Over Rs. 140 bn of Rajapaksa era dues already settled – Mangala | Daily News

‘Economy has moved from ICU to normal ward’:

Over Rs. 140 bn of Rajapaksa era dues already settled – Mangala

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, stressing that the country’s economy had come to a stable position due to sound fiscal policies introduced over the past few years, invited Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to enter into a public debate on the true status of the national debt.

Addressing a press conference at his Ministry premises yesterday, the minister fired salvos at former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was also the then Finance Minister, over gross mismanagement of the economy and practices of crony capitalism.

The Minister, in a lengthy response to a recent statement of Opposition Leader Rajapaksa over the country’s debt, pointed out that much of the current Government’s borrowings was to repay the loans obtained at high interest rates during the Rajapaksa era for costly white elephant projects.

He said the Government has already repaid all loan installments and interests due in 2019, which adds up to USD 4,200 million, which was the highest ever debt repayment in the country’s history. “We don’t have to settle any loans until October next year. This was because of prudent and systematic fiscal management of the Government,” he added.

He pointed out the Government has been able to turn around the country’s economy without unnecessarily burdening the ordinary people. “From January 1, 2020, the public servants’ salaries will see an increase between Rs. 5,500 and Rs 34,000 as per the Presidential Commission’s recommendation. All the allowances, except that of the Cost of Living allowance, will be added to the basic salary. The prices of essential goods, including domestic LP gas, petrol and diesel, are still lower compared to their prices towards the end of 2014. These achievements were despite the setbacks faced due to the last year’s 52-day political coup, Easter Sunday terrorist attacks and severe droughts and floods in the past few years,” he said.

The Minister, complaining on the misuse of EPF under the Rajapaksa administration, said the report of on-going forensic audit of the EPF conducted by the Central Bank would be out by December, and that it would reveal more underhand dealings.

Reminding of the colossal amounts of money spent on the failed bid to hold the Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka, the construction of the Mattala International Airport, Hambantota Port, Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium, and highways in Hambantota, and the extent of financial mismanagement of Sri Lankan Airlines, the Minister said the current Government has had to pay for the sins of the Rajapaksa administration.

He said the current Government had settled Rs 140 billion overdue for various irregular projects carried out in the past regime. “The economy, which was in the ICU when we assumed the duties, is now in a normal ward. Within the next five years, we can make it a healthy economy,” he remarked.

The Minister, responding to a question by a journalist on the increase of foreign liquor allowed in the possession of a person, said it was done to revise out-dated laws in the Excise Act. He said a new Excise Bill would be presented to update all archaic laws before December.

Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S.Samaratunga was also present.


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