* Rs 1,500 monthly savings for each tsunami affected child.
* Rs 15,000 million for mother and children nutrition programmes
* Rs 3,000 million to increase monthly Samurdhi allowance by Rs 750 each
* Rs 700 million to promote deep sea fishing industry
* Income tax exemption for agriculture and processed agricultural products
* Incentives for advanced technology based industries
* Computers and accessories would be exempted from VAT
* VAT rate changes to reduce prices of essential food and commodities
* Rs 1,000 cost of living allowance for public servants and armed forces
* Rs 500 cost of living allowance for pensioners
* Betting and gaming levy increased
* Port and Airport Development levy raised
* Excise duty increased on hard liquor by Rs. 15, soft liquor by Rs 5, Cigarettes by 50 cents
* Salaries of public servants increased
by Wijitha Nakkawita
The main Opposition yesterday staged a walk out of the House in protest no sooner Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama commenced presenting the budget in Parliament.
The government ignored the Opposition protest and Finance Minister Amunugama continued reading his budget speech for the fiscal year starting January 1.
`This budget is just the reading of a piece of paper,` UNP spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters. `There is no debate or a vote on the budget before the presidential election on the 17th so what is the point of this budget?`
Senaratne accused the Government of unveiling new tax cuts aimed at wooing voters in favour of the UPFA candidate, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.
Presenting his budget proposals, Finance Minister Amunugama proposed that all must dedicate themselves to a development decade. `This is a decade that the United Nations and our development partners have dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly through a global effort to mobilise resources for development. Therefore, we as a nation should not only commit ourselves to rapid development and eradication of poverty but also to ensure that we will not miss this opportunity, as we have missed on previous occasions leaving us lagging behind many other countries,` he said.
The Finance Minister said: `I have prepared this budget under difficult conditions. The budget process coincided with an unexpected election cycle. The preliminary Budget call was issued in July this year. The consultation process started thereafter and the Appropriation Bill was placed before Parliament one month ago. We have also entered into an international rating process for which regular fiscal policy conduct is critical. The private sector, investor community and public services need continuity in their work. The tsunami related work needs to be managed satisfactorily before its anniversary in December, when the eyes of the world will be turning towards us again.`
In summarising the benefits of the budget, the Minister said: `Children, Mothers and disabled are given special recognition.
* A large number of professionals and new skillholders will become global service providers due to new incentive structure and expenditure allocation in favour of such a development. This should provide employment for over 50,000 and generate a large inflow of foreign exchange.
* Emergence of an export entrepreneur economy with agriculture, SMEs, software and IT enabling services, tourism, apparel and local value addition industries and provincial industrialization becoming added growth sources in the economy will provide employment for over 100,000.
* Integrated rural infrastructure development consisting of Dahasak Maha Wev, Maga Naguma, Pubudumu Wellasa, Raja Rata Navodaya, Udarata Development, Osu Gammana, Vidatha resource centres, Navoda school development programme, North East rehabilitation, Post-Tsunami construction and estate community infrastructure development and Jana Pubuduwa, Gami Pubuduwa and Gami Diriya will improve livelihood for over one million people assisting them to move away from poverty on a
* Better producer prices for paddy, milk, fruits and vegetables, provision of credit seed, fertilizer at affordable prices and new market access help our farming community.
* Salary and pension increases will provide benefits to about 850,000 public servants including employees in armed services and about 450,000 pensioners.
`95 Nearly 2 million Samurdhi beneficiaries will get additional living allowance.
`The proposals I have placed before this House provides an opportunity to
make a leap forward in exports all the way from ornamental fish and software to
professional services. Our infrastructure strategy not only links us to global markets,
but also establishes strong connections and among ourselves within all provinces the
surest way of creating equitable opportunities to all our people. Our economic reforms
will consolidate fiscal position and provide a stable economic environment. A crime
free, secured living environment as well as our commitment to protect our natural
environment should position ourselves in a strong footing in the region. We must be a
country which looks confidently into the future and not one which is constantly looking
back and only giving voice to grievances,` he said.