Opening the budget debate in Parliament on Friday UNP Kegalle District member Kabir Hashim said the budget was like a ghost. It had brought no relief to the people. The government had been juggling with figures without addressing the real problems of the people, he said.
He said the government had disappointed the people as it was going to expend 572 billion rupees as debt repayment out of a revenue of 750 billion, the remaining Rs 168 billion wouldn`t be sufficient to pay the salaries of the public servants.
Sri Lanka had the highest interest rates in South Asia. Although the government promised to help small and medium scale industries, the SME bank had been replaced with Lankaputra.
Lankaputra had given loans to 87 enterprises including the Mihin Lanka Airline. One company had been given a loan of 50 million rupees at 7 percent interest. With those funds, that company had given loans for the purchase of three wheelers at an interest of 24 per cent, he said.
The relief as regards kerosene oil to the poor was meaningless. About 30 per cent of the country`s total number of households did not have electricity and the monthly allowance of Rs. 100/- would not be sufficient even for three days for a household that used half a bottle of kerosene a day.
`The President says he grew up on rice, kurakkan and milk but a litre of milk is 30 rupees, a kilo of rice 90 rupees and 35 percent poor people cannot afford to buy milk powder due to high prices. It will not be possible for the poor people to grow up on rice, kurakkan or milk. Prices of all essential food items have gone up sharply but the budget did not contain any proposals to give relief to the low income groups, Hashim said.
JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa said the budget had failed to address the deepening socioeconomic crisis facing the country and except for a few proposals like the strategies proposed to increase the national production of milk, sugar or textile, the government had failed to come out with a strategy to develop the economy.
Weerawansa said what the people needed was a radical change in economic strategies to increase national productivity and not a continuation of the wrong and harmful economic policies that had been introduced in 1977. The poor were getting poorer as a result, he said.
Recently an American, John Perkins, who was known as an Economic Hit Man, had published a book on how the Western Countries employed methods to enslave Latin American and African countries rich in natural economic resources. One of the methods employed was to encourage mega infrastructure schemes obtaining massive foreign loans from the World Bank under the illusion that they would help develop those nations, but the opposite had taken place and the countries had become poorer and more indebted to lending agencies and developed nations. Under the huge loans given for mega projects it was the rich American companies like General Motors that earned huge profits.
The cost of living was rising very fast and even the tax concessions given on essential consumer goods were not passed on to the people. The government trade policy had failed miserably, he said.
He said the few proposals that would help national enterprises were only the window dressing and the whole budget had failed to free the economy from the dependence of foreign capital.