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State Minister Dr. Godahewa explains govt economic strategy 



State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told the parliament on Saturday (21) the government launched a pragmatic programme to lift millions of people from poverty.  The minister said that when one member of a family under extreme poverty received a permanent employment opportunity, the entire family achieved some degree of economic stability. The 100,000 jobs programme aimed to achieve that objective. Rs. 4,000 grant for vocational trainees also aimed to give opportunities for the youth of poor families, the minister said.

Dr. Godahewa said: “At the time of the 2015 regime change, I was serving as the Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka which regulates Colombo Stock Market. Generally, Stock market is considered to be the barometer of any economy. Because investor confidence and stock market indices have a direct correlation. Typically the market slumps when investor confidence shatters.

 During the post war period between 2010 and 2015, market capitalization of Colombo stock market jumped by 535% and as a percentage of GDP it increased from 11% to 36%. All Share Price Index (ASPI) gained 255% during that period. Colombo stock market had even won accolades as the most promising and sustainable stock market in Asia.

 The IMF in its report dated 29 June 2014 identified Sri Lanka as one of the fastest growing economies of Asia. International rating agency Moody’s in July 2014 stated that the strength of the Sri Lankan economy is reflected in its increasing per capita income and global competitiveness index rating. 

 By this time Sri Lanka was holding Asia’s 1st or 2nd positions in almost all key economic indicators. In 2014 GDP grew by 6.8%. Total GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2014 was US Dollars 80 Billion and Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) forecast was Sri Lanka GDP to reach USD 163 Billion by 2020. Per Capita Income of US Dollars 3,654 in 2014 was anticipated to reach USD 7,500 by 2020.

 Unfortunately the ones, who are trying to teach us economic management sitting in the opposition benches today, are the same people who came to power in 2015 January. The opposition had similar arguments and criticisms before 2015 as well.  But when they came to power, as a group they proved how incompetent they are. Economic growth slumped year after year. 

2015 it came down to 5%

2016 it further reduced to 4.5%

2017 3.9% 

2018 3.1%

2019 2.1 %

 Though we anticipated per capita income to reach US Dollar 7,500 by 2020, it stagnated at USD 3,852 by end of 2019. GDP Per Capita didn’t even gain by US Dollar 50 in 2019.The first finance minister of the Yahapalana government Ravi Karunanayake in 2019 made a public statement that the country was heading towards bankruptcy. With that kind of economic collapse and a trend, the economic growth rate would have been a negative figure with or without Coronavirus pandemic.

 Unfortunately, it is such a team of losers who are trying to teach us economic management today in this parliament.

 The reasons for their failures are obvious. They didn’t have a common vision or a program as it was just an unholy coalition consisting of ad hoc political groups formed merely to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa.

 Our government’s approach to economic management is completely different. We have a clear economic vision. That is people centric economic policy articulated in His Excellency President’s “Vision for Prosperity and Splendor” framework.

 A National budget should be formulated based on a government policy framework. Yahapalanaya had 10 policy statements for their 5 years. Budget speeches were prepared based on the serving finance minister’s will but not based on any stipulated economic policy.

 One has to first read the “Vision for Prosperity and Splendor” policy framework in order to understand the crux of this budget that we are debating. Then it would become a no-brainer to understand the concepts behind these budget proposals.

 I would like to elaborate a bit more on this.

 Vision for Prosperity policy statement has a 10 pillar policy framework. What are those 10 policies?


    Priority to national security


   Friendly, non-aligned foreign policy


    An administration free from corruption


    New constitution that fulfills people’s wishes


    Productive citizenry and vibrant human resources


    People centric economic development


    Technology based society


     Development of physical resources


    Sustainable environmental management


  Disciplined , law abiding and value based society


If these budget proposals are thoroughly analyzed, one could realize that the due attention has been paid to all ten areas. Each and every budget proposal is allied to one or more policies.

 If I take a simple example, the increasing of retirement age in the private sector to 60 years comes under “a productive citizen” policy. Re-forestation programme and 2 million trees planting along the roadways come under “Sustainable Environmental Management” policy. Rs.20,000 million allocation for national security is due to its utmost importance. Allocations of Rs. 10,000 million for technology parks and Rs. 8,000 million for digital infrastructure are based on our “Technology based society” policy. 100,000 kilometers of rural road construction with an investment of Rs. 20,000 million and allocation of Rs. 8,000 million for improving rural schools is due to our priority policy for the “Development of physical resources”.

 Since we are debating national budget proposals, for a moment let’s explore what is meant by people centric development. After receiving a historic mandate, His Excellency in his inaugural speech in this parliament articulated 4 priority areas of his economic policy.

