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Migrant workers provided with COVID safety items– Minister Siripala de Silva

According to data from the Bureau of Foreign Employment and the Department of Immigration and Emigration, there are 816,433 Sri Lankan migrant workers as at November 13,

Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva was responding to a question by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Chaminda Wijesiri.

Minister De Silva said that they have taken steps to provide dry rations and healthcare items such as sanitisers and masks to the migrant workers who are in areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, via embassies. The Bureau of Foreign Employment has also provided assistance to workers who have registered with the Bureau of Foreign Employment to obtain insurance cover from the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation in case they have to return to Sri Lanka, the Minister said.

A total of 102 requests for air tickets and medical treatment have been submitted to the Bureau by migrant workers suffering from COVID-19, Minister De Silva said. The number of checks approved by the Insurance Corporation so far is 49 and the amount approved by the Insurance Corporation so far is Rs.23,88,228, the Minister said.

Minister De Silva said that if a worker who is registered with the Bureau of Foreign Employment dies of COVID- 19 within the registration validity period, the Bureau will intervene to obtain compensation to that worker's dependents. At present, 68 patients registered with the Bureau have died of COVID-19,” Minister De Silva said.

“Forty thousand rupees will be given to the migrant workers to carry out religious activities. The total amount of compensation paid is Rs. 920,000. There are 24 insurance claims submitted to the Bureau to be forwarded to the Insurance Corporation and the total amount of the claims is Rs. 12 million. The number of cheques approved is six with a value of Rs. 3 million,” he said.

Minister De Silva said that in addition, the dependents of six persons who died of the virus have requested compensation although their registration validity period has expired, Minister De Silva said. One Nandana Priyatha, a dependent was given Rs. 300,000 via EPF.”

According to the Minister, information on migrant workers returning to Sri Lanka due to the pandemic are recorded and computerised by the Quarantine Centres.

“As at November13, the number of such arrivals was 13,181 and the details of 6,667 migrant workers have been computerised.

About 1617 of them are looking for jobs in the country and only 2,163 are hoping to go back abroad. Of the 654 people seeking employment in the country, 64 were seeking further training and 2,159 were migrant workers with other needs.” Minister De Silva added.

Minister De Silva said that all steps have been made by the Ministry to repatriate these workers back to the country under the guidance of the COVID-19 Task Force and the External Affairs Ministry. As at November 13, 11,276 workers from 14 countries have been brought to Sri Lanka, the Minister said.

Allocated more to develop small tea estates – State Minister

The Government has allocated a greater amount to develop small scale tea estates and this is far greater than allocations made in previous years, Company Estate Reforms, Tea and Rubber Estates Related Crops Cultivation and Factories Modernization and Tea and Rubber Export Promotion State Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Government’s aim is to increase the country’s production and bring in gains to the country, he said, joining the debate of the Second Reading of the 2021 Budget in Parliament yesterday.

“We have taken measures to grant Rs. 1,000 wage to the estate sector, something that the previous government was unable to do. This budget is one that is targeted to attract foreign exchange to the country. We have targeted to open 10 technical colleges and this is a very important step. We have also aimed to commence a cultivation drive and have given priority to national security. Therefore, I urge the opposition to join hands with us in taking this country forward,” he said.

COPE to commence proceedings – Prof. Herath

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) of the Ninth Parliament will commence its proceedings from tomorrow (20), its Chairman Parliamentarian Prof. Charitha Herath said.

The COPE committee proceedings were halted temporally with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Chairman said that it was decided to hold the meetings with the minimum participation of the officials in compliance with the COVID 19 health guidelines. The special audit report on feasibility study and procurement activities of the Central Expressway project will be taken up before the COPE Committee tomorrow.

The COPE has summoned Road Development Authority Chairman, Project Director, Central Expressway Project Accountant, Highways Ministry Accountant and other officials not exceeding seven for the meeting.

Invest without fear now – MP Semasinghe

The private sector is invited to invest without fear as the tax policy that has been introduced through this Budget proposals would remain unchanged during the next five years unlike during the previous government tenure, Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment, Business Development State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said in Parliament yesterday.

He said that the Government reduced all sorts of taxes to encourage the production and the manufacturing in the country to develop the national economy based on the local production.

The State Minister was participating in the Second Reading Debate of the Appropriation Bill made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday in Parliament.

He said that the economy of the country commenced to drop from 2015 with the election of the Good Governance Government led by the United National Party (UNP). He added that with such an economy handed over by the UNP, the Government has had to drive forward amidst the COVID 19 pandemic.

However, while all the other economies are affected severely, the Government has been able to build confidence in the people through successful efforts to alleviate the people's difficulties.

Sajith says attempt to remove Forest Dept authority over residual forests

An attempt is made to cancel Circular 5/2001 and removed the authority of the Forest Department over the land known as 'residual forests', and bring it under government agents and Divisional Secretaries, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said in Parliament yesterday.

He raised a question under standing orders 27/2 and said that the land holds great significance and includes thousands of acres of biologically valuable forests and small sensitive ecosystems. Rivers and streams, some catchment areas, historical and archaeological sites are found in the remaining forests, he said. Opposition Leader Premadasa said that this indiscrimination could endanger valuable ecosystems, plants and wildlife.

He said that therefore, the Government needs to make careful decisions on such issues; otherwise, all have to suffer the repercussions of destroying these residual forests, he said. He, therefore, questioned the Government if they accept the importance of these forests and appoints an intellectual committee comprising government and opposition members to look into this matter and suspend this circular until the recommendations of this committee is submitted.

