Economic consequences resulting from October coup incalculable - Eran

State Minister for Finance Eran Wickramaratne told Parliament yesterday that while the financial loss as a result of the October coup could be calculated, the economic impact on the country due to the political instability cnnot be determined. He said this was because many investors, both local and international, pulled out and many tourits caqncelled their trips to the country.

“Hence, in such a situation one cannot put a figure to it but it is clear that the effect of it is felt today. Those sitting in the Opposition are responsible for this situation.”

He said Sri Lanka was downgraded from B1 to B2 by Moody’s ratings and S & P and Fitch Ratings also downgraded Sri Lanka from B+ to B. When a country is downgraded in this manner, the interest rates go up when obtaining loans.

During the October political crisis the International sovereign Bond rates increased by 173 basis points, the State Minister observed participating in the budget debate.

He said When Minister Mangala Samaraweera presented Budget 2019, everyone was shocked about how he had managed to incorporate relief for all sectors, despite the crisis period they had to overcome.

“We managed to reduce the budget deficit from 7.7 to 5.3 by the end of 2018. Ideally it should have been lesser than 5 but due to the drought in 2017, we could not reach that target. However, in 2019 we intend to bring it down further to 4.5,” Wickramaratne stressed.



Country needs a smart economy - Kabir

Highways & Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development Minister Kabir Hashim stated in Parliament yesterday that the country needs a smart economy, should develop its export sector further.

The previous government was afraid to create a social market economy and instead opted for an open economy. While addressing the Second Reading of the budget yesterday and in response to the opposition, he added, the country is in indebted.

The smart economy created a lot of jobs, under the present government.

It has been recorded as the lowest unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2018. The previous government had left the country with a loss Rs 72 million.

The current government took action to create an open market.

The export trade has increased from 12% to 18% and giving a relief to government employees and pensioners.

Protests barring foreign students from enrolling in some local universities - Kiriella

Public Enterprise and Kandy and Kandyan Heritage Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella said instructions given by the Higher Education Ministry to all the universities to enrol at least 5 per cent of foreign students for their academic programmes cannot be implemented properly due to protests of local students.

Responding to a question raised by Ratnapura District UNP MP Hesha Withanage in Parliament yesterday, Kiriella noted that while each university has been instructed to absorb at least five per cent of foreign students when enrolling students for their academic programmes, certain universities had complied with this directive while others have not due to these student protests.

MP Withanage questioned the Minister of Town Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education about the number of foreign students following courses in Sri Lankan universities in 2017.

Chief Government Whip Minister Gayantha Karunathilake responding on behalf of the Higher Education Minister said that there had been 26 foreign students reading for their first degree in Lankan universities in 2017 and the 341 foreign post graduate students. The Lankan universities have earned a total of Rs 70.3 million by enrolling foreign students in 2017.


Number of industries closed down in past four years - Weerawansa

The budget had piled on more burden on the people and a number industries had closed down during the past four years, said Joint Opposition MP Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament yesterday.

“Through the land acts presented by the government, the local lands could be given to foreigners without any restriction. The laws are being formulated in a manner where the minister also gets a cut out of these deals. The government has brought in a proposal to construct an economic corridor connecting the Trincomalee and Colombo harbours.”

He said the Milleniun Challenge Corporation Office is located within Temple Trees. “They have done a study on Sri Lanka and issued a report with recommendations on Sri Lankan lands. They are engaged in surveying the lands in Sri Lanka and have suggested to establish a state land bank. According to these proposals, all state lands would come under this bank, allowing these lands to be given to anyone even foreign parties. By allocating 33,000 acres around the Trincomalee harbour as an investment zone, across seven districts what is the government trying to do? There is an electric train service proposed and high tension electric wires would go across these seven districts. With the land allocated as the economic zone, only companies that comply with US regulations would be allowed to invest.”

Weerawansa said that a US ship is stationed off Trincomalee port which could accommodate 6,000 American soldiers and 100 aircraft. “What the government is trying to do is make this economic zone an American supply centre. When our lands are given to America and India, what happens to the locals?” he questioned.

“Today, the farmers are facing a pathetic plight. Eventually what will happen is that the locals will invariably become slaves to these foreigners. The government is now in the process of drawing plans to hand over the Palaly and Kankesanthurai airports and the Colombo Eastern Terminal to India,” charged Weerawansa.


