Opposition shows flipside of flour argument

Friday, 9 December 2011 01:19 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva blasts PM on import banning statement

UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday insisted that the statement by the Prime Minister that wheat flour imports should be banned is an irresponsible statement and must be retracted.

“While it may be his choice to consume only rice, or he wishes more people in this country ate rice, he must be made aware that some people in Sri Lanka are totally dependent on wheat flour,” de Silva said in a statement.  The statement pointed out that the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) for 2006 found that an average Tamil family in the estate sector consumed 17.4 kg of wheat flour per month when the cost per kg was less than Rs. 40. At the time the national monthly average was 2.4 kg per household.

Even though the price of wheat flour has doubled since then to Rs. 85 per kg currently, the HIES for 2010 found that estate Tamil households consumption only fell marginally to 15.4 kg per month.

The 2010 data, which covers the entire island, also shows that the household wheat flour consumption in the Jaffna District was 19.3 kg per month, while in Vavuniya it was 18.1 kg per month, in contrast to Hambantota at 0.4 kg per month and Matara at 0.8 kg per month.

“Therefore, someone must explain to the Prime Minister that given the preference for wheat flour in their daily meal even at much higher prices, not only Tamils living on the estates but in the north as well continue to purchase significant amounts of wheat flour. This is because this segment of our population is used to, and simply enjoys, consuming roti and other food prepared using wheat flour.”

He pointed out that banning the import of wheat flour, or even increasing the taxes on wheat flour to very high levels, would exacerbate what in economics is called ‘Horizontal Inequalities’.

“Simply put, the Prime Minister must be briefed that such a half-baked policy will have a significant negative impact on the Tamil people of this country just when policies must be designed to reduce such inequalities,” he insisted.