“Dawn of a new era of prosperity”: Basil

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Following are excerpts from Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s speech during the 2014 Budget, committee stage debate in Parliament on 4 December The President’s aim was to raise the living standards of all individuals and all families when he decided to build a new Sri Lanka. He obtained the views of the people in formulating this policy. When the economy improves it is possible to increase the country’s revenue through big businesses and multinational corporations. But the objective of the Mahinda Chinthana is to bring up everyone and every family whether they live in the cities, towns, plantation areas or villages to the same level. Vegetable prices We expected to develop 100,000 home-gardens to make each of them household economic unit. During 2005, 2012 and 2013, the prices of certain vegetables went down. You can obtain the relevant information from the Census and Statistics Department. The price of a kilo of leeks was reduced from Rs. 113.41 in 2012 to Rs. 87.03 in 2013. The price of kilo of beetroot was reduced from Rs. 95.31 in 2012 to Rs. 79.18 in 2013. The price of a kilo of noolkol was reduced from Rs.53.85 to Rs. 40.42. The price of a kilo of radish was reduced from Rs. 41 to Rs. 36. The price of kilo of tomatoes was reduced from Rs. 109.44 to Rs. 41.77. This is based on the general price list of the Census and Statistics Department. Accordingly there was a considerable price reduction of many vegetables including bitter gourd, beans and cucumber. By this price reduction we hoped to give some relief to those engaged in the cultivation of commercial crops. This is the reason why we reduced the price of vegetable fertilser by 50%. Liquid milk consumption There is great trend towards liquid milk consumption these days after we popularised it. Since we and the Ministry concerned worked jointly there is major increase in liquid milk production. Our main concern was to once again attract people towards liquid milk consumption. At one time a school child who did not consume powdered milk issued by CARE had to produce a letter from his/her parents giving the reasons for it. That letter was valid only for one week. So every week the child had to produce a letter for the same purpose. This was how our children were made to become milk powder addicts. A false idea was circulated stating that consuming liquid milk leads to phlegm problems. As result some parents sold their liquid milk and bought powdered milk with that money for their children. We began changing that situation. In this regard I am thankful to the patriotic members of the Government Medical Officers Association for educating the public on this matter unlike some doctors in the past who spoke in support of powdered milk consumption. Ornamental fish industry Regarding the ornamental fish industry, we know that it is very easy to rear ornamental fish by making only a small investment. We were able to popularise this and able to generate incomes by exporting ornamental fish. Although it is said that this is not in agreement with religious principles, this is an industry which every family can get involved in without any fear. Handloom industry We started many industries under the Divi Neguma program. Out of them the handloom industry occupies a special place. There were over 10,000 handloom centres, known as ‘textile schools’ all over Sri Lanka in the 1970s. Each of these centres had at least 20 or 30 machines. In addition to these centres, households too joined this industry. In later years thes industry collapsed completely. The power-loom industry too was in a stage of near collapse. Earlier the Textile Industries Department and also some cooperatives had established a power-loom industrial centre in every district. Subsequently all of them had to be closed down. We revived the handloom industry and took steps to export high quality textiles to the foreign market. Kitul industry We also took steps to develop the kitul industry which is based on trees that grow naturally. Today it is possible to obtain about Rs. 10,000 from a kitul tree. We removed the legal restrictions imposed on the industry and gave people the opportunity to tap kitul trees without a permit. We also took steps to develop the industry by providing the necessary chemicals, equipment, protective clothing and head gear. In addition we established a market for the products. We helped to raise their income level as entrepreneurs and provided them with credit facilities under the micro finance scheme. Under this the President has taken steps to increase these facilities. Project loans The President has also taken steps to allow women to obtain loans up to Rs. 250,000 without a security and irrespective of age in response to complaints that women over the age of 60 were facing difficulties when trying to obtain loans. The number of project loans for the agricultural sector is 77,059 and the amount of loans Rs. 5,870 million. Of this number the loans given to the fisheries industry is 3,000 (amount Rs. 456 million); to the livestock industry 9,457 (amount Rs. 812 million); to the household industry it is 41,073 (amount Rs. 2,600 million); to others 72,292 (amount Rs. 6,687 million). Accordingly a total of Rs. 16,439 million has been given to 202,987 people for launching projects under the micro-finance credit scheme and Divi Neguma. We have also taken steps to ensure an export market for flowers and some people have been able to sell over 100,000 plants per week following the establishment of the ‘Diyatha Uyana’ in cooperation with the Urban Development Authority at Battaramulla. Samurdhi beneficiaries In 2006 there were 1,916,594 Samurdhi beneficiaries. By 2013 it was reduced to 1,476,607. It means the number was reduced by 439,987. The former Samurdhi beneficiaries have been economically strengthened to earn higher incomes without depending on relief assistance. Percentagewise the reduction is by 22.9%. But it is a falsehood that we stopped Samurdhi assistance altogether. It is due to the country’s development that the number of Samurdhi beneficiaries has decreased. Divi Neguma and Gama Neguma have all contributed to it. The data on per capita income is the best measurement of the negative or positive side of an economy. Per capita income in Sri Lanka in 2006 was US$ 1,241. By 2012 it went up to US$ 2,923 – a twofold increase. By 2016 our target is to make per capita income US$ 4,000. Ports and aviation In ancient times this country had shipping services and harbours. Considering the geographical location of this country the President made a huge investment to the first harbour after 500 years of foreign occupation. Two we have developed two harbours. Colombo Harbour has been widened and developed. In 1965 the Dudley Senanayake Government explored the possibility of building a second airport in Hingurakgoda. Prior to the 2005 Ranil Wickremesinghe visited Kuda Oya in Monaragala and placed a foundation stone for building a new airport. These were done because of a need for an additional airport. But only the present President was able to make it a reality. Power generation We have invested a massive amount for power generation. When the hydroelectric schemes started by Wimalasurendra could not meet the demand for electricity we had to seek alternative sources like coal power. But no leader had the guts to make that decision, except the President. Railways After the British departed not a single new railway line was built. Instead the number of tracks was reduced. But the President was able to initiate the rebuilding of tracks to Jaffna via Mannar, Madu and Omanthai. Steps were also taken to build the Matara-Kataragama railway. Locomotives have been repaired and coaches were provided for this purpose. Healthy nation Economic development is needed not only for today but for all times and the economy should not be allowed to collapse. We need manpower for this. Therefore we need a healthy nation. In view of this we have made a massive investment to improve the people’s health and nutrition.