Politicians should join hands to rebuild economy- President

President Maithripala Sirisena while stressing that the country’s economy is in a precarious situation yesterday said all politicians should shun petty differences and join hands to rebuild the economy.

“All should be committed to build the economy and the country devoid of political and other differences.”, he said

The President was of the view that politicians of all ranks and file should come to an understanding to resue the country from the present situation.

He added the economy of the country is not on sound footing due to heavy debt burden and setback in manufacturing and export sectors.

Addressing the heads of Media Institutions and newspaper editors at President’s House yesterday, the President added that he took great efforts in fulfilling many pledges in his election manifesto at the last presidential election.

The President added that 2019 is an election year and the presidential election is to be held at the end of this year without denying the possibility of having a parliamentary election before the Presidential election too.

“It is difficult to take bold decision when there is an unstable parliament and focus has to be made on various demands to retain the majority with the government “, he said

He said that every party different political agenda as this year is an election year and these agendas may not always augur well for the country.

“The time has come for us to stand together to rescue the country from the present economic crisis without pointing fingers at each other”, he said.

Confiscated drugs to be destroyed on April 1 - President

President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday said those who are against the implementation of the death penalty, do not extend any support to the government’s campaign against drugs.

Addressing the Heads of Media institutions and newspaper Editors at President’s House yesterday, the President said the large stocks of drugs confiscated during recent raids will be dissolved and chemically destroyed under scientific methods in the presence of Magistrates and Judiciary officers at Katunayake on April 1.

Answering a question, President Sirisena said that he had not changed his mind about carrying out Capital Punishment against drug smugglers who continue to indulge in drug smuggling and distribution while in prison. He said that those who are against Capital Punishment should understand the catastrophe caused to the younger generation by these criminals.

He said early steps would be taken to recruit more Policemen, especially Tamil speaking Policemen to be posted to Tamil speaking areas. Immediately, 2,500 Police personnel will be recruited. The President also referred to the grievances of women constables and said he would look into their issues pertaining to promotions and transfers.

Budget provides incentives to promote new inventions - Dr. Harsha

Sri Lanka should develop the ability to manufacture complex goods within the country and Budget 2019 has provided the incentives to promote new inventions, Non Cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Dr. Harsha de Silva said.

He said this in Parliament yesterday joining the debate on the Second Reading of the budget.

De Silva said the Central Bank reports clearly blamed the economic downfall and the depreciation of the rupee on the 52 day political crisis.

“Now they say that there is no surplus of the primary account, but back then there was no surplus but a deficit,” and he questioned Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa if he was able to obtain even a dollar in loans during his 52 days in power as the Finance Minister.

“No one was willing to give us any loans because you had destroyed the credibility of the country. The 52 day government had got Sri Lanka downgraded. In 2018, the rupee depreciation against the US dollar was recorded by the Central Bank as 16.36% and of that 7.58% of the depreciation had occurred during the 52 day period. The Opposition also alleged that foreign investors had withdrawn their invested Treasury Bills having lost faith in our government. But, the fact is that $133.6 million in Treasury Bonds had been withdrawn from the Colombo Stock Market in 2018 and of that $96.9 million (73%) had been withdrawn during the period of October, November and December. Hence, there is no point in harping on this matter any further as it is clear in the data released by the Central Bank,” de Silva noted.

He said the Opposition is talking so much about the loans the current government has taken, but the $750 million that was taken by the Rajapaksa government too had to be paid by the current government last year.

Meanwhile, raising a Point of Order, Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena said the government had lied to the IMF that there was a surplus of the primary account last year in an attempt to mislead the IMF and challenged Minister Harsha de Silva to come with the IMF and he would prove what he said.

In response, Dr. Harsha de Silva tabled the Treasury Department report and asked that it be included in the Hansard together with his speech.

“In 2014 during Bandula Gunawardena’s tenure there was a deficit in the primary account of Rs.155 billion. In 2015, the deficit in the primary account was Rs.302 billion. However, for the first time in some 50 years in 2017, we managed to record a surplus in the primary account amounting to Rs.2 billion and in 2018 it was Rs.91 million and this year we anticipate a surplus of Rs.228. The Opposition had not paid the EPF of 17 institutions amounting to Rs. 38 million,” Minister de Silva said.

He noted that one of the most productive initiatives has been the Suwa Seriya Ambulance Service where 1,500 persons have been given employment. The ambulance service transports around 450 patients to hospital daily. Through the budget, Rs. 2000 million has been allocated to further expand the 1990 Suwa Seriya Ambulance service to cover the whole country, while Rs. 600 million has been allocated to provide resting facilities to those working on this ambulance service.

With regard to the proposal to grant student loans of Rs. 1.1 million to students who could not gain admission to state universities and want to pursue their higher education at non-state universities, he said this loan was mainly to encourage students who pursue their higher education in science, engineering and mathematics etc. He noted that the budget was very comprehensive and had made provisions for every sector.

Sajith to improve local cinema standards

Speaking in Parliament yesterday (6) Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa said that the Film Cooperation will have the fullest support in the coming months. The assistance needed to develop the Sri Lankan film industry will be looked into.

