Budget and economic consolidation | Daily News

Budget and economic consolidation

There are many critics of the recent Budget, but somebody who has got it all wrong seems to be Opposition MP Kumara Welgama. He said in Parliament that the poor man has been thrown on to the street with this Budget, but that does not seem to be the case at all.

The recent budget is in essence a poor man’s budget, as it has shielded the man on the street from the economic impacts of COVID. That is an achievement, as there are few countries that have not heaped burdens on low income-earners, as a result of the COVID related closures and other economic repercussions.

Welgama has said that if public service salaries are raised, there would be a knock-on effect with the private sector raising wages to keep up with public sector pay hikes. He is misinformed, because this has never happened.

The private sector has always taken cover under some excuse and has taken up the position that it has to look at revenue and the bottom-lines, whereas the Government sector it is claimed, can afford to pay ‘subsidized’ salaries.

There are no substantial new taxes levied on the low-income earners, and this is in stark contrast to what happened when those now in the Opposition with this MP were in power. There were tax increases on everything then, including phone calls and internet usage, with a sky-high Telecommunications Levy.

It is reported that some Government sector unions are proposing strike action because there was no pay hike, but it is doubtful it would be successful as the mood on the street is that the Government servants have it relatively easy compared to the rest of the labour force which has had to face retrenchment, salary cuts and a myriad of other woes due to the health crisis.

The Government has also had a very successful vaccination drive, and the booster shots are now being given to the more vulnerable sections of the population. Jabs do not come free, and all this has to be factored in when anyone makes an assessment of how the poor have been treated. Some exporters have complained of a 2 percentage point Turnover Tax, but they should be aware that they are taking a hit on behalf of the ordinary people who constitute the labour force for their export operations.

The Government took a share of the burden when these business enterprises were initially hit by the first round of closures etc, which helped entrepreneurs tide over bad times. Now that things are getting better in the export markets, it is time the private sector actors paid something back.

Those such as the said Opposition MP have not looked at the big picture. It is easy to criticize when one is not responsible for governance and everybody knows that, but there should be some credibility to the broadsides aimed at Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

This is not the time for handouts because it is a crucial period of economic consolidation. The Opposition should provide the required support for this task by way of placing the facts before the people.

By all means the Opposition should criticize, but any analysis must be true to the facts. There are various developed nations in Europe and in Australasia which are still struggling to vaccinate all their citizens, and our budget allocations should be looked at in this context.

The country has definitely not come to a standstill despite very challenging circumstances. Schools have reopened, and sections of the Central Expressway are being completed and made available for traffic.

The tourism industry has taken umbrage saying that it was insinuated by the Finance Minister that it is not making a contribution, but the nuance of that argument should be understood. When there is a national crisis every sector must share equally in shouldering the burden. The tourism sector was starved of tourists due to COVID, but perviously, pre-COVID, it has not made the impact it should have.

It seems the private sector tourism giants have also been waiting for handouts. This sector should be earning, and not scrounging, and the Maldives is an excellent example.

Sometimes the hard facts are unpleasant and the reactions are predictably of disbelief and denial, but the sector leadership should be more introspective instead of rushing to defend the industry.

Entrepreneurs should not be drawn to the drama of television dialogue over who is to blame and for what. They should be able to go back to their drawing boards, and rectify the errors of the past.

This country is blessed and is easily a tourist paradise, but that aspect has not been exploited to the hilt. By exploit it is not meant the tourists should be exploited, needless to say, but sometimes that is what happens.

It is difficult to discuss all aspects of the industry or all aspects of the post-budget economy in this comment, but it is time some of the post-budget verbal diarrhea among the critics came to a halt, and those who can make a difference in each sector got back to work.

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