By Yohan Perera and Ajith Siriwardana
Sri Lanka would have been better off economically despite the COVID-19 pandemic had the country adopted a policy of focusing on producing import alternatives rather than depending on other countries, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday.
Winding up the committee stage debate on the budget in Parliament on Thursday, the Prime Minister said it is only those countries which depend on other nations which are badly affected by the pandemic. “COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that Sri Lanka is also affected by global happenings. However, it is those countries which depend on others which are affected more by the pandemic. We would have been better off if we had created a production-based economy,” the Prime Minister said. “Pandemic has also taught us that Sri Lanka should allocate more funds on technology,” he added. He said the Government will spend Rs 90 billion for expenditure in relation to COVID-19 pandemic by the end of this year. “We have spent Rs 70 billion for the pandemic at the time I read the budget speech in November this year.
However, we have spent Rs 82 billion as of today. We hope to spend Rs 90 billion by the end of December this year,” he said. Referring to the downgrading of Sri Lanka’s credit ratings by rating agencies, the Premier said those who criticise for this do not realise that ratings of 40 other countries have been downgraded more than Sri Lanka. We have been able to settle borrowings successfully,” he said. He said the funds more than 300 billion allocated for road development will be a benefit for farmers at the end of the day. “Is the items such pots of curd and banana flowers of the ordinary that come to Colombo through these roads? This government will go down in history as the administration which was engaged in road development the most after British Governor Edward Baines.
I am sorry to name a foreigner as a person who was engaged in road development. I had to mention his name as the opposition had not done any work with regard to road development during their regime,” the Prime Minister said. He said the government will take into consideration and implement the proposals made by the opposition and others which are practical.