Tamil Diplomat

Interim budget, relief to people: Minister Champika

Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka has praised that the interim budget of the new governemtn presented by Finance Minister Ravi Krunanayake provides relief to people and removes burden placed on poor people by the previous government through heavy and unfair taxes.
Addressing the House, he added:
‘ The foremost intention of the new government was to introduce political restructuring and provide essential economic relief to the people. One main characteristic of the interim budget presented in Parliament was the removal of heavy unfair taxes on essential items, which were imposed by the Rajapaksa regime.
As a result, we have been able to reduce the prices on essential items and fuel etc. I believe that the taxes on vehicles should be imposed based on a national policy. At one time during the previous regime, hybrid vehicles were charged enormous taxes when the then government was out of money. What we have presented here is not a ‘Robinhood Budget’ but it has looked into measures of providing relief to the people. During the past years under the Rajapaksa regime, development was carried out in various quarters without a proper strategical evaluation.
A good example is the Mattala airport which was constructed by spending a colossal Rs. 27 billion. The annual income of this airport is just Rs. 192,000. The country has been trapped in a serious debt crisis. The real amount of state debt was never presented in the budget presented by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The development projects of the then regime has failed to contribute to the national economy.
Another major issue of the development of the previous regime is the destruction of the environment. Environmental Officers and Wildlife Officers were unable to implement the law against most of the culprits who caused destruction to the environment. The damage caused to the environment during that period was immeasurable. We have to overcome the middle-income earnings trap. For that purpose, we have to pursue a production-oriented economy. We have to realize the true situation that is prevalent. The illusion ornamental development as that of the Rajapaksa regime cannot hide this reality. The economic growth of the country as stated during the years 2011 to 2014 was purely artificial. It was in fact only an economic bubble.
There had been a construction bubble and a credit bubble in the country. People should be made aware of the tedious realities. The debt of the Petroleum Corporation as at today is Rs. 431 billion. This debt is not written anywhere in the books. This is a very dangerous situation. During the Rajapaksa regime, the export income of the country as a percentage of the GDP dropped considerably. I pointed out this reality to the then President on numerous occasions. The heavy taxes on fuel imposed by the previous regime has been removed by our new government. We considered the removal a priority. One hundred percent control of the tax income of the country was in the hands of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa. There is no other country in the world, where a nature of this had happened. This reason alone was sufficient for the people to topple the previous government. Occurrences of corruption, bribery and fraud were unprecedented during the Rajapaksa regime. The income of an ordinary family did not increase, meanwhile funds allocated for health and education were curtailed. The previous government lied very much with regard to foreign reserves. Yes, it is correct that there was USD eight billion in foreign reserves, but that amount was from foreign loans. The real amount of foreign reserves of the country amounted to minus two billion USD.
The next two years will be critical for the country despite whoever rules it. We need to establish a self-sustaining economy in Sri Lanka. We hope that all members in Parliament irrespective of party differences would join with the government to introduce the needy changes for the country in order to usher a better future for our future generation.’