Minister Premadasa added, the Film Cooperation had suffered massively, under the previous government, and a lot of issues had been ignored. Even though the Film Cooperation hasn’t been gazetted under the Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Ministry, the relevant authorities are looking into the issues of the Film Cooperation.

The concept to introduce the E-Ticketing system and to digitalize cinema halls are currently been discussed with assistance of the Chinese Embassy. In response to the questioned raised by Opposition Leader MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, he added, all needed equipment for productions will be given.

He further said that theatre owners will be given concessions on electricity bills, Rs 10 million will be allocated for the renovation of Dalugama studio and Rs 5 million to set up a cinema museum.

A Film Selection Committee has been appointed to handle matters related to film distribution, award shows and other film related responsibilities. The Selection Committee includes veteran actor Ravindra Randeniya and film director Somaratne Dissanayake.


Cabinet approves USD 1 bn FDI - Sagala

Cabinet yesterday approved a large scale Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the tune of USD 1 billion for an oil refinery at the Hambantota Port, Ports and Shipping and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said.

Joining in the Budget debate in Parliament yesterday, he said the proposed industrial zone adjacent to the Hambantota Port delayed due to politically motivated protests.

“There was no plan to attract ships to the Hambantota port. When we came up with a plan to attract ships, it was disrupted by organising politically motivated protests. The repercussions in the delay in implementing the industrial zone were for the youth and the ordinary people of the country. Had it received the support of all, it could have seen more progress by now and many new employment opportunities could have been created,” he said.

Commenting on the Police service, the Minister observed that the establishment of the National Police Commission was a progressive step to de-politicise the institution and make it stronger and independent. The minister also commended the service of newly formed ‘Organized Crimes and Narcotic Range’ adding that it contributed a lot to curb the drug menace.

He commended that its raids helped to prevent smuggling in of cocaine and heroin to the country.

“Today, the people have faith on Police,Law and Order and Judiciary of the country. They have even earned the international credibility. Though there was a setback during the 51-day political crisis, the conduct of the above institutions helped to restore the international credibility,” he added.

Budget ensures relief,encourages investment - Patali

If the country’s economy is to progress, its debt should be managed scientifically. The government has presented a budget that ensures relief for the people and encourages investment opportunities within a difficult and restrictive financial environment, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said.

Ranawaka was speaking at the Budget 2019 debate in Parliament yesterday.

“If the country’s economy is to progress, we need to change our indebtedness. It should be controlled in order to boost exports. The dollar is now under control and through this budget we intend to further bring it under control,” he said.

He noted that certain definitive changes need to be made to uplift the fallen GDP but in order to do that we need to venture into new avenues of production.

“We cannot achieve this through traditional means. There is no cheap labour in the country. We need to properly utilise the country’s 21 million educated labour force in a manner similar to the fourth Industrial Revolution. There has been a huge change in the subject scope,” he said adding that he was happy with the measures taken to uplift public transport.

Minister Ranawaka said it was a mistake to invest in cheap popular areas without a proper plan.

“Instead, if investments were done systematically and scientifically, the results would have been immense. Justice should be done for the country’s professionals. If they are disgruntled and frustrated, the country would suffer the consequences. Many have already left the country. Hence, we need to avail our country’s children the opportunities possible.”


‘Budget 2019’ focuses on areas which are often neglected - Handunnetti

The ‘Budget 2019’ was different in structure to those presented by the UNP in the past and it has looked into areas which are often neglected, JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti said.

Joining in the Budget debate on the opening day, Handunnetti however pointed out that the feeble economic status of the country makes most of the budgetary proposals unrealistic though they have some progressive features.

He termed them as “dream proposals” and questioned how the Government which has a negative balance on the Consolidated Fund could afford to implement them.

“According to the Fiscal Management Report, the Government’s starting balance as at January 1, 2018 was Rs.186.2 billion and this further deteriorated to Rs.225.3 billion by November 30, 2018. According to the 2017 Finance Ministry report, the Consolidated Fund had a negative balance of Rs -285 billion. The Budget should have been made keeping this ground reality in mind,” he said.

The MP further said that the proposal to add another 600,000 to the list of Samurdhi beneficiaries shows that the poverty eradication programme of all the successive governments since the independence has been a failure.

“We already have 1.5 million Samurdhi recipients. The minister during the Budget said 260,000 families do not have toilet facilities. These show the failure of the Capitalist economic policy pursued by successive governments,” he added.


Suwadivi, Suwanari centres to be established soon

Health Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr.Rajitha Senaratne said in Parliament yesterday that 146 Suwadivi centres will be established within the next two months and 906 Suwanari centres for detection and treatment of cancer.

In response to a question raised by MP Dayasiri Jayasekara during the oral answers round, Dr Senaratne said, new the construction of medical centres are in progress. He said the 146 Suwadivi centres will focus on testing BMI, Blood Pressure, Sugar, Cholesterol, Thyroid and other tests. Another 906 ’ Suwanari’ centres will focus on womens’ health, specially breast and womb cancers.

Minister Senaratne further added with these medical establishments, everyone will have access to health care and now it’s up to the people to make the best use of these medical facilities. One to three physicians will be available for 10,000 persons and annual health programmes will be conducted at government hospital.

He added, that a patient should first consult the family physician, at the government health centres and they can seek medical advice from a doctor at a private medical facility only with a given prescription.






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