Budget 2018 : Well balanced, with people friendly proposals | Sunday Observer

Budget 2018 : Well balanced, with people friendly proposals

A cross section of Government legislators who spoke to the Sunday Observer, described Budget 2018 as a growth oriented positive Budget which has incorporated a series of people-friendly proposals conceived by the two main coalition partners of the National Unity Government- UNP and SLFP, which has paved the way for effecting far- reaching reforms to strengthen the economy and accelerate the Government’s ongoing development drive.

TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran

At a glance, it looks a good budget. Debt repayment is a major issue for the Government.

Despite that, from my own constituency’s perspective, it’s a welcome Budget, because many work programs that directly benefit the war-affected have been included, particularly, for differently abled women and ex-combatants. The Office of the Missing Persons has been allocated a fair amount of money that will start functioning in January. Overall, it conveys a positive reaction.

Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

This is a people friendly budget. It has laid emphasis on Blue-Green sector to prevent environmental damage. The Budget has given priority to promote the import of electric cars and impose more taxes on luxury vehicles. The prices of small cars will be reduced considerably. The Government will give incentives to young investors. The Budget has also given priority to the education sector. In addition to the funds allocated to my Ministry, we have submitted medium scale projects to provide concessionary loans to businessmen, and the Treasury has pledged to provide loans for that. The Treasury has also given us the green light to make an infrastructure development in remote villages which have an acute shortage of facilities. Asked about the comment by the Joint Opposition that they can’t understand the Budget 2018, Minister Fonseka retorted “how can they understand the Budget when they came to Parliament by deflated bicycles.”

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne

It’s a growth Budget. We focused on democracy and reconciliation in the past two years. Now, we focus on development, and this Budget has created the macroeconomic structure for development.

Basically, we are keeping control of the Budget deficit. We have to increase revenue and appropriate it as a priority. Education and Health are priorities as well, for which we have increased funding. We believe, youth are the most important asset in the country, and must be enlightened on the importance of higher education. Every child has 13 years of education and will not drop out from school at 12 years; some will go to the academic group in universities.

We are expanding the universities, and creating seven new faculties in information technology and biotechnology. We are also creating three medical faculties in the Sri Lankan universities. We believe, the Government alone cannot be the provider of education. The non governmental sector should also be involved. Students who don’t join the academic session will have an opportunity to opt for vocational, technical and mechanical training. Therefore, we won’t have Sri Lankans leaving for overseas employment at low paid jobs anymore. They will find skilled jobs in this country. If they want to go overseas, it will be for skilled jobs. It is the only way to improve living standards of the people. Thirty four percent of the country’s labour force is women. There are more than 50 percent female students in all universities in the country. We must make it a more women friendly working environment where the women can participate in the economy. We have also introduced schemes to encourage women entrepreneurs, by giving them concessions through loan schemes.

Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha

We know, Budget 2018 is a challenging one considering the world economic situation, international affairs and especially the trade gap between imports and exports.

So the main challenge is, how we would bridge that gap. We have also to consider salaries and allowances to over 1.4 million public servants. Most of the youth expect Government jobs so we have to create new employment opportunities, and also attract investments. For that, we have to amend outdated laws. That is what Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera suggested in his Budget speech. He referred to amend certain outdated laws. My Ministry has been allocated more funds than we got last year.

That is to improve innovation and enterprises. This is the only way to attract investments and improve exports within the next three years. The Finance Minister has managed the Budget within certain limits with the imposition of a luxury tax on vehicles without passing the burden to the middle income people and lower segments.

State Minister of Child Affairs and UNP Jaffna District MP Vijayakala Maheswaran,

I am happy that this Budget has focused on the projects I am interested in. There are special allocations for the welfare of women run households and resettlement. The rehabilitated LTTE cadres will have livelihood support to run their own businesses. Funds have also been allocated to develop Milady Harbour. That is a positive outcome of the Budget. As People’s representatives, our hands will be strengthened to look after the interest of the people we represent. In addition, there is a substantial budgetary allocation to resettle the Muslims who were displaced from Jaffna during the LTTE time. I believe the 2018 Budget has been fair to the minorities.

Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake

I see Budget 2018 as a very positive Budget. This is a Budget formulated to strengthen the economy with a farsighted vision.

