Sri Lanka is now caught up in a vicious cycle of increasing government spending for the electioneering needs of the incumbent government, heavy borrowing to finance that expenditure and increased taxation of the public to service those loans, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa said today.
He said in a statement that it was natural for the people to believe that all the provisions given to them in the budget was election-related.
“According to the provisions in the 2019 Budget, all government servants are to be given a special allowance of Rs.2,500. Pensions are to be increased. Samurdhi benefits are to be extended to an additional 600,000 families.
Existing Samurdhi beneficiaries are to be allowed to withdraw up to Rs.30,000 in two instalments this year from their accumulated funds in the Samurdhi Bank as spending money for the New Year and Christmas. The newly set up Office of Missing Persons is to pay a monthly allowance of Rs.6,000 to each of the families of all missing persons until the Office of Reparations is established and a larger sum paid. The fact that this is an election year, will naturally lead many people to suspect that all these provisions are election related,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
He said the government sought to justify extending Samurdhi benefits to an additional 600,000 families on the grounds that ‘deserving families’ had been kept out of the scheme for political reasons. “It appears that the government suddenly became aware of that alleged longstanding injustice only after ruling the country for over four years.
The rhetoric of the government makes it obvious that the additional 600,000 Samurdhi recipients will be selected on political criteria for reasons more to do with elections than with poverty alleviation. There is an inherent contradiction in the government claiming on the one hand that poverty has been reduced and then increasing the number of Samurdhi recipients by over 40%.
Furthermore, spending money for the New Year and Christmas is being released from the compulsory savings of Samurdhi recipients in 2019 when such a thing never happened in previous years. After releasing Rs. 30,000 in a single year, it is obvious that there will no money to be released in that manner in the coming years,” he said.
Mr Rajapaksa said such an increase would have been spread out over at least three years under his government and added that as a matter of policy, they kept the year-on-year increase in taxes within the range of Rs. 50 to 100 billion a year so as not to oppress the public.
“Under my presidency, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 6% from 2006 to 2009 despite a raging war and at 7.4% in the five post war years from 2010 to 2014. No government in post-independence history has achieved an average growth rate of 6% leave alone 7.4%,” he said.