Rs.70,000 m already spent on anti-COVID efforts | Daily News
PM tells House :

Rs.70,000 m already spent on anti-COVID efforts

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

The Government has already spent around Rs. 70,000 million for the identification of patients, quarantine activities, random testing and related welfare activities under the anti-COVID drive, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stated in Parliament yesterday. Presenting the Appropriation Bill 2020 in Parliament, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said the Government intended to meet its economic targets during the next few years despite the enormous costs and challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Describing some of those challenges and steps, the Prime Minister said the hospital capacity for disease prevention, which was limited to Colombo, has now been increased to 17 hospitals in less than a year covering almost all parts of the country. “The number of special care beds for COVID-19 patients has been increased to around 600. Daily PCR testing capacity for the diagnosis of the disease has been increased to an average of 7,500-10,000 tests per day with each test costing around Rs. 6,000, with the daily expenditure exceeding almost Rs.50 million. Government also spends a sizeable amount for the food and welfare of those on 14-day the quarantine. In the meantime, an allowance of Rs.5, 000 is granted to low income families. Apart from that, the Government is also bearing expenditures related to the payment of the allowances of public servants who are engaged in those services and other related expenditure.”

He noted that the economic growth rate that was 6 percent in 2014 recorded a steady decline to record the lowest in the region of 2.3 percent in 2019 due to the former UNP Government’s neo liberal economic policies which supported trading of imports and poor fiscal management while country is expected to record a negative growth of 4.3 percent this year according to the World Economic Outlook - 20 October 2020, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to COVID 19 pandemic.

The Premier proposed to increase the borrowing limit by Rs.180 billion while amending the guarantee limit to 15 percent as stated in the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act. He added that the that the Government aimed to reduce the income expenditure gap to 4 percent of GDP by 2025 which now stands at nearly 10 percent and to reduce the overall debt to GDP to 75 percent of GDP within the next four years.

He said the Government has taken many measures for achieving the government’s goals. He added that due to the poor fiscal and debt management of the previous Government the foreign debt servicing amounts to approximately US$ 4,200 million from 2020 onwards which the Opposition members forecast that Government would be in default as it is caught in a “debt trap”.

“However we have settled all debt obligations including the foreign currency debt dues for the year 2020,” the Premier said. “We were able to maintain this unblemished record of ours, only because we took immediate action, once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa secured victory with 6.9 million of people’s votes, with an overwhelming majority of 52.25 percent and the General election with 149 seats, to reduce unwanted foreign borrowings and made a substantial effort to manage imports at an acceptable level. We had a clear understanding that the debt phobia is being propagated simply as a strategy to justify the sale of assets of the country and the neo-liberal policies of the last Government.”

He said further that pathetic economy drop was due the failed economic and fiscal management programmes implemented in the last five years by the previous regime, as well as the attempt to create an import-based economy instead of a true production economy. He added that the implementation of import oriented economic policies instead of facilitating exports has resulted in getting stuck in a trade deficit of around US$ 8 billion. He added that the overall investment which was 32.3 percent of GDP in 2014 fell to 27.4 percent in 2019 and this is well reflected with the end result of leaving 483,000 unemployed.

“Our accomplishments in 2020 even amidst many challenges are considerable,” Premier Rajapaksa said. “Of which, one of the key achievements is solving the unemployment issue of more than 60,000 graduates which had prevailed for years. By now, jobs have been provided to nearly 40,000 people under the programme to provide jobs targeting 100,000 people from the poorest of the poorest families. Our aim is to complete the 100,000 target before the end of this year.”

He said that government could ensure a minimum price for paddy at Rs. 50 per kilogramme while stopping the import of rice. He added that under the 100,000 km of roads programme, three projects of 10,000 km are being implemented, 10,000 bridges are being constructed, while 5,000 bridges have reached the final stage of construction. Pipe borne water connections will be provided to 429,000 houses under the “Water for all” programme. Moreover, 14,000 houses under “One House for One Village” programme are being constructed while the constriction of the first 20,000 houses of the 100,000 houses programme under the Urban Development programme has also commenced.