Fertiliser subsidy will accelerate food production - Minister Nimal
Siripala de Silva
*Rs. 40 billion for fertiliser subsidy
*Safety net and sufficient amount of food
*Mixed Budget targeting development
*Good track record
The Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Management Minister
Nimal Siripala de Silva said the Budget was a development Budget, plus a
Budget which has fulfilled the aspirations of the people of Sri Lanka,
specially the working class, public servants and down trodden masses.
The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said normally the
IMF and economic experts say that the Government should curtail
subsidies given to the people. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has
not accepted that as a path for development. The Government is spending
more than Rs. 40 billion on the fertiliser subsidy which would catalyse
and accelerate food production in our country.
Sri Lanka has a safety net and sufficient amount of food for
consumption. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has targeted all areas. This is
a mixed budget which has targeted development while not forgetting the
human aspects as well.
The Minister said long-term economic sustainability and development
has to be kept in mind when formulating a budget. This government has a
very good track record. It has performed well and fulfilled the promises
given to the people. The vast amount of development that has taken place
throughout the country, can be witnessed by the people.
Commenting on the protest and the interruption made by the UNP to the
Budget speech, the Minister said that it was an organised attempt by the
UNP to distract mind of the people from the benefits they were going to
get from the Budget. When veteran politicians like Dr. N.M. Perera and
Dr. Colvin R. de Silva were in the Opposition, they also criticised the
Budget in a very pragmatic way, not by holding posters in Parliament,
that has nothing to do with the Budget. If the UNP wants to hold a
protest they should have gone out of Parliament and held the protest.
Parliament is not the place to hold protests. When President in his
capacity as Finance Minister comes to Parliament to present the Budget,
he must be given a hearing. That is the prerequisite of the democratic
process which the Opposition has forgotten today.
Q: As a whole how do you view the Budget presented by the
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament?
A: The Budget presented by the President is a unique Budget.
It is unique in the sense that it targets development. I call it a
development Budget plus a Budget which fulfils the aspirations of the
people, specially the working class, public servants and the down
It has also increased the benefits given to those suffering from
disabilities, Samurdhi recipients and pensioners.
There was a long call that the benefits given to those segments were
not sufficient and that they should be given more assistance.
The IMF and economic experts say the Government should curtail
subsidies, but the President has not accepted that as path for
development. We are spending more than Rs. 40 billion on the fertiliser
subsidy which would catalyse and accelerate food production in our
country. Now we are self-sufficient in rice.
The Government has also given fertiliser at subsidised rates to the
vegetable and tea sectors as well. It has facilitated economic
development in Sri Lanka. We have a safety net and have sufficient
amount of food because stores have paddy etc. The President in this
Budget has targeted all areas. This is a mixed budget which has targeted
development while not forgetting human aspects as well.
Q: According to your analysis has the Budget granted adequate
relief to the people?
A: Of course. While providing relief measures to the people,
the object of a Budget is not short-term. It should essentially target
long-term economic development.
If we target short-term things, all the income we get can be
disbursed and we can satisfy the people only for a period of one year.
But what will happen to the future generation? We are building roads and
irrigation schemes. Rs. 36 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of
Irrigation and Water Management.
One hundred thousand hectares of land which are not utilised at the
moment will be irrigated. That will generate a high income thereby the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income will go up.
Long-term economic sustainability and development has to be kept in
mind in formulating a Budget. I think the President has fulfilled that.
Q: On what basis does the government describe the Budget as a
development oriented budget?
A: Earlier the situation was not conducive to embark on
development projects. We know what happened to the railway track from
Vavuniya to Jaffna.
The LTTE destroyed the track and power supply. We could not implement
any major irrigation scheme due to the security situation which
prevailed. Peace dividends must be transformed into economic
development. Then only the lives of the people will be improved. We have
to embark on development.
That is why it is a development Budget. Now the Government is
investing a lot of money for infrastructure development, because only
with infrastructure in place, we can bring the country together.
Anything we produce in the North, East or any other part of the country,
if it is to be exported has to be brought to Colombo. A good road
network should be there.
To enhance production, we have to empower the people. Because we must
have a healthy population. Money should be invested in health and
education as those are the supporting pillars for economic development.
We should have a literate society.
We have looked into all these aspects of development.
Q: The Opposition allege that the Budget has failed to provide
any relief to the people. Your comments?
A: Whatever relief is given to the people, the Opposition will
always say it is not enough. Because they have no other constructive
argument to put forward. We are dealing with the reasonable people of
this country. The people in this country are very reasonable.
When Sarah Fonseka contested the last Presidential Election, he
promised to give Rs. 10,000 salary increase to public servants. But
President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he could give only a Rs. 2,500 pay
hike. But still the majority of the people and public servants voted for
the President and the UPFA Government, this demonstrates that public
servants are not misled by false promises.
When a promise is given by a politician, they will see whether this
promise could be fulfilled or not. The people voted for us and they have
faith and confidence in the President.
The Opposition can relate various fairy tales, but the people know
that performing is not easy.
This government has a good track record, we have performed well and
have promised certain things to the people. The promises have been
fulfilled. People can see the development which has taken place in the
At one time, the Opposition was criticising that vegetable and
coconut prices were high. Now it has come down. The price of rice has
also drastically dropped. If you visit a market, you can see the drop in
prices, in real terms the cost of living dropped.
At the same time, income generating avenues have increased. A
domestic is paid Rs.1,000 per day now, Rs. 1,200 or Rs. 1,500 is paid
for a carpenter or a mason. Income levels of the people have gone up.
