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Ravi talking about the determination, vision, smarts, competence and professionalism....

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ravi familyRavindra Sandresh Karunanayake is the current Minister of Finance and a Member of Parliament for the Colombo District. Karunanayake was the former Cabinet Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs from 2001 to 2004. He is the Assistant Leader of the United National Party (UNP) and its chief organizer for the Colombo North Electorate in Colombo District. Educated at S. Thomas' Preparatory School, Kollupitiya, and Royal College Colombo, he became a management accountant and worked for the Delmege Group before heading up several directorships of new ventures in the travel industry.

Ravi is married to Mela and has three daughters Onella, Shenella and Minella. As the old adage goes “behind every successful man there is a woman” and this goes to prove that Mela has been a tower of strength to him. Apart from his hectic business, political and parliamentary life, Ravi Karunanayake is also a “family man” and spends a considerable amount of time with his family.


Why did you first enter politics?

Well I think it was a very casual entry where professionals were brought into Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali’s party by Mrs. Srimani Athulathmudali. When we first came in, there was a lot of opposition to professionals coming in from within the party by people who were opposed to professionals such as us being in politics. As a result of the challenges posed to us, I was determined not to back down but took up the challenge and from there on there was no looking back.

What will this government's fiscal policy framework be and how will it carry the Sri Lankan economy forward?

We want to establish a Sri Lankan economy which basically gives the foremost place to the local economy, something which was absent for the last 10 – 12  years. If not available we will bring in the technology to support the local industry. Failing which, only then will we bring in foreign direct investment which is totally non-Sri Lankan, so our priority is Sri Lankan, to introduce and develop Sri Lankan technology.

What is the present strategy for bringing greater investment into the country?

Well, to bring in a sense of accountability, competition, de bureaucratization, good governance, and transparency. This is basically what we want to show the rest of the world, to make Sri Lanka a shining star, to show that democracy is back in action, and that the economy is now in stable hands, and to project the image that this little Sri Lanka is a miracle in Asia.


Will the incumbent government regain GSP+ privileges for the country?

Most certainly. Due to the fact that good governance and accountability has been re-established, this has earned us the ability to restart discussions and we will be able to fast track it.

Given the issue of political rights and the wider consequences of the conflict, are all communities able to articulate their economic needs?

Well it is up to the government to embrace all Sri Lankans, which means Sinhalese, Muslims, Malays, Tamils, Burghers altogether without distinguishing them according to race and religion; to treat them all as Sri Lankans; yes then this problem will be solved.

What are the most urgent economic reforms needed right now in the country?

The state of corruption and debt that the country has been burdened with by the previous regime has resulted in a huge snowballing effect. We need to get this past us and rectify the damage that has been brought about as a result. This is essential as we cannot take all this baggage into the future.


How essential is it to privatise state-owned corporations?

We will not be privatizing any. When I say no privatization, it is the government's intention to bring about very fierce competition and ensure that government entities are run efficiently and profitably. Also privatization certainly does not auger well with the people. We want to do what the people want, but ensure that they are run even more efficiently than the private sector and there will be no excuses accepted.

What is the hardest part about being in government?

The hardest part I would say is answering to the critics who make baseless allegations and assumptions on certain matters on which they neither know the facts of the actual situation, nor are they interested in finding out the truth. They just want to whip up emotions and through that create sensationalism, distorting the truth. That I would say is the hardest part of being in government and the bane of any politician.

Who are three people in history you admire most and why?

I would say D.S. Senanayake, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

How does your wife Mela inspire you?

Well she is a tower of strength. As you know a politician's life is not easy. I balance whatever time I have in order to please everyone and she plays a huge role in assisting me.


What’s the happiest or proudest moment in your life? It doesn’t have to be a political moment.

One of the happiest moments was when I was elected the Politician of the Year.

What’s the best compliment you ever received?

This was from the President of the World Bank at that time, Mr. Robert Zoellick, where Sri Lanka basically showed the rest of the world how a small country can make a big country think twice. During Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership, at the Doha Conference, we were able to convince India and the other SAARC countries and get a unison approach which won the hearts and minds of the American Trade delegation and this was conveyed in a letter written by Mr. Zoellick to the then Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.

What is your goal as a parent?

To see that the children get the best of what is available, and to ensure that they contribute to society in the same manner as we have been able to.


What’s your most cherished family tradition?

We ensure that we all get together, at a minimum on a weekly basis and discuss what has taken place and talk about future plans.

Who were your heroes or role models when you were a child?

Lalith Athulathmudali, J.R. Jayawardene, Lee Kuan Yew, Gamini Dissanayake and Mahathir Mohamed.

How do you like to relax?

Listening to music, being with the family, and watching sports programmes – all at the same time is best.


What are your hobbies and special interests?

Collecting country, Western and Baila music.

Do you have a message for the people of Sri Lanka?

The message is that during the last 12 years many perceived Sri Lanka to be a non entity, but we have managed to bring the country forward and to put democracy which was in peril back on a firm footing and today we have helped people to regain their faith in the system. Always ensure that you light a candle where there is darkness, rather than curse the darkness. I call on people to believe in themselves, have confidence, believe and have faith in your country. Join together to develop the country. We now have a wonderful opportunity to extricate ourselves from the predicament we have been in where democracy was buried, to develop and blossom out and I ask the people to have faith and confidence in themselves and in us, and we in turn assure you that your trust in us and your expectations will not be let down.

Interviewed by Anusha David