By Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent
Budget 2013 has enabled the Government to set new growth targets in multiple levels including per capita income growth anticipated to reach US$4,000 by the end of next year from its current level of US$2,800, according to Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Dullas Alahapperuma, addressing the committee stage program of the Appropriation Bill – Budget 2013 on traditional industries and small enterprise development, industry and commerce, and higher education ministries and the respective State departments.
Moving the debate, UNP MP Gamini Jayawickrama Perera stated that the Budget was a failure where “smaller businessmen are strangled due to heavy taxation, with Lankaputhra Bank getting an allocation of Rs. 500 million, and unrecoverable loans going over Rs. 1,600 million. During this year almost 75 factories were closed where 8,000 jobs were lost.”
UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe joining the debate said: “Traditional industries and small enterprises are the lifeline of the rural economy. Credit facilities are not accessible from any banks but subjected to higher interest rates. Although this Budget has given some relief to large-scale industries, the remainder is completely neglected.”
According to DNA MP Sunil Handunnetti, step-motherly treatment has been meted out to traditional industries and small enterprise development. “People who have been engaged in traditional industries for generations are now reluctant to continue in the same sector. This is due to the lower income they receive from the sector. The Government should establish a program to safeguard and develop these sectors,” he said.
UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa joining the debate stated that the current Government had successfully established 26 industry parks, adding, “We are taking the industries to the village. This will have an impact on rural development. We are looking at coming to a ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ era.”
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishard Badiudeen disagreed with the Opposition, stating that export diversification introduced in Budget 2013 had provided adequate facilities to small industries. “We are looking at doubling national growth rate by 2020. Many of the international publications are finding our economic growth impressive and commendable,” he said.
UNP MP Kabir Hashim accused the Government of listening to World Bank instructions that led to a deduction of some of the money allocated for education. “The Government has failed to meet the minimum standard of allocating six per cent of the GDP for education. The standard should be eight students per lecturer, but we are at 17 students per lecturer level. From this Budget there is only Rs. 1,000 million allocated for higher education. This is not sufficient even to increase the salaries of the university lecturers,” he charged.
According to Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake, university intake will be increased by 5,800, starting in March 2013. “We will give scholarships to all those who need Mahapola Scholarships. We will establish the independence and integrity of all universities. Gone are the days that security within university premises was an issue. We have given all of it to private companies established by the Ministry of Defence regardless of the high cost,” he said.