Foreign Relations | Speeches

Mission for Joining the G-15

G-15 Summit

Montego Bay, Jamaica

February 10, 1991

It is with a sense of great satisfaction and justifiable pride that I wish to convey on behalf of the Government, the people of Sri Lanka and on my own behalf, our deep appreciation on being admitted as a member of this select Group of countries that has been in the vanguard of international efforts to create a more just and equitable world economic order.

We have traversed half the globe to reach the shores of this fabled land. The beauty of Santiago as Christopher Columbus named it, left an indelible imprint on that famous explorer who considered Jamaica to be "the fairest isle that eyes have beheld"’ when he claimed it for the Spanish Empire over 500 years ago. Your motto "Out of Many, One People" aptly describes a multi-racial society that has integrated harmoniously.

We too from distant Sri Lanka once known as Serendib or "Paradise " are an island people, sharing a multi-religious, multi-ethnic ethos. We have just celebrated over 50 years of freedom from colonial fetters. We share a heritage that has given us a legal framework, a judicial system, a system of governance moulded by Westminster, a facility to communicate in the English language and a tradition of changing governments peacefully through the ballot. We have a common interest in the game of cricket, a sport that might appear esoteric to some, even recondite, but which has given immense pleasure to millions across continents.

I would take this opportunity to thank you, our host, the Right Hon. P.J. Patterson for your gracious hospitality and for the excellent arrangements made for us. I am confident that under your wise and able leadership, the deliberations of this conference would be steered to a successful conclusion.

Your Excellency, we have a mission in joining this Group. I hope that our presence would help add weight to the approaches and perspectives Asian countries have, towards problems that confront them severally and collectively. We are firmly committed to obtaining a fair deal for developing countries in a world in which the marvels of globalisation may tend to bypass us. We believe that we must try together to create greater access for our products in the markets of the developed world. We are in the process of dismantling our own tariff barriers and have concluded free trade agreements bilaterally and across the region.

The bi-polar world has given way to a unipolar world. We believe that it is time to transform the unipolar world into a multi-polar one. The germ of such a thing is already present in the various regional organisations between States. We must commit ourselves to strengthen and activate these regional organisations. They must then stretch out across regional boundaries to engage in constructive dialogue in forums such as the G7, G15, G24 and the Non Aligned Movement. Then, we would be strong enough to meet the agony of the challenges posed by the globalised economy and draw instead on its vast advantages for the betterment of our Nations.

Sri Lanka today is chairing the Group of countries known as SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. We will also be chairing the G-24 from April. We intend making these groupings interact more closely with the G-15 to address problems that confront all of us.

Sri Lanka is anxious to intensify interaction between the North and the South with a view to promoting joint ventures, the transfer of technology and expertise. We are committed to liberalising trade among developing countries and promoting interaction between the private sectors of our respective countries. For this reason we welcome the initiatives taken by the G-15 through its Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and through UNCTAD to promote the conclusion of investment protection agreements between interested G-15 members.

We have been making a determined attempt to eradicate poverty both in Sri Lanka and on a regional basis. We are of the view like other members of the Group that our human resources are our most valuable assets. We have set in motion a series of reforms in education and vocational training in order to make more meaningful and productive the extensive network of education we already possess.

The world is currently being buffeted by financial storms that have affected the developing world. International financial capital movements that are taking place from the developed to certain segments of the developing world and back, are exerting tremendous pressures on our economies. Though capital transfers do help to bring in new technology, improvements in techniques of production, their sudden withdrawal causes immense problems. Countries that were once held up as exemplars of economic growth, have been seen to founder. We are of the view that a country’s financial markets should not be exposed to the vagaries of speculative currency trading by large fund managers. We are of the view that reform of the international financial architecture through reforms of the IMF and the World Bank is imperative. We intend to work actively towards these reforms, as well as restoring stability and predictability in international financial markets together with this Group.

We are fully aware that there is no single recipe in responding to financial crises. Domestic policies need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each country to help restore stability and promote growth. Such actions need to be complemented by pro-active measures taken by developed countries. That we live in an interdependent world is a truism. The free movements of capital could help transmit instability. Effective multilateral and domestic surveillance are prerequisites for the prevention of financial crises. Greater transparency in the operations of private financial institutions, governments and multilateral financial institutions, need to be introduced.

These I believe, Mr. Chairman, are matters that our experts could work on to get a measure of the problem and deal with it. My delegation and I look forward to working closely with you at this Summit and at future gatherings to create a friendlier, safer and more equitable world.

I thank you.