The two major parties, SLFP and UNP, have joined hands and formed the National Unity Government. The Budget has incorporated the proposals put forward by both parties. Budget 2018 should be an eye-opener to go for the anticipated targets of the Government next year. Everybody should join hands and extend support to the Government to make this endeavour a success. The Budget has given incentives to agriculture, fisheries, education and higher education sectors, young investors and development activities. This is not a Budget to merely reduce a kilo of some food commodity by Rs. 25 or 30. This is a Budget formulated with a broad vision and a future program.

UPFA Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardena

The new Finance Minister is helpless. The situation is beyond his control. The reason being, although the government changed the jockey, the horse remains the same.

The former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who held office in 2015 and 2016, messed up the country’s economy.

He created a mega economic crisis by the time he was ousted. Value of the Rupee fell sharply, foreign reserves were depleted and due to the expanding trade deficit, the IMF started to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. As a result, in June 2016, the Government entered into an agreement with the IMF.

We stand to get Rs.1.5 billion for a period of three years, one tranche is US $ 162million. To allocate this, we have agreed to certain conditions.

First condition is to bring down the budget deficit to 3% of GDP.

Then the rupee must be floated, State economy managed and government enterprises reorganized. The Finance Minister cannot take a free decision.

He is a prisoner of the IMF. The government is heading towards a neo liberal policy. Privatization and foreign investment are the order of the day. The common man has to shoulder an unbearable tax burden, direct as well as indirect tax will be increased. There are no benefits for the common masses.

City Planning and Water Supply Minister Rauff Hakeem

The 2018 Budget has taken a very holistic view on what needs to be done to address people’s real issues. It aims at preserving the environment, mitigating natural disasters, promoting entrepreneurship among the masses, especially, the youth, as well as attracting tourists and increasing the country’s revenue without burdening the people. There are many interesting proposals. It will allow people in less privileged sections to have housing and livelihoods. This has been given highest priority. It had a broader view of what needs to be done to increase the income of the lowest sections of society to an acceptable level and improve their living conditions.

I believe, the Muslim communities’ aspirations have also been taken into consideration in this Budget but I think the proposals cannot be considered in a compartmentalized way. In the overall budget proposals, the interest of different communities have been looked after, as well as the grievances of displaced people. The regions where different communities dominate have been earmarked for development under various sectors, like township development and sports facilities. That I believe is a welcome move.

In the Health and Education sectors also there are targeted investments. Urban regeneration program has received a fair chunk from the Consolidated Fund to look after the poor - that did not happen during the former regime. It is a well balanced budget and I think the government can face the upcoming local government election confidently.

Opposition Leader R.Sampanthan

I don’t think there is a major allocation for Northern uplift in terms of rupees and cents, but specific work programs dealing with ex-cadres and reconciliation, etc. have been identified, which is positive.

They should get their acts together and implement the proposals, particularly, the rehabilitation of ex-cadres, and address key issues, like housing and employment. Let’s see how it goes. The government is willing to address the issues of cooperative societies and debt traps burdening the people of the North and East. Everything depends on how much money is spent and how effectively these programs are carried out.

State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene

We are happy that this year too a significant chunk of the Budget has been allocated for Defence.

The opposition is falsely attacking the government of not doing enough, and not giving priority to national Defence.

I thank the Finance Minister for giving due consideration for this sector.

Our hands will be strengthened to resolve the issues of disabled soldiers as well, to give them new livelihoods. Not just for Defence, it is a very good Budget, which lays emphasis on Blue Green economy, to preserve the environment. It is about the future of this country, the long term projections are commendable, his vision is not only for 2018. He has touched upon youth and their training. This too is an investment in the country’s future.

I am personally happy with the Budget.

JVP Gampaha District MP Vijitha Herath

The Budget 2018 only makes blueprints to sell state resources and lands. It has said, it would remove restrictions imposed on foreign companies to purchase lands. To achieve this, steps have to be taken to amend the old Paddy Lands Act, Agriculture Lands Act and labour laws. The Government, through these initiatives would further liberalize the robbing economy that prevailed in the country over the past 40 years. It would open avenues to sell the country’s resources. This Budget is aimed at selling the country. It doesn’t have any vision to rebuild the economy or increase production. Taking an example, the Government’s expenditure is higher than its anticipated revenue. Therefore, the Government has to take more loans to bridge the gap. So, once again the country will be entangled in a huge debt trap. The Government has also proposed to increase taxes. VAT has been imposed on some consumer items, such as, spectacles, watches, electrical items, flower plants, cameras and projectors. A new carbon tax has been introduced for motorcycles, cars and buses. The charges imposed on various Government services have been increased. The Government’s entire debt burden has been passed down to the people. 


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