Parliament | Daily News


MR following Goebbels’ theory, while repeating lies written by someone else: Mangala

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who lived off public funds and ruled the country in a fascist manner, is now spreading lies about the country’s cost of living, whereas he did not know the cost of living during his government, Media and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in Parliament yesterday.

He said Rajapaksa was following Goebbels' theory and repeating the lies written for him by someone else, adding that although he had challenged him to a debate in this regard, he had not responded to it.

However, Minister Samaraweera said he was glad that Rajapaksa is taking some interest in the country’s cost of living even at this point, presenting a comparison of the prices of essential items now and during the Rajapaksa regime. Samaraweera said during the Rajapaksa regime, the public was burdened with over 80% of the indirect taxes placed on them, while he was now promising to reduce taxes by 20%. However, he has not presented a mechanism on how he would implement this plan to reduce taxes.The Finance Minister further said, “When we took over the government, a kilo of red rice was sold at Rs. 91, but today, it is between Rs. 85-86 per kilo. Samba was Rs. 97 and today it sells for Rs. 90. Sugar was Rs. 100, while today it sells at Rs. 108 per kilo. Potatoes was Rs. 104 per kilo earlier and today its Rs. 89, while coconuts have been reduced to Rs. 75. The majority of 90% of the population are not farmers, but we have granted concessions to the farmers. Today Mahinda Rajapaksa is trying to mislead the public by his false promises, but nowhere had he indicated how he proposes to reduce the indirect taxes by 20 percent.” The Finance Minister pointed out that if the tax percentage is to be reduced, the scope of charging taxes and paying of taxes should be widened. “Since the enforcement of the Inland Revenue Act from April 01, during the first month alone, 41,000 new tax files were opened within three weeks.” Minister Mangala Samaraweera said this commencing the debate on notifications under the Excise Ordinance in Parliament yesterday. Under the Excise Ordinance, four notifications were taken up for debate. When taxes are reduced on one hand, indirect taxes should be increased on the other, said Samaraweera, adding that the percentage of direct and indirect taxes was the highest in Sri Lanka. “By 2015, the government had only obtained 18% in direct taxes and there were only 400,000 direct tax files out of a population of 21 million. Both the rich and poor man paid the same indirect taxes. But if we are to change this system, we must broaden the taxation percentage. We need to change as a country. There are over 12% of those who do not pay taxes in comparison to those who do,” he said.

He said that by 2020 as anticipated, if the direct taxes are increased, the VAT could be reduced by at least 2.5%. From 1950, the income of the government has been far lesser than the expenses. The budget deficit in 2015 was 829.5 billion, while he said it was expected to be reduced to 675 billion by this year, adding that it was one of the greatest victories of the government.

Samaraweera noted that in 2005, 41.02% of the entire income was obtained through the VAT, but by 2016, it was reduced to 16.02%. In 2016, the Excise Duty was 36% of the government income. “But, during the Rajapaksa regime, it was only 22%. However, as a sensitive government, we have revised the taxes and we have exempted children under 18 from taxes. I urge Mahinda Rajapaksa to stop spreading lies and if he has a legitimate concern, he could present it. In the past when Karu Jayasuriya proposed the Right to Information, they opposed it being brought to Parliament, but ironically, today they are relying on the RTI for their information,” he added.

Govt. to bear cost of interest on loans below Rs. 150,000 obtained by females: Mangala

The government would bear the cost of interest of loans below Rs. 150,000 obtained by females from Micro Finance Companies, Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday. The special announcement with regard to this decision would be initiated on June 22, 2018, Minister Samaraweera said.

He also said the government is to take steps against officers attached to Micro Finance Companies who had sought sexual favours from debt ridden females. “We have received reports, we are looking into the matter and we will take steps against such sexual harassments,” Minister Samaraweera said.

Joining the Adjournment Motion moved by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake on the ETI Finance issue, Minister Samaraweera also said that the debt crisis situation created by micro finance companies in rural areas was a tragic situation. “These loan sharks have inflicted this issue especially in rural areas and districts affected by drought, such as Northern and North-Central regions. Most who fell for this debt trap were innocent women. They borrow a small amount of money at high interest rates and fell into trouble. Two elderly women had committed suicide unable to pay their debts. Young women who have obtained such loans are sexually harassed by officers of these finance companies,” Minister Samaraweera said.

Speaking on the ETI finance crisis and similar cases that had taken place, Minister Samaraweera said that the government together with the officers of the Central Bank and the General Treasury would discuss on long term and short term measures that should be taken to avoid future similar situations. An impartial committee would be appointed to further study and forward proposals on the issue, he further said.

Minister Samaraweera observed that Micro Finance Companies accounts a total assets worth of Rs.1.395 Trillion, which was 7% of the entire financial system of the country. As at March 2018, these micro finance companies had provided Rs. 1,102 billion worth credit and leasing facilities, which was 79% of their total assets, he also pointed out. Minister Samaraweera also said the Central Bank would request these companies to adhere to a 30% gap on the interest rate on their lending.

Govt plans to establish 1000 MW wind and solar energy combined power plant in Pooneryn

Plans are afoot to establish a 1000 MW wind and solar energy combined power plant in Pooneryn, Power and Renewable Energy State Minister Ajith P.Perera said yesterday. He also said that land measurements for the project had already been completed.

“Currently, we are looking into fulfilling legal requirements to the project. We will use competitive bidding as the procurement method when attracting investors,” State Minister Perera said.

