The main Opposition UNP in parliament said yesterday that the staggering budget deficit would lead to increased inflation, which would severely affect the masses.
Speaking on the fifth day of the budget debate, UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya said the current budget deficit was a staggering Rs. 195 billion ? and the government must think practically and be pragmatic in finding means to bridge this gap.
?In bridging such a huge gap the government must think where the money is coming from. In such cases the government has to resort to obtaining grants, loans and subsidies. If this gap cannot be bridged then inflation will rise,? he said.
Mr. Jayasuriya said when the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe came into power in 2001, inflation was at 17.2%. ?We brought it down to 7.8%. In January this year the inflation rate again rose to 16% and now the inflation rate is about 12.1%,? he said. He said the value of the rupee must be controlled and that if the rupee dropped the monthly wage earners would be the worst affected. He also said the government should encourage local entrepreneurs.
?The budget attempts to draw money from the rich sector and give to poorer sectors. There are also proposals to increase taxes. This too will affect the people indirectly,? he said. Karu Jayasuriya stressed that any responsible government should ensure employment, both local and foreign for the graduates who pass out from universities and technical colleges.
?A housemaid from the Philippines is paid about 200 dollars a month while a Sri Lankan housemaid gets only half this amount,? he said adding that in the Philippines housemaids were given three months training before going abroad. Mr. Jayasuriya added that a study conducted by the National Health Commission during Mr. Wickremesinghe`s Premiership had revealed that through training nurses more jobs could be created abroad, especially in Europe. He said that a special diploma or degree programme should be initiated for nurses and provision should be made for them to sit for the government exam.
?A nurse can earn up to Rs. 150,000 abroad,? the MP said. He summed up his speech saying tsunami house construction was delayed due to the 100 metre buffer zone policy and that the government should take steps to complete construction of houses before the Sinhala New Year.
The UNP Deputy Leader cautioned that there was a possibility of a black market being created in the agricultural areas, because fertilizer was issued on a permit system.