If we take the salary of a garment worker, it is about Rs. 20,000
with food and other allowances.
Those days it was about Rs. 5,000 or Rs. 6,000. Income levels have
gone up. Coconut cultivation has become a very good investment, prices
in the tea smallholding sector have gone up, while cinnamon prices are
also very good. People are switching to rubber cultivation as rubber
prices are fabulous.
A kilo of pepper is purchased for Rs. 950. Even export crops have a
very good market now. A large number of people have purchased
three-wheelers and vans. Certainly income levels of people in the
villages have also gone up.
Q: Peace has dawned, the Opposition alleges that the
Government has failed to circulate the peace dividends to the people.
A: As I mentioned earlier, these are the peace dividends that
have been given. Now people can go anywhere without any restriction.
Hikkaduwa, those days, there were no tourists as a result many hotels
and restaurants were closed. Hotels such as Hilton could not market even
for 30 US Dollars a day. Now it is over US$ 175. Almost all hotels are
full. These are the peace dividends. Now the hotel and travel industries
If we take the Southern Expressway, this is also the transformation
of peace dividends into action.
How could we build all these. The fisheries industry has taken a new
lease of life, as there is no restriction on fishing. Savings in banks
have risen. Farmers are saving a lot of money. Peace dividends have
spread far and wide.
Q: Has the Budget made sufficient allocation for irrigation
and water management sectors?
A: Yes. the Irrigation and Water Management Ministry has been
given Rs. 36 billion. We have identified many new projects to be
implemented. Rs. 12,107 million has been allocated for the Uma Oya
Diversion Project, Rs. 5,248 million for Moragahakanda and Kaluganga
Reservoir Projects, Rs. 1,430 million for Deduru Oya Reservoir, Rs. 400
million for Menik Ganga Reservoir, Rs. 492 million for Rambukkan Oya
Reservoir, Rs. 500 million for Yan Oya Project, Rs. 240 million for the
Lower Uva Project, Rs. 20 million for Mahagona Wewa project, Rs. 92
million for the Eallapothana Anicut, Rs. 250 million for Gal Oya
Navodaya, Rs. 65 million for Wemedilla Reservoir and Rs. 107 million for
Another Rs. 650 million has been allocated for miscellaneous things.
A lot of money has been reserved for new projects such as Rs. 200
million for Morana Reservoir, Rs. 70 million for Ellewewa Reservoir, Rs.
300 million for Digilioya Reservoir, Rs. 100 million on Kalugal Oya
Reservoir, Rs. 200 million for Kubukkanoya Reservoir, Rs. 40 million for
Napeudawathura Reservoir, Rs. 41 million for Wilakandiya Reservoir, Rs.
40 million for Kaudulla stage two project, Rs. 100 million for
Redeemaliyadda Integrated Development, Rs. 100 million for Talpitigala
Reservoir, Rs. 25 million on Gonagalathenna Tank and Rs. 100 million for
Lower Malwathuoya Multi Sector Development Project.
The Mahaweli Authority has also been given nearly Rs. 5,000 million
for their activities. I think this is a very comprehensive budgetary
We would be able to renovate existing irrigation schemes and embark
the development of new irrigation schemes as well.
Q: How do you view the attempts made by UNP to disturb the
President's Budget speech. Is this an organised attempt made by the UNP
to sabotage proceedings of the House?
A: As I told in Parliament on Tuesday this was an organised
attempt by the UNP to distract the minds of the people from the benefits
they were going to get from the Budget. Because they knew very well the
President would present a good Budget.
To disrupt the President's speech, they brought various posters
inside the Chamber and were getting ready to protest. They created a
scene and an unpleasant atmosphere prevailed in Parliament. When such an
atmosphere is created, people tend to react to that.
This kind of incident has never happened during a Budget debate.
When veteran politicians of the likes of Dr. N.M. Perera and Dr.
Colvin R. de Silva were in the Opposition, they also criticised the
Budget in a very pragmatic way, not by holding posters that had nothing
to do with the Budget. If the UNP wants to hold a protest, they should
go out of Parliament and protest. Parliament is not the place to hold
When the President in his capacity as Finance Minister comes to
Parliament to present the Budget, he must be given a hearing. That is
the prerequisite of the democratic process which the Opposition has
Q: Though the Government says it is the UNP that should be
held responsible for the unruly behaviour in Parliament, the UNP alleges
that some Government MPs assaulted UNP MPs. Is there any truth in this
allegation levelled by the UNP?
A: There was no assault as such. What happened was when there
is a commotion in the House, MPs try to run away and some try to drag
the other MPs. This is not the first time such a commotion has taken
place in the House.
There is no calculated attempt to assault or harm anybody.
I saw the Parliamentarians who were involved in this incident talking
to each other and embracing each other at the Parliament cafeteria on
Tuesday. There was a conspiracy on the part of the Opposition to disrupt
the President's Budget speech. But there was no attempt by the
Government to disrupt proceedings of the House.
Q: Even Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa informed the House on Tuesday
that an impartial inquiry would be held into the incident. How is the
Government going to cooperate at the inquiry?
A: As the Leader of the House, I also stated in Parliament on
Tuesday that the Government will extend its fullest cooperation to
conduct such an inquiry to ensure that this kind of incident will not
occur in future.
Q: Despite attempts made by the UNP to interrupt the
President's Budget speech, the DNA and TNA MPs did not join the UNP and
remained in the Chamber without any interruption. Your comments?
A: I think they set a very good example to the UNP. Because
Parliamentarians like TNA Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan are
veteran politicians. They have a perfect understanding about
parliamentary democracy much more than some of the UNP members.