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The Budget and Me

4 December 2013 04:53 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As the second reading of the Budget for 2014 was passed and the third reading was pending in Parliament, the Daily Mirror spoke to a cross-section of people at the bottom line who are going to be benefited or affected by the decisions made by their political representatives.

“The Budget and Me” will showcase the views of the general public and their aspirations, hopes and disappointments as to how the government was going to handle the country’s economy in the coming year.

 






Programme Coordinator at Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) Faslan Mohamed who is married and living with his wife who is a teacher, speaking about the 2014 budget said, “Everything will be increased through gazettes. So there is no transparency in Parliament today. So how can the authorities be transparent to the public? Anyway my view is that most of the Ministers and Parliamentarians who are going to raise their hands in favour of this budget in Parliament, most probably might not have even read the budget or known what was contained in it. It is just that, in our country we have a set of Parliamentarians who are ready to vote in favour of any decision or action the government takes.”  

Commenting on the Rs.1,200 salary increase for government workers and the increase in pensions, Mohamed said it was good that it had been increased by even a small amount yet he feared that it would not be sufficient to bring any relief to the public. Nevertheless when questioned whether their family could afford the day-to-day expenses, Mohamed said since he and his wife were both working so far it had not turned out to be an issue for them.

“We still don’t feel the hardships. But definitely in the future we know that we will have to face that situation, when the fuel costs, electricity and telephone bills are all increased. My wife doesn’t like the fact that the prices of essentials have increased, since she is the person managing all the household activities.

Anyway I can’t imagine how a family with kids would react to this situation because it will affect their lives severely. And if for example the fuel prices go up, then the prices of everything else will also start to escalate,” he said. Comparing last year’s budget to the 2014 budget Mohamed claimed that the beautiful slogans used by the government which were visible in last year’s budget are missing in the 2014 budget.   

“Today people have lost interest in the budget; in the same manner they have lost all faith and interest in politics. People are sick and tired of politics in our society today,” Mohamed concluded.

" Everything will be increased through gazettes. So there is no transparency in Parliament today "









A retired printing and publishing expert Mr. Gaminitillake who lives with his wife and an aunt in Wellawatte mainly depends on the few investments and the income from an ancestral property he had rented out. While he viewed that the income tax was fair, other taxes direct, indirect and ‘hidden’--had created major economic problems for many like him. “Income tax is fair but unseen taxes and cess rates imposed had made life difficult for ordinary consumers.”

“Not luxury food items but there will be an increase in prices of essential foods which is going to make it very difficult for ordinary citizens. I have some properties which I have not earned but inherited and they  have been on rent since 1955. But there is a limit to what we can charge our tenants even though other expenses including tax paid on them have increased.”

“This budget says prices of local products would go down. But how can we identify the local products while we have a very few, such as one or two brands of dairy products and a few vegetables,” says Mr. Gaminitillake.
“The imported and locally produced potatoes are both on the same rack. We don’t even have locally produced sprats or salmon.”He was also worried that wheat flour prices would go up in turn, increasing the prices of all bakery products and other foods made from wheat flour.

“The budget would be a disaster especially for the common man including all of us.”

(Pic Nisal Baduge)

" Not luxury food items but there will be an increase in prices of essential foods which is going to be very difficult for ordinary citizens "










A government servant working at the Sri Lankan Water Board Abdul Wahid Mohamed Munas who has a family of four to support revealed that the Rs.1,200 allowance given by the government was a relief to their family.  We also noticed that the government had allocated funds to start a project for water purification as a step to stop kidney diseases from spreading. We see this as a good step taken by the government which will also provide more job opportunities to the public.”

Speaking about how the budget was affecting their family Munas said he and his family are barely managing, with the prices of essentials and the cost of living escalating rapidly, and suggested that if the government could try and make an attempt to give some sort of a relief to the public that would be better.

“I can manage because my family is small and because my wife is also working. She is working as a teacher. And I have a son who is studying for his O/L examination whom I have to support along with an unemployed uncle of mine who is also living with us.  Sometimes I have to travel outstation for work assignments by bus, so for transportation usually we have to pay a lot.

Sometimes the Water Board provides us with vehicles, but even for that we still have to pay. However we can’t completely blame the government for the rising cost of living as that depends on the world market prices.
So though people feel the cost of living severely and especially workers who work for daily wages find it difficult to continue with this high cost of living, we have to understand that the government is compelled to do this because of the world market prices,” Munas said.

When questioned what his wife’s views were regarding the 2014 budget with a smile Munas dismissed the question by saying that she was not interested in such matters.

The 2014 budget had created quite a stir in political forums while remaining to be a heated topic for a part of the public. Yet it is a fact that as Munas pointed out there was a lack of interest regarding the budget in our society (which was different a few years ago).

" I can manage because my family is small and because my wife is also working. She is working as a teacher. And I have a son who is studying for his O/L examination "









Fazana Ibrahim mother of two daughters is a project manager at an organisation which aims at narrowing the gap between the urban and rural sectors in the country. Holding a BSC in Psychology, Ms. Ibrahim aims to empower men, women and children in villages throughout the country.

Ms Ibrahim says the budget has restricted the expenses of her family for the next year with the family having to think twice about additional expenses. “Even if it is something important we will have to think more than twice about it before making a decision,” she said.

The family will have to spend more on travelling and other compulsory expenses and that will affect the savings and other finances of the family. “It will be difficult to meet expenses; travelling and other compulsory expenses will change with it,” Ms. Ibrahim said.  

“Like everyone else I will have no choice but to take strict measures when it comes to expenses,” the mother of two said. Ms Ibrahim also said that every essential area of expense had increased under the new budget and new measures for expenses would have to be put in place.

“Food products, fuel and other essentials should be accessible to everyone without any drastic increase in price,” she said.  


" I will have no choice but to take strict measures when it comes to expenses.... Food products, fuel and other essentials should be accessible for everyone without any drastic increase in price "









A Road Consultant Engineer working in  Nuwara Eliya supporting a family of four, when questioned about the 2014 budget, said with a smile that neither he nor his family was interested in politics and the same policy (rather than reality) was applicable  to the 2014 budget as well.

 The lack of interest have been the public concerning the 2014 budget is contrary to those times when people eagerly waited for the budget to be released during the olden days. It is as if, as time flowed by, year after year, the significance of the budget had lessened with each minute of every day. Speaking about this situation Upali Nandadasa told Daily Mirror, “We have lost all interest in politics and that goes for the budget as well.

Neither I, my wife, nor our two sons (eldest is a university student in Peradeniya while the second is still schooling at Kingswood College, Kandy) ever talk about politics in our family. However when questioned whether Upali’s family can manage all the expenses, he said for a month they usually had to spend about Rs.50, 000 to live.

“Since my wife and I are both working we can afford the expenses. Yet the prices of essentials are soaring.
Last week we went to a supermarket to get some groceries, and my wife bought food essentials worth Rs.3,000. Anyway when we were returning I asked her where all the stuff we bought were, since there was only one grocery bag visible. She pointed to that bag and said: “Upali those are goods worth Rs.3,000”.
 So today’s cost of living is simply unbearable. However we learned that in this year’s budget an allowance has been given to farmers, which is good.

But the question is whether that allowance is enough with the escalating cost of living. And it is also a positive sign that the government has  increased the salaries of government workers. But when we consider labourers working on a daily basis, it is sad that this budget has not provided any relief to them,” Upali Nandadasa said.

" We have lost all interest in politics and that goes for the budget as well. Neither me,  my wife, nor our two sons (eldest is a university student in Peradeniya while the second is still schooling in Kingswood College, Kandy) ever talk about politics in our family "

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