Features of neo-liberal economic policies are visible under the Mahinda Chinthana policies more than ever despite repeated denials in this regard, the UNP charged in Parliament today.
Making his remarks during the budget debate, UNP MP Kabir Hashim said though President Mahinda Rajapaksa struck a note of criticism over the open market economic policies introduced by late President J.R. Jayewardene in 1977, the present government had liberalised the economy in a worse manner.
“We are asking the government not to hurl abuses at us. You should not stone other people while being inside glass cages. When Mr. J. R. Jayewardene liberalised the economy, he confined himself to certain limits. He was cautious enough not to let the economy be eroded. But, today, it has been liberalised unnecessarily leaving the people in the lurch,” he said.
Referring to the features of a neo-liberal economic system, he said that the government had done all of them.
“The reduction of the budget deficit by curtailing welfare benefits of people is one of them. The government had done it at this budget. The opening of the capital account, attempting to increase tax revenue is another feature. Also, the establishment of public-private partnership is a step towards neo-liberalism. The government has all these things. They have increased indirect taxes burdening the poor while giving such concessions to the major companies,” he said.
Commenting on the allegation by the President that there was an erosion of cultural values due to the UNP economic policies, Mr. Hashim said that 200 kilogrammes of heroin are sold in the country monthly under the present government. Also, he said that a murder case is reported every six hours.
“In four districts alone, there are 40,000 female sex workers. Some people say it is the novel form of providing employment. Cases of child abuses are on the rise. The SLFP-led alliances have been in power since 1994,” he said.
In addition, the UNP MP criticised the Central Bank, and asked the government to table the minutes of the meetings of the monetary board of it if possible. He said that two million US dollars were released to the market recently to stabilise the exchange rate.
“Later, in the budget, they devalued the rupee. Therefore, the release of those two million US dollars was of no use. It was a wasteful act,” he said. (Kelum Bandara and Yohan Perera)