JVP questions practicality of Budget 2018

Saturday, 11 November 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • 26-day Budget debate begins


By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

The Appropriation Bill 2018 Second Reading Adjourned Debate commenced yesterday, with Opposition lawmaker JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti questioning the Unity Government on the likelihood of completing the tasks set in Budget Speech 2018, compared to the considerably higher number of unfinished goals and promises made during the last four budgets.

“The main aim of a budget is to explain the vision of a government and to show the plan for the coming year. In 2016 the vision was different and in 2017 it was themed accelerating growth with social inclusion. Now you are moving a different theme this year – Blue - Green Budget; the Launch of Enterprise Sri Lanka. We would like to know the success of your pervious budgets. How much of it was achieved? Many of the promises you made last year are pending. We have a list of such promises including the tabs promised to school children. What you have promised in the previous budget is now promised to different parts of the country,” said Handunnetti, demanding an explanation on the economic vision of the Government.

Referring to alleged plans to amend old laws, the MP said there is an effort taken to drive the privatisation of state establishments. “You have only managed to increase disparities in poverty, education, social status, and many more areas. Every person is in debt. You are reaching the climax of debt servicing in 2019. As a nation we have to pay this. You are looking at different types of taxes having failed to collect money from the direct and indirect taxes already levied on people. The 20-cent tax is the latest stance. You came up with the nation building tax in a small way and it became a big issue. There are many things happening outside the budget. Especially the sale of Mattala airport and the oil tanks in Trincomalee. There are many bankrupt apparel factories. But the local investors are taxed heavily even before starting the factories again,” he said.

According to MP Handunnetti, local investors have faced step motherly treatment. “Even though this is your maiden budget you are trying to make this the funeral of our economy by neglecting the local investors and manufacturers. In the past people were looking forward to catching a bus or a train. Now this has changed to where people have to look forward to seeing the next oil ship. This is how you have developed the country. You should be ashamed of this. You have now introduced a sugar tax and removed the beer tax. You are saying that sugar tax is brought to stop the consumption of sugar. The beer company use 300 bags of sugar per day for beer manufacturing. So, the purpose is lost. You are also looking at revising taxes on state services. Let us know what these services are,” he went on to say.

Handunnetti also criticised Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera for avoiding the income from foreign employment in this budget. “You have not mentioned the contribution of the foreign employees and the state sector,” he said.

In response, Minister Samaraweera said: “The open economy moved forward only between 1978 till 1980. Now what we have is a backward economy. The 20 cents tax has to be paid by the bank and cannot be passed to the customer. We have provided an equal playing field for both local and foreign investors. There is no disparity between the benefits provided for them both. People are resorting to soft liquors around the world. We need to follow it and stop going for hard liquors.”