Sri Lanka’s finance minister, who has helped engineer a growth recovery, tells Emerging Markets that he is fed up with “pontificating” Western politicians telling him to adopt green policies that would end up adding costs for his citizens.
Sustainable development will not be an option for Sri Lanka until the costs involved are lowered, Ravi Karunanayake told Emerging Markets, a sister publication of GlobalCapital in an exclusive interview.
While green financing could bring a new pool of investors to Sri Lanka — something the country is very keen to attract — Karunanayake argued that green investors should not demand a premium.
“Investors can come in but at the end of the day, if they charge a higher price for being green, who is going to pay for that?” he said. “I am being brutally frank but there is no point saying we are with the world if they are not helping us.
“These are the advanced societies that use these words [green and sustainable]. They ruined the climate and now they are pontificating as to how it is going to be cleaned up.”
In just over a year since taking office, Karunanayake has implemented a series of reforms that have reinvigorated the ailing economy. Sri Lanka’s economy is growing strongly with GDP forecast to rise to 5.3% in 2016 and 5.8% in 2017.
But Karunanayake said sustainable development — the focus of this year’s Asia Development Bank annual meeting in Frankfurt — was something that only larger or stronger economies could afford.
“To be frank we like to hear about sustainability but at the same time we can’t afford to have sustainability if it is costing us,” he said. “If we are to be lured into such a thing, it must have its dividends seen and felt. There’s no point saying ‘OK we will do this’ if it is not affordable.”