka’s reform agenda and ongoing processes. The two sides discussed issues of mutual interest including upcoming visits and avenues of future economic cooperation. The President invited Secretary Yellen to visit Sri Lanka.
President Wickremesinghe also met the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Sigrid Kaag on the sidelines of the Summit on 22 June. The discussions focused on development cooperation and economic cooperation between the two countries.
The President and First Lady Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe were hosted to an official dinner by President Macron at the Elysee Palace on 22 June. The First Lady also participated in a luncheon hosted by the First Lady of the French Republic Brigitte Macron at Le Trianon in Versailles on 23 June. The President attended the Summit held at the level of Head of Government on the invitation of President Macron. The Summit also provided an opportunity for Sri Lanka to engage with other world leaders, and to engage bilaterally at a high level with the French leadership where the two sides reiterated the shared interest to further strengthen bilateral relations in the backdrop of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries this year (2023).