 Firstly, finding solutions for the eradication of poverty

Secondly, creating equal opportunities for everyone to prosper

Thirdly, ensuring an administration free from corruption

Fourthly, encouraging and strengthening local entrepreneurship

 In some cases the reason for poverty is the landlessness and in turn, their inability to cultivate economic crops. As outlined by the President in his address to the nation yesterday, the objective of giving one acre each for 20,000 families is to achieve this objective. Everyone should have an opportunity to prosper in a people centric economy and it is the responsibility of the government to remove roadblocks for the same. Higher education doors should be opened to all youth and we should create a conducive environment to produce more and more entrepreneurs amongst them.

 That’s why we have paid special attention to expand the capacities and reform curriculums in universities and vocational training institutes in this year’s proposals. City campuses are being initiated based on these objectives. This budget has provisions to increase the intake for vocational training institutes from 100,000 to 200,000. 

 Today many countries have leveraged technology to uplift the productivity of the government. Hence a special attention has been paid in this budget to foster the technology usage in the government sector. Online tax administration process and e-filing of corporate taxes are good examples. 

 Private sector has a vital role to play in the economic development process. This budget has several proposals to uplift the local entrepreneurs. Special tax concessions have been granted for agriculture and fisheries sectors. Students who enroll for vocational training are encouraged to start a business by offering Rs. 500,000 loan at concessionary interest rates.

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EC opposes govt. move to appointment its henchmen to monitor local councils



By Priyan de Silva

The Election Commission (ECSL) has opposed a move by the government to appoint representatives of the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Committee to monitor local government institutions.

ECSL Chairman Nimal G. Punchihewa told The Island that the government had informed the ECSL of its plan to appoint representatives of the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Committee to monitor the local government bodies and the ECSL had decided to write to the Ministry of Local Government opposing the move, he said. A Chairman of a regional development committee ESD a representative of a particular political party and it would be unfair by other parties for such appointments to be made, the EC Chairman said.

Punchihewa said that the administration of local government institutions could be done through Municipal Commissioners and Divisional Secretaries.Many political parties had complained against the government move, he said.

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JVP says govt. has enough funds for elections



By Saman Indrajith

The JVP would file a fresh application before the Supreme Court against the government for not holding the local council polls, JVP MP Vijitha Herath said yesterday.Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, Herath said that his party had ascertained fresh information by invoking the Right to Information Act about the funds needed for the holding of the elections and his party would file another fundamental rights case against those responsible for conducting elections.

“The LG polls were to be held on 09 March. They were postponed until 25 April, and later they were put off indefinitely. The President appoints Governors to the provinces and the local councils are under them. Now, he says no party commands the support of 50 percent of voters.

Is this reason why he is not holding elections? His claim that there are no funds for elections is not acceptable. The Election Commission (EC) has, in a letter to the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, asked for Rs 1,100 million in installments for conducting local government elections. The Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, on 07 March, informed

the EC that the latter’s request had been referred to the Minister of Finance on the same day. But so far the money has not been released. As per a report released by the Treasury, the government revenue was Rs 177,900 million in January this year alone. Of that amount, Rs 156,760 was allocated to government institutions. The Treasury has Rs 21,410 million. In February, the government revenue was at Rs. 271,750 million and of that Rs. 208,620 million was spent. The balance was Rs 63,130 million. In January and February, the Treasury had Rs 84,270 million. These figures have been officially confirmed by a Deputy Treasury Secretary. The EC is seeking only Rs 2,460 million for elections. So, the claim that there is no money for elections is false as per official records. We will submit this information to the Supreme Court when we file a fresh application. We will prove that the government has lied to people,” Herath said.

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Rosy’s appointment violative of election laws – Mujibur



SJB mayoral candidate for Colombo Municipal Council Mujibur Rahuman alleges that President Ranil Wickremeisnghe has violated election laws by appointing UNP’s mayoral candidate Rosy Senanayake as the Presidential Advisor on Local Government.

Participating in a talk show hosted by a private TV channel, Rahuman said that Senanayake was a candidate for the delayed local government polls. “She has submitted nominations for the Colombo Municipal Council from the UNP list. It is illegal to appoint a candidate to such a post pending an election. The local council polls have not yet been cancelled and cases pertaining to the holding of elections are in progress,” he said, adding that of all the posts the local government candidate had been given the post of Presidential Advisor on Local Governance.

“More than three months have lapsed since Senanayake stepped down from the Colombo Mayor post, but she is still occupying the Mayor’s Residence. The President says that he is implementing the system change demanded by people. The change he is actually doing is giving appointments to his cronies. Is it the change the people expected,” Rahuman queried.

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