With a mandate to resuscitate the bankrupt economy of Sri Lanka, casino magnate Dhammika Perera appeared in parliament on Wednesday, working with a prime minister who had previously accused him of wrongdoing.
Demonstrators have accused Perera, 54, of being a longtime supporter of the Rajapaksa dynasty, which has been accused of mismanaging the country into its current condition by protesters.
Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, stepped down as finance minister in April and resigned from parliament last month.
“He was nominated by the president and will soon take over the investment promotion job and enter the government,” a governing party official told AFP.
By joining forces with Prime Minister to confront the issue, Perera would join a government that Wickremesinghe previously described as a “devil who defended the corrupt Rajapakse administration”.
Deputy Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has also labelled Perera one of the country’s four most corrupt businesspeople.
After Perera was sworn in as a member of parliament on Wednesday, he and the speaker of the House of Representatives embraced.
Taking office at a time when Sri Lanka is suffering from months-long food, gasoline and other vital shortages is Perera, who also has interests in banking, hotels, manufacturing logistics and exports.
For the 22 million residents of the island country, living has become tougher because of a paucity of fuel supply and soaring prices.
An IMF rescue is sought by the government that defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt.
According to Perera, he has designed a strategy to more than triple Sri Lanka’s per capita income to $12,000, a level higher than that of China.
The 10-year visa system, which has already been in effect since April, is part of his plan to ease Sri Lanka’s acute foreign currency crisis by selling 10-year visas to foreigners who deposit at least $100,000 in local bank accounts.