New Central Bank Governor to outlast UNP regime
Posted on July 9th, 2016

ECONOMYNEXT -Courtesy The Island


Sri Lanka’s new Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy made clear at his first press conference Tuesday that he will not be a pushover nor an interim appointee for one year as suggested by a government minister.

The 66-year-old economist, who was given the job by President Maithripala Sirisena, said his appointment under the Monetary Law Act guaranteed him a tenure of six years and he hoped to complete it.

When pointed out that his term would extend beyond the life of the current government, Coomaraswamy said he believed it would ensure continuity of the bank’s work despite any change of government.

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His term ends in July 2022, two years after the next parliamentary election is due by August 2020.

The then acting finance minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene told reporters last week before Coomaraswamy’s appointment that the next governor would be appointed only for one year.

It was speculated that the United National Party was keen to bring back controversial Arjuna Mahendran who was replaced after he faced allegations of insider trading that favoured his son-in-law’s primary dealership.

Coomaraswamy, a respected personality with impeccable credentials for the job, also made it clear that he was extremely happy and honoured to be asked contrary to earlier speculation that he had initially turned down the job.

“When I was asked, it was a surprise. It was sudden,” he said. “Now that I have taken it, I am going to give it my absolute best shot.”

President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe were at loggerheads over the replacement of Mahendran who faces an investigation by the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).

The virtual termination of Mahendran came as a tweet from the President who also appointed Coomaraswamy via the micro blogging twitter.com.

Socially and politically, Coomaraswamy is in the Prime Minister’s camp, but his appointment by Sirisena and his remarks suggest he intends to depoliticise the bank and make it more technocratic.

He was asked about his links to Sri Lankan-born US fund-manager Raj Rajaratnam who is currently jailed in the United States over an insider trading scam.

Coomaraswamy said he had provided professional services in conducting macro-economic research for Rajaratnam for just under a year before his arrest in the US.

The governor said he admired Rajaratnam’s charitable work both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Coomaraswamy, who had started his career as a researcher at the Central Bank 42 years ago, was a director of economic affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

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