He also said that another wind power plant and a solar power plant generating 100 MW and 150 MW respectively, would be established within the next two months. Both local and foreign investors would be able to invest in these plants, he added.

State Minister Perera also said that the Cabinet has consented to an agreement to bring in a revision to the selling price of a unit of electricity generated from roof top solar panels if necessary.

Such decisions would be taken after reaching the solar capacity of 100 MW, State Minister Perera said. Solar panels are currently paid Rs. 22 per unit during the first seven years for excess power supplied to the grid and from the eighth year on wards, generators are paid Rs. 15.50.

In answer to a question by UNP backbencher Nalin Bandara, State Minister Perera said that a total of 135.35 MW power is added by solar panels to the national grid as at May 2018.

Education Minister tells Chief Ministers to stop meddling with provincial schools

Political interference in transferring, attaching and appointing principals to provincial schools is tragic, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said yesterday.

He urged the Chief Ministers of all Provincial Councils to put a stop to such political meddling. Minister Kariyawasam pointed out that the government had taken steps to curb political influence on National Schools and requested the provincial authorities to do the same.

“There are many principals in these schools who were politically appointed. But as a Yahapalana government, we could not allow such appointments to be done in future, as we are adhering to specific recruitment policies,” Minister Kariyawasam pointed out.

“Some of these politically appointed principals influence parents to organize protests and demonstrations against administrative decisions. We will give priority to officers in Sri Lanka’s Principal Service as they are qualified and trained. If we don’t, it is inappropriate,” Minister Kariyawasam observed.

Govt. will not penalise CEB union workers: Ajith P. Perera

The government has no intention of taking revenge from CEB union workers who are fighting for their rights, said Power and Renewable Energy State Minister Ajith P. Perera in parliament yesterday.

He said that an impartial and fair trial will be held regarding the union leaders who have been interdicted and their issue would be resolved in a peaceful and fair manner.

The State Minister said the interdicted union leaders are from the UNP workers union, SLFP union and JVP union, adding that the investigation would be held a report will be called on August 19.

He said this in response to a question raised by the JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake on why the disciplinary inquiries of these interdicted workers is taking forever to be completed.

Dy Minister Ramanayake proposes committee responsible for sudden raids: COPE Chairman

At yesterday’s COPE meeting, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake had proposed the establishment of a committee responsible for sudden raids, re-elected COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti said yesterday. COPE would take further steps on the proposal soon, he added.

JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti was re-appointed Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and SLFP Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna as Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) yesterday.

Handunnetti was unanimously voted as COPE Chairman, proposed by MP Dayasiri Jayasekara and seconded by MP Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana. Alagiyawanna was unanimously voted as COPA Chairman, proposed by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe and seconded by UNP MP Kavinda Jayawardena.

Handunnetti said the focus on the COPE meeting was on a list of institutes that would be summoned before COPE during the course of this month. He also said that they had discussed on a way to provide official information concerning COPE meetings to the media.

M. M. Ismail to take oaths as new UNF MP

According to a Parliament source, M.M. Ismail is scheduled to take oaths as a new MP this morning (08), before Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

Ismail would take oaths as a UNF MP. Ismail has been named to fill in the vacancy created by the resignation of M.H.M Navavi of the SLMC.

The Elections Commission gazetted the name of Ismail as a new MP and sent it to the Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake, the source further said. MP M.H.M. Navavi submitted his resignation from his position on May 23, 2018. Navavi was a National list MP of the United National Front and a member of All Ceylon Makkal Congress.

JVP wants President Secretary summoned to Parliament

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday, urged that the President’s Secretary be summoned to Parliament in order to secure its reputation which was tarnished by rumors on the Treasury Bond Commission report.

MP Dissanayake said that President’s Secretary could then provide the required details on the Bond Commission report.

“There have been all sorts of rumours. Now the number of MPs who allegedly took money from those who are involved in the bond scam have risen from 118 to 166. Some allege that they were given cheques too. We need to get these clarified.” MP Dissanayake said.

Dissanayake also requested for the documents C1-C349 which are annexed to the Bond Commission report, be handed over to Parliament as well.

Mushrooming micro finance companies should be regulated: Dayasiri Jayasekara

SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara urged the government to establish a department for the regulation of micro finance companies which are mushrooming throughout the country.

Some of the rural women are provided livelihood training and when they finish their training, they are unable to start their own business and they obtain loans from these micro finance companies. “When they are unable to pay their loans obtained from one institution, they obtain another loan from another to meet their interest payments. Eventually, they get into a major debt trap and end up in deep trouble. Eventually, they lose even their homes,” he said.

He said that there was no mechanism in the country to regulate these loan schemes and also individual money lenders. “Those who obtain loans from these unregulated institutions, eventually lose everything and end up by committing suicide, when they find no way out of it.”

Therefore, he said the government could use the Samurdhi network in the country to regulate these micro finance companies and money lenders.

Jayasekara further noted that by removing the taxes on gold, gold prices in the country had dropped drastically, creating a whole range of issues. “A large amount of gold had been imported, but there was no evidence of any additional benefit for the country. There was no mechanism to find out who was importing gold, while a large amount of gold had also gone out of the country. Now there is a huge network smuggling gold between India and Sri Lanka. Therefore, a proper mechanism should be implemented to streamline these mechanisms to make them beneficial to the country,” Jayasekara noted.





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