By Asiri Fernando
SJB Parliamentarian Kabir Hashim
Main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday blamed the Government for crippling industries via twin blows of fuel price hike and the ban on chemical fertilisers.
“Both measures are drastic and will deal a serious blow to many industries and low-income communities,” SJB Parliamentarian Kabir Hashim charged.
He also rejected Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s justification that the hike was imposed due to global price fluctuations and COVID-19 impact.
“This price hike has affected our fishermen, three-wheel drivers, private bus operators, our low-income community that was already under pressure due to the pandemic,” Hashim told a media briefing along with Samagi Govi Peramuna (SGP) Convener Hemakumara Nanayakkara.
Hashim revealed that the Government had made significant savings during the COVID-19 crisis, owing to not having passed on a significant drop in global oil prices.
He also stated that the State-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) made billions of rupees in savings due to global oil prices plummeting in 2020 and pointed to several corporates posting record earnings in the same period.
"The CPC had significant savings, some corporates have shown record profits during that period. The CPC did not suffer losses. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the entire world. However, countries like Bangladesh managed to give Sri Lanka a loan while facing the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, the Minister’s rationale about the price hike is wrong," MP Hashim argued, stressing that failures in adopting the right policies at the right time were what put Sri Lanka in a position where it had been forced to increase the price of fuel, adding to the pressure on the public.
The Opposition MP stated that the Government had accepted that it generated Rs. 33 from each litre of diesel and Rs. 81 from a litre of petrol during the period when the international oil prices dropped.
According to Nanayakkara, no country sustains agriculture by using organic fertiliser to date. He charged that the Government's decision to ban organic fertiliser overnight would cause serious damage to food security and the livelihoods of many low-income communities involved in farming and crop cultivation.
"The Government has acted in a short-sighted manner. They are trying to implement a process that should have been phased in over decades in three months," Nanayakkara opined, adding that if not reversed, the move may cripple several export crop industries. He urged the Government to rethink the move and seek broad consultation on a sustainable approach to the issue.