Mahinda tells Govt to stop criticising his tenure
Kabir says 2016 is ‘best budget ever’
Dr. Harsha says budget fleshes out Premier’s mid-term economic policy outlook
JVP says budget seeks to privatise education; will result in weaker economy
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
The ‘consensus Government’ unveiled its maiden budget in Parliament yesterday, presented by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, the 20th person to hold the portfolio.
Minister Karunanayake’s budget speech ran over three hours, but the proposals found favour from most MPs on both sides of the aisle. The Mahinda Rajapaksa faction, however, only had disdain and strong criticism for the new Government’s economic forecast for 2016.
Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka who was happy about the allocations made for innovation and inventions said that the budget would create a “production and manufacturing based economy.”
Minister of City Planning and Water Supply Rauf Hakeem identified the budget as a development oriented move entertaining innovative ideas. “Education and the universities will be getting more money, which was among some of the public expectations,” he said.
However, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa held that the budget “lacked flavour” and said it was “too complicated”.
“I am going early simply because it is not easily understood by me or many of the other members. It is nothing but a budget that relies too much on foreign investment. It is high time that they stop criticising my tenure. They are trying to cover their faults by highlighting the lapses during my period,” MP Rajapaksa from the Kurunegala District said.
But even he acknowledged that the Government’s plan to provide Rs. 1.5 million per Grama Sevaka division was a good move. “But this will require trillions and not sure how the funds will be found to move it,” he cautioned.
According to TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, many relief measures had been offered in Budget 2016. “Essential food items, gas, and milk powders prices are reduced. At first glance, this is a relief budget for the people,” said MP Sumanthiran.
“The Government has taken action to develop the cinnamon industry, education development and cancelled vehicle permits for MPs and have also reduced the cost of living from this budget,” said Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P. Perera.
Former UNP strongman now in the Mahinda faction Johnston Fernando found it amazing that the Budget speech was so lengthy for the first time in the country’s history. “Many members left mid-way. The speech was too lengthy and difficult to understand. Minister Karunanayake should have given the task of the Budget speech to a child,” he charged.
UPFA Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma was not happy about the Budget, calling it a “failure”.
Rajapaksa loyalist and Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama accused the Government of attempting to “bring LTTE money back into Sri Lanka by offering dual citizenship,” Welgama said. He also acknowledged that the Government’s first budget contained some relief for the needy.
UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa claimed the Government was trying monitories free education. “The budget is different from the midyear report the Prime Minister presented recently. However, the Budget pledges money for villages for development. We doubt it would happen compared to the few promises delivered from the 100 Day Program,” said MP Namal Rajapaksa.
Minister of Public Enterprise Development Kabir Hashim enthused that the Budget 2016 was the most attractive of all time. “It reflects the reality of the Government’s development plans,” he said.
“The Economy is not good and it has various issues. But we have taken to improve infrastructure development, education was allocated 6%, more for health sector, housing and land allocations are better than before. We have taken measures to reduce disparity by creating a supply and demand based market economy,” Hashim said.
Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero was also happy about the action taken to reduce artificial fertilizer use. “This is a pro public budget. This gives a new path to follow in terms of economic development. I am happy about the agriculture policy. Especially the action taken to encourage the use of natural fertilizer,” said the Thero.
UPFA MP Lakshman Seneviratne confirmed that Budget 2016 had some reliefs in it although he was unable to understand many sections. “The price reduction of essential items is a good move. But regulations have to be brought in to make it work,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Economist Dr. Harsha de Silva said: “This is a good budget which gives meat to the skeleton that the Prime Minister articulated two weeks ago in his medium term economic plan. So, this is a structural change from the budgets that have been presented. It takes into account the game plan going forward and gives it the necessary legislative framework and the regulatory framework to put the vision into implementable form. For instance we believe a structural change is required for subsidies given and distributed. There is lot of corruption and waste in the way the subsidies are distributed now. We have made the subsidies a cash transfer. Instead of cloth we are giving the money to parents to by cloth. The farmer gets money to buy the best fertilizer from the market.”
According to Minister of Housing and Construction Sajith Premadasa the 2016 Budget has looked after the housing needs of the country. “The Budget allocates large amounts of money for the homeless and middle class housing. The education sector is also a part of the development we have in mind with ICT, libraries, buildings, and furniture. Generally this is a positive budget aimed at looking after the ordinary people,” said Minister Premadasa.
However, JVP MP Anura Dissanayake said the Government has misled the public with efforts taken to privatise education and many other sectors. “We feel that this Budget is like a reservoir dam that has broken. The water is flooding the land below. The entire economy will be destroyed. Education and the land have become goods sold in the market. This will never take our country to a new direction but help to sustain only a small group of people,” said MP Dissanayake.