Issues for civil society intellectual debate in facilitation of a value-added detailed review by the legislators of the Government and Opposition during the Committee Stage Debate of Budget 2012:
1.The way forward for Northern Province Development – an independent assessment of
a.Areas not yet freely accessible by public due to mines and high security concerns and number of families denied resettlement options
b.Families without acceptable secure housing with electricity, drinking water and sanitation
c.Families without acceptable livelihoods support and issues linked to livelihoods freedom
d.Families without acceptable education and health facilities
e.Youth without effective skills development and employment options
f.Stressful Issues impacting on female headed families , women and young girls
g.Persons not yet effectively receiving psycho-social and trauma mitigation treatment
h.Families without access to markets and distribution
i.Issues revolving around the need for community level decision making on national resource allocations and their needs based prioritization
j.Security and safety linked Issues
k.Democratic rights and civilian administration
2.Validation whether the priority and focus of national resource allocations support the district wise (recognising the special needs of those in the lowest quintile)
a.Unemployment and underemployment
b.Per capita income
d.Aged, disabled and severely disadvantaged families
3.Will social integration be affected by
a.Language needs not being effectively delivered especially using possible ICT options
b.Land policies and land registration linked issued
c.Distribution of estate lands if the prior claims of Tamils of Indian origin working estates are unsatisfied
d.Changing demography due to resettlement policies and incentives, new township developments and infrastructure development initiatives and not engaging local communities in such developments
e.Militarisation of civilian administration
4.Are there adequate safeguards to ensure effective targeting of Samurdhi and other welfare payments free of bias
5.Whether there are effective and mutually beneficial options for human skills development/empowerment of services personnel for alternate value added employment in Sri Lanka and overseas with a planned demobilisation with a golden hand shake payment
6.Validate whether the 2012 Budget has made allocations for the construction of the Hambantota Sports City Complex and its justification in priority to other citizen driven resource allocation needs
7.Validate what resource allocations and skills enhancement strategies are supported by the 2012 Budget for the earliest replacement of overseas foreign employment income based remittances to sources other than from mothers and young women seeking unskilled and semi skilled jobs overseas resulting in a heavy damage to the social fabric of the nation
8.Validate whether the new investment priorities and planned investment targets of 26-28 per cent of GDP as planned to achieve high economic growth targets are positively supported by
a.the legislative enactments in place and planned,
b.the framework and leadership commitment to uphold multi-lateral and specific investment guarantee agreements with other nations and business entities, and
c. by having in place an effective and acceptable international relations climate and
d.international image that promotes investments in Sri Lanka as an attractive destination against other competing nations
9.Review in a transparent manner via the parliamentary subcommittee the progress, plans , contractual commitments in sustainable extraction, costs and benefit sharing arrangements, sustainable national economic benefits and risk management issues relevant to exploitation of oil and gas
10.The rationale and justification for the Budget announcement driven depreciation of the Rupee by 3% as against the expected market oriented float of the Rupee, in a context where as the US Dollar was gaining upwards in the market against other international currencies in the weeks ahead. (The gain over the last three days of the US Dollar against the Euro being around 1%) and Indian Rupee was depreciating against the dollar (by over 5 % in a month).
11.Evaluate and validate whether policy regime, resource allocations and implementation processes support planned development of defined hubs in an effort to become the ‘Miracle of Asia’ by having enabling knowledge society empowered by
a.A capable talent pool of human resources (knowledge, skills attitudes and values)meeting market needs
b.Technology and best practices
c.Research and development
d.Creativity, innovativeness and leadership
12.Validate whether any land leases granted by government can be put to productive use for the purposes given within a one-year period.
13.What economic and management issues will impact plantation companies, when unused lands within company leases distributed as two-acre blocks leased to small holder families? How will this impact on further investments by plantation and other companies? How will the landless plantation workers on estate lands react and how will it affect their productivity?
14.How should the underperforming enterprises and underutilised assets be developed by the Government using the private sector?
15.Identify and ensure the necessary safeguards and risk and control oriented regulatory framework will be in effective enforcement in allowing banks and private sector entities to borrow overseas.
16.Has this Budget taken effective steps to touch on the real issues impacting on sustained export trade and services becoming a sector of rapid expansion and much value addition to all stakeholders?
17.Can rapid and sustainable development in manufacturing, plantation agriculture, trade, services and exports be a reality without CEPA and other regional and global trade and services facilitation agreements?
18.Identification of individual capital expenditure line items in excess of Rs. 1 billion and the agreement that national economic-social and environmental justifications for such projects will be placed before a parliamentary subcommittee before commitment and to be followed up with the presentation to the subcommittee of a post audit report by the Auditor General on the achievement of the set objectives, economy/efficiency and effectiveness of project management and timely implementation with due accountability, expected national economic and social befits and lessons learnt. Would this strategy not be a better option than target for a 9% across the board capital expenditure cut?
19.Agreement of a best practice framework and information flows for transparent and effective midyear and quarterly budget, fiscal and monetary outcomes review to be tabled before the parliamentary subcommittee and jointly critiqued
20.Agreement of a best practice framework and information flows to assure the parliamentary subcommittee that
a.procurement and payment systems in place for 2012 spends including large value tenders and
b.investment approvals and major / strategic project approvals
promote anti-corruption and transparent international best practices for economy/efficiency and effectiveness
21.A special detailed review and critique of the reports and compliance framework submitted in terms of the Fiscal Responsibilities Act
22.Agree the framework, timing and accountability for the submission to parliament for review and debate the fiscal gap of Sri Lanka as at end of 2011 (the value today/the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.)
23.Does the Budget 2012 adequately and with priority focus on the following key aspects essential for effective macroeconomic management
a.The ballooning trade deficit
b.Debt management programme, especially the foreign debt component
c.Planned debt equity conversions/swaps
d.International debt and country ratings
e.Post Audit assessment of whether significant infrastructure development investments made by the Government in the past four years, especially those financed by foreign commercial borrowings (e.g. Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport) will yield effective return on investments and adequate free cash flow returns to service the debt burden
f.Promoting Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure development both new investments and past investments like the toll-levying highway
24.Does the Budget in its totality support the vision set out for upholding Sri Lankan values and traditions, with equal opportunities for all citizens to be engaged in economic and social development, whilst focusing on rural agriculture and entrepreneurs, within a market economy and following global trends on a path to rapid development.
(The writer is a former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.)