Government will discuss with banks, leasing companies for more relief – Minister

Bandula Gunawardena

The Government will discuss with leasing companies and banks to extend the grace period for lease payments and loan installments to grant relief to the public to face COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that Sri Lanka as well as the entire world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic yet the Sri Lankan government will grant more relief to people through the November Budget proposals to encourage the people to rejuvenate the economy.

He said that the Government could not allow middlemen to control prices of commodities at their will earning exorbitant profits like during the Good Governance government tenure.He pointed out that it was where the UNP went wrong and it was the same reason for the UNP not being able to elect a single MP.

He made these observations in response to a query made by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under standing order 27 (2).

Dr.Gunawardena said he agreed with Sajith Premadasa that the economy of the country was rendering the people helpless.

He added that the economy of the country was below US$ 20 billion each year since Independence until Mahinda Rajapaksa accepted the government in 2005.

However after terrorism was defeated, the economy rose and it was US$ 79.3 billion when the government was handed over to the UNP in 2015. The economic growth rate was 7 percent, Minister Gunawardena said that the economic growth rate dropped to 2.3 percent gradually during the last 5 years under good Governance tenure and it only could increase the economy upto 83.9 percent during the corresponding period. He said that as imports was allowed without any restriction during that period, the USD currency rate dropped from Rs 131.00 to Rs 180.00. He also said hence this government had to restrict the imports to protect local producers.

He added however the government has not controlled coconut and vegetable prices as the Price Control Act was cancelled by late Minister Lalith Athulathmudali during their reign.

He said further the government could not protect producers, consumers and the middlemen alike. He said that the government could ensure to protect the producers and let the consumers have access to products at a reasonable rate. “If the cost of a coconut is Rs. 30, the government cannot sell it at Rs. 150 like during the UNP regime,” Minister Bandula Gunawardena said.”

The Government cannot allow middlemen to control the price of commodities at their whims and fancies earning exorbitant profits like during Good Governance government’s tenure”. He said that a standard facemask was Rs. 50 or 60 at the market.

However, the same standard face mask by a local producer is sold at Rs 20 at the Cooperative shops and Sathosa. He added that in a such a manner the government controlled prices to provide relief to consumers.

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena.

(Source: Daily News – By Sandasen MARASINGHE, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawarachchi)