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Over Rs.287 b allocated for social welfare in Budget: Alagiyawanna

Although some politicians attempt to mislead the people, this budget has allocated Rs.287 billion for social welfare, said Finance and Mass Media Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna. He also said the recurrent expenditure and the amounts allocated for social welfare have not been reduced.

He added that these additional amounts have been allocated without curtailing those of the previous years. He made these observations in Parliament on Saturday, joining the Committee Stage debate on the Budget proposals for the fiscal year 2019.

The Deputy Minister further said that over 10 million people use public transport while 10 million people use their own vehicles. Although the ownership of a private vehicle reflects the improved economy of the country, a developed public transport service is required for a country too.

Minister Alagiyawanna said if commuters who used their own private vehicles they could be attracted to the public sector transport, it would be a great means to save fuel.

The Deputy Minister said that Rs.19 billion had been allocated for the welfare of students. He also added that spending on teacher training is better than constructing school buildings.

He said some politicians attempt to say that the Customs Ordinance had been cancelled with the proposals of this budget which is totally misleading.

“Whatever it is, several Acts, including the Customs Ordinance need to be amended,” Deputy Minister Alagiyawanna said.


Ministers John, Patali Champika oppose reduction in beer prices

Labour, Trade Union Relations and Sabaragawmuwa Development Minister John Seneviratne and Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka expressed their opposition to reducing the prices of beer.

Instead Minister Seneviratne requested the Finance Minister to bring down the price of ‘Gal’ (extra special) arrack from Rs 1,500 to Rs 750.

Participating in the Second Reading debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament on Saturday, he argued that beer and wine are “middle class drinks” and therefore he preferred increasing their prices further.

“Middle class people drink wine and beer just for fun. Unlike them, the labourers who toil throughout the day need some drink at dusk to relieve their pains. We must allow them to drink.

The reality is that many labourers are addicted to moonshine because Gal Arrack is costly.

Those people die at a young age by consuming moonshine.

I request the Finance Minister to bring in a special amendment to reduce the price of Gal Arrack. Otherwise, we would have a shortage of labourers in this country,” Minister Seneviratne said.

Speaking on a totally different line, Minister Champika Ranawaka objected to the reduction of beer prices, stating it could be the first step to encouraging children and women to use liquor.

“It is a myth to think that the people will shift from hard liquor to soft liquor, when the prices of soft liquor goes down.

This is not the way to solve the problem of liquor addiction. It is good to have a price formula based on the alcohol percentage, but if you reduce the prices of beer, then you will be encouraging more people to drink,” he said.


Budget increases per capita tax burden: Vijitha

The Budget for next year has increased the per capita tax burden by Rs.10,000 compared to 2017, JVP MP Vijitha Herath said.

Joining in the Second Reading debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament on Saturday, the MP pointed out the indirect to direct tax ratio in the Budget for the next year as 82:18.

“This is contrary to the Government’s repeated pledge to bring down the indirect tax and increase the direct tax,” he said.

Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, while admitting that the tax ratio remains unchanged, however, assured that the situation will change for the better once the new Inland Revenue Act comes into effect from April 1, 2018.

“Once its provisions are implemented, we will move to achieve the target of 40:60 indirect to direct tax ratio by 2020,” he clarified.

MP Herath questioned as to why it was not mentioned in the Budget, pointing out that those changes expected from the new Inland Revenue Act are relevant to the next year.

He also noted that the per capita tax burden which was Rs 67,971 in 2017, would rise to Rs.78,254 in 2018 as of the Budget predictions.

“The Government has imposed a tax on every vehicle including motor cycles by way of Carbon Tax. It has proposed to increase the public service charging fees by 15 percent and hopes for Rs. 1,100 million additional income from them. Words such as ‘Blue-Green Economy’ and ‘Carbon Tax’ are attractive, but, ultimately the ordinary people will have to bear the entire burden of our economy,” he commented.


Another 194 kms of Expressways to be constructed: Dayasiri

An extension of 194 km of Expressways would be constructed across the country within the five years to be completed by 2020, said Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara.

He made this observation in Parliament on Saturday joining the Committee Stage debate on the Budget proposals for the fiscal year 2019. The Minister said the construction of 194 extension of Expressways was a major project. He further said that the Acts and laws have to be amended according to the country's needs. He added thatnew Acts have to be introduced to suit the future requirements and to direct the country in the right direction. MinisterJayasekara pointed out that private tuition in the country should be banned as it has caused a severe mental drain. He added that children have no peace of mind due to tuition and added that tuition masters should be absorbed as government school teachers.

Minister Jayasekara added that the education sector in the country needs a revolutionary change. “There are a large number of students who drop out of school after GCE (O/L) examination,” MinisterJayasekara pointed out. “They go begging for jobs and this situation has to be changed by way of revolutionary reforms.”

Minister Jayasekara said the budget proposals seek new investors.

He added that proposals seek public contribution for the growth of the economy.

“We could build a strong economy by developing vocational training skills,” Minister Jayasekara said.

“We have to set up an information center at each divisional secretariat for this purpose.” 


 

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