Revised daily wage of estate workers to be paid from May 1 -Navin Disna Mudalige, Camelia Nathaniel and Menaka Indrakumar

Through the Collective Agreement the daily wage of estate workers has been increased from Rs. 500 to 750, while the government has taken a decision to add another Rs. 50 to it and make the daily wage of estate workers Rs. 800, which will be paid to them from May 1, Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake said.

Addressing a media briefing held at the Parliament complex yesterday, he said even as the minister of Plantations, it was beyond his control to grant these estate workers the wage they demand. “I had to play a balanced role, as there is always two sides to an issue. This model has been around from 1989-1990 according to the Collective Agreement the estate owners and unions should meet twice a year and discuss these issues. Prior to our government coming to office, these discussions went on for around 18 months after the deadline. But, they later reached an agreement. However, MP Digambaram’s and MP Radakrishnan’s unions were not included. The reason is that although their unions are now a strong force, at the time they were not. Hence, this Collective Agreement needs to be revised as it is around 20 years old and there are other strong unions now,” he said.

He noted that the increment is a 40% increase and the government was only a mediator in these talks. “MPs Digambaram, Radakrishnan and Thilakaraj had held three rounds of talks with the President and two rounds of talks with me and notified us about the grievances faced by the estate workers. Therefore, as a result we tool measures to add another Rs. 50 to their daily wages and make it Rs. 800. This Rs. 50 is not part of the collective agreement and we intend to get the funds for this from the Treasury. The funds will initially be paid through the Tea Board funds, which would be reimbursed later.”

He said this payment would be paid to estate workers for one year, after which he said this issue would have to be looked more comprehensively. According to Dissnayake, fifteen years ago there were 240,000 estate workers but today there are only 140,000. “In another ten years it might reduce to 50,000. We see a trend where tea production and workers are on the decline. This is an issue that needs to be looked into. The children of estate workers do not want to engage in this industry due to the low wages. Hence measures should be taken to bring about some dignity and worth to their services.

The current system is an entrenched model and it’s hard to change it. However, we need to introduce new laws and regulations and make changes in order to make the estate sector more profitable and productive,” he said, adding that the Cabinet paper regarding the wage increment would be presented next week.

The media briefing was also attended by MP Digambaram, MP Radakrishnan and MP Thilakaraj.


A ‘smart loan budget’ - JVP MP Vijitha Herath

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) charged that through Budget 2019 the government has only piled on a greater debt burden on the people amounting to over Rs.270 billion, but have not increased the direct taxes and reduced indirect taxes as pledged.

Participating in the Second Reading of Appropriation Bill 2019, JVP MP Vijitha Herath called it a ‘smart loan budget’ and not a ‘smart budget’ that would benefit the people.

“The government intends to increase revenue by increasing the indirect taxes. This directly burdens the people. There is nothing in this budget on increasing production or improving the manufacturing sector in order to generate revenue. Around 28% of the workforce which consist of farmers are left in the lurch and they are protesting as they have no other alternative. The government is incapable of introducing a certified price for paddy. Paddy is bought from the farmers at Rs.38 per kilo of Nadu and Rs. 41 per kilo of Samba. But it is sold at Rs.100-110 for Samba, so the consumer does not benefit either,” he said.

Herath noted that the government has created more loan schemes to put the people further into debt, while many are committing suicide being caught up in micro finance debt traps.

In response, Highways, Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development Minister Kabir Hashim responded, “When we took the government, we had indirect taxes three times more than direct taxes. This situation should be changed. We introduced several proposal in order to create a balance between our income and expenditure. But during the period of the Unity Government, we did not have a chance to implement some of them due to political differences. But now we have a UNP government.Thererfore, we hope to reintroduce these measures. It would take at least two more years to control this whole situation and bring the income and expenditure to a balanced level.”

However, Herath responded that this is the same tune they have been hearing repeatedly.

“Your Prime Minister said the same thing you said three years ago. But nothing has been done so far to rectify this situation. Even now, it is evident that you don’t have a proper plan to control the situation. You are only talking and not doing anything. This is what we see every day. You say that you want to reduce indirect taxes. But you have not done it. Instead, you have increased the taxes on services and goods through this Appropriation Bill. That is how you intend to increase your revenue.”









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