Sri Lanka should develop the ability to manufacture complex goods within the country and Budget 2019 has provided the incentives to promote new inventions, Non Cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Dr. Harsha de Silva said. He said this in Parliament yesterday joining the debate on the Second Reading of the budget.
De Silva said the Central Bank reports clearly blamed the economic downfall and the depreciation of the rupee on the 52 day political crisis.“Now they say that there is no surplus of the primary account, but back then there was no surplus but a deficit,” and he questioned Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa if he was able to obtain even a dollar in loans during his 52 days in power as the Finance Minister.
“No one was willing to give us any loans because you had destroyed the credibility of the country. The 52 day government had got Sri Lanka downgraded. In 2018, the rupee depreciation against the US dollar was recorded by the Central Bank as 16.36% and of that 7.58% of the depreciation had occurred during the 52 day period. The Opposition also alleged that foreign investors had withdrawn their invested Treasury Bills having lost faith in our government. But, the fact is that $133.6 million in Treasury Bonds had been withdrawn from the Colombo Stock Market in 2018 and of that $96.9 million (73%) had been withdrawn during the period of October, November and December. Hence, there is no point in harping on this matter any further as it is clear in the data released by the Central Bank,” de Silva noted.He said the Opposition is talking so much about the loans the current government has taken, but the $750 million that was taken by the Rajapaksa government too had to be paid by the current government last year.
Meanwhile, raising a Point of Order, Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena said the government had lied to the IMF that there was a surplus of the primary account last year in an attempt to mislead the IMF and challenged Minister Harsha de Silva to come with the IMF and he would prove what he said.
n response, Dr. Harsha de Silva tabled the Treasury Department report and asked that it be included in the Hansard together with his speech.
“In 2014 during Bandula Gunawardena’s tenure there was a deficit in the primary account of Rs.155 billion. In 2015, the deficit in the primary account was Rs.302 billion. However, for the first time in some 50 years in 2017, we managed to record a surplus in the primary account amounting to Rs.2 billion and in 2018 it was Rs.91 million and this year we anticipate a surplus of Rs.228. The Opposition had not paid the EPF of 17 institutions amounting to Rs. 38 million,” Minister de Silva said.
He noted that one of the most productive initiatives has been the Suwa Seriya Ambulance Service where 1,500 persons have been given employment. The ambulance service transports around 450 patients to hospital daily. Through the budget, Rs. 2000 million has been allocated to further expand the 1990 Suwa Seriya Ambulance service to cover the whole country, while Rs. 600 million has been allocated to provide resting facilities to those working on this ambulance service.
With regard to the proposal to grant student loans of Rs. 1.1 million to students who could not gain admission to state universities and want to pursue their higher education at non-state universities, he said this loan was mainly to encourage students who pursue their higher education in science, engineering and mathematics etc. He noted that the budget was very comprehensive and had made provisions for every sector.
(Government News Portal)