Political instability for 52 days led to country’s economic downturn - Mangala

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera delivering his summing up speech in Parliament yesterday said that the country was downgraded by international ratings due to power hungry politicians like former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the 52 day illegal government that created political instability.

“This led to the country’s economic downturn,” he said. He said that the government was compelled to borrow at higher rates due to the poor ratings.”

“The rates increased by 3% . We have lost Rs. 6.4 billion at least,” Minister Samaraweera said.

Samaraweera added that the Rajapaksa regime established the micro credit mafia putting innocent women in the country into great difficulty.

“It is true that the interest on sovereign bonds had increased more than Thailand, Greece etc., Minister Samaraweera said.

Responding to allegations by the Opposition about those caught up in the microfinance mafia, the Finance Minister said that it is the Rajapaksa regime that established the micro credit mafia which had placed the innocent women of this country into great difficulty.

However, he noted that the government has taken a decision to write off the loans of 45,000 poor women.

“During the 52 days, the Minister of Finance who occupied my seat forcibly, Mahinda Rajapaksa should have read his speeches prior to delivering them as they were utter lies. I have no idea who writes these for him. After all he is our Opposition Leader. Whatever said and done he was the President for 9 years,” Samaraweera teased.

“Wimal Weerawansa who coined the word economic hitman was in fact responsible for destroying the economy during the 52 day illegal government. It is ironic that the economic slayers who destroyed the country’s economy are trying to preach to us, he said in response to Weerawansa.

The Finance Minister said Budget 2019 is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs and increasing production rather making the entire country dependent on the government.

“We are putting our best foot forward to enable them to have skills rather providing them with free food. It is true that there is concessionary food offered in Budget 2019. We want to create people who can stand on their own feet. We don’t want to give them some food and make them happy, but we prefer to give them a fishing rod and have them fend for themselves. We don’t want to give them a roofing sheet and a bag of rice and hoodwink them.”

The Government has allocated 87 billion for the development of the agriculture and fisheries sectors and 65 billion for irrigation, Samaraweera noted. “Was there ever a time when so much was allocated for farmers? We want the farmers to be entrepreneurs. We have catered for the safekeeping of agriculture products in warehouses and freezers. Enterprise Sri Lanka has provided more facilities to start their own business. They will be granted loans under Ran Aswanu loan scheme of up to 5 million at 7% interest, payable in 8 years. We have allocated Rs.1.3 billion for the development of fisheries harbours and anchorages.”

“There were so many small vehicles imported to Sri Lanka,” the Finance Minister said, adding that vehicles flooded the country’s roads like a vehicle tsunami leading to the country’s money being sent out.

“According to statistics, the highest number of private vehicles were bought during our government. Since last Friday, we have removed the 100% cash margin. In terms of vehicle permits, discussions are underway to remove barriers along with the appreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee. During the past 2 months, the rupee has appreciated by 2.5%. As our currency is stabilising, we have decided to remove the restriction of importing motor vehicles by public servants under the concessionary permit. Retired public servants who have obtained the concessionary permits will be able to import their motor vehicles effective from May. Similarly, public servants who have obtained concessionary permits will be able to import their motor vehicles stage by stage on a first come first out basis effective from June 1,” he said, adding that the Finance Ministry will issue the guidelines by March end.

Referring to the NBT levy, Samaraweera said there is a levy of 3.5% NBT applied on the Internet purchases made from abroad only.

“Facebook advertising will also be affected. However, it will not be applied on the local websites and ecommerce transactions. The NBT would be charged in place of the 2.5% stamp duty.For instance companied such as Uber, the revenue is sent overseas, unlike local companies such as PickMe. Hence, by this levy, the country retains some of the money that is sent out of the country.”

However, the Finance Minister stated that this is the only era that the salaries of state sector employees had increased by 107% within three years.

“We have increased salaries of all state sectors and this year we have provided an allowance of Rs.2,500 until the schemes are made. The previous regime survived by marketing the military. But we have increased their allowances. We have increased the salaries of police by 40% by our government and their allowances.”

Commenting on the lack of proper toilet facilities in many public places, especially the courts, he said the government will build new toilets for all courts from this Budget. “The Justice Minister gave me a list of courts in the country and we will build toilets for men, women and for those with disabilities. Each of the nine provinces will get international standard stadiums. We have allocated moneys for this.”

In response to claims made that children’s savings accounts were being taxed, the minister said that it is false that the government charges taxes from children’s accounts. “This is wrong. The taxes will apply only if your interest income is Rs.5,000 or more. You will have to have Rs.1.2 million to receive an interest income of Rs.5,000,” he clarified.

 

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