Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka would turn its income-expenditure deficit into a surplus by 2020, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said while speaking at a ceremony held over the weekend in connection with the distribution of financial relief to tea factories which were affected by floods in May this year.
“The Government earned criticism for increasing the VAT. However, State revenue has increased as of today despite all these criticism. Income/expenditure deficit in the year 2014 was 1.5 percent. We were able to enhance our income in 2016 and thus reduce the deficit up to .02 percent. We expect to have surplus income by 2020,” the Prime Minister said.
He said Sri Lanka’s debt service grew by 233 percent from 2005 to 2015.
The Prime Minister said a greater percentage of debts during this time were commercial borrowings and the country’s revenue was not sufficient to pay them off.
“Total amount which was needed to pay off debts in 2013 was Rs.100 billion. Debt services exceeded the revenue during these years. We therefore formed a national Governemnt to stabilise the economy and put the country on the right track,” he said.
“We have allocated more funds for education and health. We have also been able to reduced crimes by 30 percent,” he also said.
The Prime Minister said diligent handling of the economy had helped the Government to bring some kind of stability to the economy.
He said a total sum of Rs.330 million has been allocated to give relief to 5, 600 tea small holders and 17 factories. This amount he said is allocated in addition to the Rs.22 billion which is set aside for the fertiliser subsidy.
In addition he said international tea development fund had pledged assistance to the tune of Rupees one billion.
“The Government is fully aware of the challenges faced by the tea industry. We hope to go for new programs such going into planting of fresh trees,” he said in this regard.
Minister of Skills Development Chandima Weerakody said providing or relief in Galle District has been most successful compared to other areas which were affected by floods. This he said is confirmed by the absence of protests by the affected people in the district.
Minister of Home Affairs Vajira Abeywardene stressed the need for a strategy to minimise the damages caused by floods.
He said tea industry cannot afford to face floods and suffer continuously. (Yohan Perera)