Parliament | Daily News


“We are trying to avoid night power cuts during A/Level exams”

Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera told Parliament yesterday that his Ministry is exploring the possibility of not having power cuts at night during the period of the upcoming G.C.E. Advanced Level examination.

He said this while replying to a question raised by MP Wimal Weerawansa.

“The electricity tariff will be increased on a systematic basis. We need to pay Rs. 36 billion to renewable energy suppliers as of October 31 this year. People who installed solar panels on their roofs will have to be paid Rs. 3 billion. The amount to be given to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is Rs.50 billion,” the Minister said.

“There were fuel queues and power cuts that lasted for three or four days in the past. Previously, we were always asked about the date of the next oil shipment. The situation has been brought under control today. The Government is trying to stop this power cut and provide continuous electricity supply,” he said.



“Govt will give relief in April to deserving families”


Finance State Minister Dr. Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said in Parliament yesterday that 3.4 million citizens of the country have submitted application forms seeking financial assistance from the Government.

The State Minister stated this while replying to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

He said that government officials are going from house to house to find out whether these applicants are really eligible for the assistance and selected applicants will be given government relief in April.

He said that the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank are currently conducting a scientific study on the people who are below the poverty line by taking into the account factors like per capita income and inflation.

He further said that 382,500 passports have been issued in 2021 and this number has grown to 700,000 by September of this year.

“The restructuring procedure in the 2023 Budget does not mean selling national resources to foreign companies. It means controlling institutions after dividing their structures into separate entities in an appropriate manner, merging the institutions engaged in similar activities, transferring the functions to the private sector while keeping the management in the hands of the government, keeping the management in the private sector while keeping other sectors in the government, leasing institutions in parts or in full, divesting 49 percent of shares, transferring institutions to companies under a transparent system. The Government has about 430 institutions that fall under these categories,” Dr. Siyambalapitiya said.

“Currently, the foreign exchange reserve is a nominal US$ 1.6 billion. The rupee depreciated the most this year, by 80 percent. Last April, we were temporarily unable to pay our debts, and we have an acute shortage of imported goods that arose from the foreign exchange deficit for almost eight months. People have died in long queues for gas and fertilizer. We must look for permanent solutions to the issues that have not been fully resolved yet,” he said.

“A recent report released by the Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that 78.2 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 22 would be willing to leave the country if given the chance. Intellectuals have left the country and it is a very unfortunate situation. Shouldn’t we look back at the conservative policies that we have continuously adopted? The public sector is 200 percent higher than the private sector in Sri Lanka when compared to the developed countries. The concept in developed countries is that the government does not engage in business, but properly regulates special sectors and gets a high share of the profits made by the institutions,” Dr. Siyambalapitiya said.



“Wrong economic policy decisions, not Covid, the cause for present crisis”


Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that everyone should work together to protect people from the extreme poverty they are going through.

Premadasa noted that as per the World Bank reports, 25 percent of the country’s population fell victim to poverty during the course of this year.

The Opposition Leader said that this is due to the shortsighted economic decisions taken by the Government.

Premadasa made these observations joining the last day of the Committee Stage debate on the 2023 Budget proposal.

“According to the Peradeniya University Economics Department, poverty-stricken people will increase from 3.6 million to 9.6 million due to this economic crisis. Our country is now suffering from income poverty, consumption poverty, savings poverty and investment poverty. So it is understandable our country is gravely affected by poverty.”

“According to the Family Health Bureau, 43.4 percent of children below the age of five are suffering from malnutrition. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is considered as a cause, it is actually the wrong economic policy decisions that have led the country to this crisis,” Premadasa noted.

He also requested a solution to the issue of the medium of language to be used for the Law College exams.


“Economic problems need economic, not political, solutions”

Transport, Highways, and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardana told Parliament yesterday that an economic problem needs an economic solution and not a political solution.

The Minister said this while joining the debate on the Third Reading of the Budget.

“Our export income this year is US $12.5 billion. The amount of foreign investment received by the country is US$ 0.6 billion. We need to understand that we have gone on the wrong path. We should study why our investors leave us and go to foreign countries,” the Minister said.

“China’s 2021 export revenue is US$ 3,363 billion and it has received US$ 181 billion of foreign investment. India’s export revenue is US$ 395.4 billion and it has received foreign investments of US$ 44.7 billion. Malaysia’s export revenue is US$ 299 billion and it has received an investment revenue of US$ 11.6 billion.

“We must find a solution to this problem together. It is estimated that the Government’s tax revenue will be Rs. 3,415 billion.”

“We must find ways to find this revenue. In 2023, Rs.1,002 billion has been allocated only for government salaries and Rs. 2,193 billion has to be paid just for interest payments on the national debt. Then all state income will be spent on those two matters,” Dr. Gunawardana said.



“Govt misleading public by implying that economic crisis is lessening”

The Government is misleading the public by trying to imply that the economic crisis is gradually lessening, National People’s Power leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said in Parliament yesterday.

Dissanayake made this statement joining the last day of the Committee Stage debate on the 2023 Budget Proposals.

“I remember when the country was moving towards the crisis, the previous Finance Minister said that the Government has as much dollars as it wants. He even said that he is going to keep the rupee from floating. He said he will increase the foreign reserve for to US$ 3 billion. He kept covering up the real situation of the country. The Minister who spoke before me said now there is no gas or fuel shortage. Since we don’t meet our debt, we have some US$ 3.2 billion in our hand. Our foreign reserves should increase. That has not happened either. The foreign reserve has gone up only by US$ 100 million. That is a very small amount compared to the amount of debt we are not meeting. If we paid our debts, we won’t have gas, fuel and milk powder. In March, it was while paying our debts that we had to face these shortages. Now, we don’t pay our debts, but still we face numerous shortages,” Dissanayake said.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya in reply said the Government is paying some of the debt even when facing a difficult situation such as this. Dissanayake noted that the amount of debt met by the Government is a small amount. He alleged that the Government is trying to cover up the true situation of the country.



“Opposition thinks economic crisis can be solved by increasing price of cigarettes”

Finance State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said in Parliament yesterday that it is regrettable to note that certain MPs in the Opposition think that the economic crisis can be solved by increasing the price of cigarettes.

He said that those who make such proposals should understand that the budget deficit cannot be reduced by increasing the price of cigarettes.

He stated this while participating in the Committee Stage debate on Expenditure Heads of the Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policy Ministry.

“The Budget has not been presented for any political purpose. The purpose of this is to uplift the economy and to free the people from the hardship faced globally. Queues have been eliminated. It has become possible to buy essential goods without shortage. If they think that they can increase the price of a cigarette and thereby increase the government’s income, they have a problem understanding the breadth and depth of the economy,” the State Minister said.



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