‘Govt. has plan for next 10 years’

The government will continue to be in power and they are laying the foundation for the next 10 years, Non Cabinet Minister of Public Distribution and Economic Reforms Dr. Harsha de Silva and State Minister for Finance Eran Wickramaratne said.

They were addressing a media briefing at the Parliamentary complex yesterday.

“We are not fools and the government will present a budget that will win votes at the next election. We work AS a responsible Government,” Dr. de Silva said.

Dr.de Silva said the rupee depreciated by 16.4% last year as was with other countries in the region, but up to October last year the rupee depreciation was only 8.7%. However, during the three months during the coup it depreciated by 7.6%.

“The conspirators should be held responsible for this situation. Further, the currencies of several other countries including India and Indonesia appreciated, and if not for this Constitutional coup, the rupee would have stabilised to around Rs.172 against the dollar. The international debt repayment for this year is around $5.9 billion. The domestic debt has not been estimated yet, but that is not an issue.”

Commenting on the reduction of gas prices, Dr.de Silva said when the price of gas reduces internationally, the gas companies forget to notify the Consumer Affairs Authority.

“The CAA also forgets to notify the gas companies. However, with the new mechanisms to be enforced, this forgetfulness will not happen. The price will fluctuate according to the world market prices. We will stop this forgetful culture,” he added.

State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, expressing his views noted that those involved in the Constitutional coup should be punished while those who behaved violently in Parliament should be put behind bars.

“If an ordinary citizen had behaved in that manner they would be behind bars and I don’t think Members of Parliament acting in this manner should be protected under Parliamentary privileges for such things. But, the biggest issue was the economic cost. The country’s democratic institutions stood up and that was the biggest thing to be proud about. Parliament stood up and Parliamentary independence was protected, judiciary stood up and protected their independence and that was really a hallmark achievement. Even the independent commissions stood up and reversed the decisions of the executive and this shows that the Sri Lankan democratic institutions have stood up. The financial cost of the coup has been estimated to be around Rs. 21 billion and that’s just on interest costs. The cost to the tourism industry was in excess of 250 million dollars. There are obviously other losses which have not been estimated.”

However, he noted that despite the huge cost in losses, the challenge was in paying the debts but said emphatically that they will be meeting their debt obligations including the debt obligations in January. “We have never defaulted on debt and will not default on debt.

Giving a hint about the budget, Eran Wickramatunge said youth, women and development are the main areas of focus in the upcoming budget, adding that they will take on the role of responsible financial management and continue on the development process. We will focus on Gamperaliya to strengthen the village economy. During the coup at the first Cabinet meeting they stopped it but now it has been approved and will forge forward. Similarly, Enterprise Sri Lanka will also forge ahead with the aim of strengthening local industries,” he said, adding that special emphasis would also be given to the youth and women.

He noted that 168,000 A/L students qualified to enter universities but only 30,000 would be absorbed and there is another 138,000 that nobody talks about. “Every child, every student is important in our philosophy. We want to give them the opportunities to those students to receive higher education and those measures will be announced in the budget. Sri Lanka can distinguish itself for really having educated and skilled workforce. Every child has a dignity and potential and we are much focussed on giving them opportunities.”

Adding that Sri Lanka is probably the only middle income country in the whole of South Asia and lots of people have vehicles, he said the country must improve public transport, efficiency and the government is planning on investing on public transport.

Adding that women have made great progress over the years academically and professionally but their careers sometimes get interrupted when they get married and start families. “There is an economic cost to it and in this budget we want to include measures to help them.”


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