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Budget hype sounds shallow, sir!

26 November 2013 04:51 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The budget of his government was read by President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself for the ninth time. The day before the budget reading all media competing with one another asked the public what they expected from the budget.

Trade unions of the state sector had come to the streets asking for a salary increase of Rs.10,000. The demand of the private and estate sectors was a minimum salary increase of Rs.5000. Fisher folk asked for a reduction in prices of fishing gear. The farmer community expected a guaranteed price for paddy, payment of farmers’ pensions that had been stopped by the Rajapaksa regime and a reduction of prices of agricultural equipment.



" People have not received anything from President Rajapaksa’s budget. In his budget speech the President talked about everyone. He had something to say about state employees, farmers, fishermen, university students, kidney patients in the dry zone, pensioners, artistes, police officers from outstations who are deployed in Colombo, judges, university lecturers and others. Not even old ladies of sixty were spared by the President "



The university students asked the ‘Mahapola’ scholarship instalment that had not been increased since 2006 to be increased to Rs.5000. The general public asked to reduce the electricity tariffs, fuel prices, bus fares and prices of essential commodities that have been increased since the previous budget.  

The expectations of various sections of the public are just, logical and human. These are not slogans put forward with the intention of toppling governments. They are indeed the genuine grievances of the masses. The masses make these requests after waiting for four long years since the end of a protracted war. However, the government responded saying “we have extinguished fires of war! isn’t that enough?”. The government says “we will take our time” to David Cameron in English. This is what the government tells the people in Sinhalese and Tamil as well.    

People have not received anything from President Rajapaksa’s budget. In his budget speech the President talked about everyone. He had something to say about state employees, farmers, fishermen, university students, kidney patients in the dry zone, pensioners, artistes, police officers from outstations who are deployed in Colombo, judges, university lecturers and others. Not even old ladies of sixty were spared by the President.

The high point of the budget speech was the promise of an allowance of Rs.1,200 for the state employee. The government ministers and parliamentarians in the chambers cheered loudly when the President read this. A miracle of a Rs.40 increment per day! The President who increased only Rs. 40 a day for the state employees was very generous when he allocated an increase of Rs.1160 million for him as the leader of the government. His day’s increase is Rs.3.2 million.     

The next attractive promise is the farmers’ pension to be paid from next year. However, it is only for farmers who are over 63 years of age. This is complete nonsense. It is the farmers who contributed to the farmers’ pension scheme. Among the 950,000 farmers who contributed, 92,000 were qualified to receive the pension allowance. During the past two years the government had stopped the scheme that pays back the money contributed by farmers. This is gross plunder of farmers’ money. The government should first reveal what happened to the billions that were in the farmers’ pension fund. Next the arrears for the last two years should be paid to the farmers. Getting baptised as a philanthropist by organising a ‘dansala’ on Wesak Poya Day has become a habit of drug racketeers.

The government has increased the prices of essential commodities again through the budget. Super markets have been levied a new tax and the government expects a return of Rs.15,000 million from it. Most of these super markets are where most of the ordinary folk buy their provisions from. They are not ultra superior and luxurious malls. Consumers who go to the weekly fair to buy their provisions for the whole week are rare now. As such, the tax on supermarkets is an indirect tax on the general public that purchases their provisions from them. The tax is on supermarkets but it affects not the super capitalists but the general public.









Next is the new 5% telecommunication tax. According to this all telephone rates will go up. The government expects to earn an income of Rs.4,000 million by increasing telecommunication rates. As there are five million families in the country, each family will have to pay an extra Rs.800 for the telephone bill from next year.

The government says it will obtain an income of Rs.12,750 million by increasing customs duty. This means prices of all imported goods including potatoes, sugar, dhal, fuel and medicine would go up. As the government and the President reiterate that theirs is a patriotic government this could be called a ‘patriotic tax’. However, all goods imported for James Packer’s ‘casino-whoring-hotel’ mixed development project have been exempted from all taxes for ten years. Maybe the casinos and the sex workers are consumed by the so-called ‘patriots.’    

The government has increased prices of goods from the budget. There would be more increases from gazettes. All these taxes are connected to CHOGM. “When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action.” However, it is the onlookers who have to suffer now.  The windmill spinners that were fixed to decorate Colombo city for the CHOGM carnival did not rotate. The masses will now have to blow with all their ‘tax’ energy to make them rotate. This is the ‘miracle’ of a sham budget of capricious rulers who depend on gaudy pageants to hoax masses. The people in the country should know that they reap what they sow.

(The writer is a Western Provincial Council Member of the JVP)

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