The Wildlife and Forest Conservation Minister C.B. Ratnayake said that he will respond to the questions once the gathering of information was complete.

Budget far from development –MP Eran Wickremeratne

The Budget is far from development oriented, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Eran Wickremeratne yesterday said in Parliament.

MP Wickremeratne was participating in the debate on the Budget for the fiscal year 2021 in Parliament.

“Even though the Budget is said to be development oriented, we do not see that it is such a budget. A budget should look into the economic and social well-being of the people. But right now, the poor people suffer. The rich have got more luxuries. Society is more evident than ever before. We cannot be happy with the way the Government are treating migrant workers. These foreign workers increase our foreign reserves. They earn not only for their families but for the whole country,” the MP said.

MP Wickremeratne said that health workers such as nurses do very difficult jobs. “They work for a low salary. Nurses are a vital part of the quality of our health sector. They put themselves at risk while working. We need to facilitate them. It is the tax payers who pay for airports and ports. People should get a benefit out of them. But the profits of these development projects go to individuals,” he said.

Budget proposals will strengthen youth – MP Yadamini

These Budget proposals for the financial year 2021 are meant for the youth with the highest allocations ever made for the IT sector and professionals in the technology field to win the world as envisaged in the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour in line with the vision of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, National List MP Yadamini Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday. He was making his maiden speech in Parliament joining the Second Reading debate of the Appropriation Bill made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday in Parliament. He said that at a time when the global pandemic COVID 19 had dropped the global economic growth rate to minus 5.2, the Government has been able to protect the economy while making unprecedented allocations for the youth and rural economy.

He said that Rs 15 billion has been proposed to allocate for the IT technology sector. He added that an unprecedented high amount of allocations has been proposed for the pregnant mothers, it is again for the youth and the future generation.

Budget proposals have no benefit for poor – SJB MP Kiriella

The budget proposals for the financial year 2021 have no relief for the poor in the country, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Kandy District Parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella yesterday said.

He said that the people expected relief with the budget and not roads, bridges and other infrastructure facilities. Their expectations, therefore, have not been fulfilled with the budget, MP Kiriella said.

He was participating in the second reading debate on the Appropriation Bill by the Prime Minister in Parliament. The MP said that during the previous government’s tenure, a bounty of relief was granted to the public with the budget proposals. We reduced prices of commodities including food items. We increased the Samurdhi benefits. -

Nearly 3,000 companies are in danger of closing – MP Dr. Rajitha

Approximately 30,000 factories are on the verge of closure in the country now, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

He was participating in the second reading debate of the Appropriation Bill made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday in Parliament.

The MP said that there are around 86,000 factories in the country. Of them 30,000 are functioning with great difficulties in the danger of being closed.

He said that the economic growth rate of the country in the first quarter of this year was 6.1 per cent. The economic growth rate of the latter part of the year has not been published. Allocations proposed for the proposals are not adequate to accomplish them. He said that nearly 12 million is required to construct one kilometer of a road. The allocation made to road construction is, therefore, adequate only to construct 1600 km of roads.

Budget reflects neo-liberal economic tendencies – MP Herath

The Budget 2021 displays the neo-liberal economic tendencies of the Government, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath said in parliament yesterday.

MP Herath was participating in the debate on the Appropriation Bill for the next fiscal year in Parliament.

“The Budget by the Government clearly states that the government revenue is Rs. 1,961 billion and the expenditure was Rs. 3,500 billion. There is no mention of ways to generate this revenue. The Government has clearly proposed in this Budget to borrow another Rs. 3,000 billion. I propose to borrow another Rs. 2,000 billion, which has already been borrowed without the approval of Parliament,” MP Herath said.

MP Herath said that the country will be stuck in a 18 trillion debt trap. “There is nothing new in this budget. This involves borrowing money and printing money,” he said.

Defence allocation increasing – MP Sumanthiran

Parliamentarian C.V. Wigneswaran said in Parliament yesterday that despite the war being over, budget allocation for the Defence keeps increasing. He suggested that if less money is spent on the Defence, more money could be allocated to pay off debts, ensuring more macroeconomic stability.

He was participating in the debate of the Second Reading of the 2021 Budget.

The MP said that Sri Lanka spends too much on the defence and the Defence budget is spent inefficiently. He asked if the Auditor General has supervisory control over the spending.

“During 1983-87, our average defence budget was 421 million US Dollars. In 2009, it was Rs.214 billion. In 2019, it was Rs.306 billion. In 2020, Rs.312 billion and for the next year it is Rs.355 billion. The allocation for the defence next year compared to 2019 is an increase of 16 per cent, which is 49 billion,” the MP said.

Budget proposals include nothing acceptable to North, East – TNA MP Nirmalanathan

The budget proposals for 2021 do not include anything acceptable to the people in the North and East, who were affected by the war. It is regretful that there are no proposals included to rebuild the villages and areas of the affected people, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Charles Nirmalanathan said.

He was participating in the second day of the debate on the 2021 Budget, commenting on the allocations made for the Livelihood, Health and Education Ministries.

He said that 159.48 billion had been allocated to the Health Ministry, 24.9 billion to the Agriculture Ministry and 126.54 billion to the Education Ministry, Rs. 4.58 billion to the Fisheries Ministry and Rs. 46.59 billion to the Irrigation Ministry, altogether Rs. 356.7 billion.