Govt to conclude most SOE sales by August; Srilankan by Sept



ECONOMYNEXT –The government is expecting to conclude all the transactions related to divestiture of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) by August this year under an ambitious reform process, the government-led State-Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit (SOERU) said.

However, the divestiture of loss-making Srilankan Airlines is likely to be concluded by September, it said.

The SOERU has already called for bids for Request for Qualification (RfQ) to divest Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd, Canwill Holdings Pvt Ltd, Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Litro Gas, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Life Ltd., Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation General Ltd., and Srilankan Airlines.

Out of these, deadlines for the submission of RfQs for Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd, Canwill Holdings Pvt Ltd, Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Litro Gas, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Life Ltd., and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation General Ltd. have now closed whilst for Srilankan Airlines it remains open until April 22, the SOERU said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has strongly asked for SOE reforms to reduce losses in those institutions. However, Sri Lanka has yet to conclude reform in any of the select SOEs despite the island nation has declared bankruptcy two years ago. The process has been slow amid opposition from some political parties and trade unions.

“It is envisaged that all transactions other than Srilankan Airlines will be concluded by August 2024. The timeline for SriLankan airlines is likely to extend to end September 2024,” the SOERU said in a statement.

“In parallel to the divestiture process, work has been done to set up a structured, efficient and well governed process to manage the SOE sector going forward.”

“This is part of the overall reform program of the government and aims to transform SOEs in to well governed, competitive and financially disciplined entities that provide citizens with essential goods and services effectively and efficiently without being a drain on public finances.”

It said the setting up of a 100% state owned Holding Company that in turn will hold all of government shares in commercial businesses is at the heart of these reforms.

“The policy includes a sound mechanism to ensure the appointment of qualified, experienced and capable persons to the boards of both the Holding Company and SOEs.”

“Similarly, it lays down principles and policies around governance, financial discipline and disclosures which the Holding Company and all SOEs will need to adhere to. Work is currently on-going to draft a Public Commercial Businesses Act to give legal effect to these reforms.”

The SOERU also said discussions were held with leaders of the main political parties, trade unions, religious leaders and media professionals on the divestiture of the SOEs.

“If the underperforming, debt-ridden, Sri Lankan economy is to transition into a competitive, dynamic and prosperous environment, SOE reforms are non-negotiable,” it said.

“These reforms will ensure that resources are released for investment in essential but under-resourced public service obligations such as education, healthcare, energy, transportation and digitization.”

“Without these reforms public funds will continue to be wasted on poorly managed entities that, in the first place, don’t need the state’s involvement.”