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Waking to reality after CHOGM - Editorial

20 November 2013 07:42 pm - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In the afterglow or aftermath of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)—whatever way in which different analysts may chose to look at it—the Rajapaksa regime’s eighth budget will be presented in Parliament today.

 The 2014 budget outlining the measures through which the government wants to bridge the huge gap between growing expenditure and insufficient revenue will be presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Minister of Finance and Planning. For the past 25 years or more the budget has lost a lot of its news value largely because most of the important decisions are notified in the Gazette or taken elsewhere. Earlier budget day was regarded as one of the most important days of the year with newspapers giving several pages for the full budget speech with a front page picture of the Finance Minister walking into the Parliament with the famous or infamous ‘black box’. Gone are those days, gone with the wind as have the hallowed democratic traditions of accountability, transparency and full parliamentary control over finance. Those were the days when governments had to resign if the vote on the budget was lost but today with a patchwork three-fourth majority in parliament the present government is able to do whatever it wants. Instead of checks and balances what we see is a process of blank cheques and unbalanced accounts.

 According to sources in the Finance Ministry the government will have to borrow up to Rs. 1.1 trillion next year because expenditure is soaring. With about 14 billion rupees being spent on the CHOGM, the regime would likely be calling for austerity and more taxes on the people directly or indirectly. At present 17 taxes are imposed on the people directly or indirectly, with or without their knowledge. UNP parliamentarian Eran Wickremaratne said on Monday his party saw the CHOGM more as a ‘SHOW-GUM’ and the people would have to pay much more than it would cost them to chew gum. He asked why 53 luxury Benz cars were imported for the Commonwealth leaders if the organisers were aware that only 21 heads of government were coming. He also asked what the government intended to do with these luxury vehicles amid speculation they might be given to ministers or other politicians and business supporters of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance.
 According to Central Bank figures a family of four requires at least Rs 49,000 a month for its basic needs in food, shelter clothing, transport, healthcare, education and other needs. But Mr. Wickremaratne referred to a case of a railway driver who had worked for more than 25 years but was getting a monthly salary of only Rs. 25,000. How he and tens of thousands of other families are surviving is a vital question to which the government is not giving sufficient priority.

   If austerity is the answer then it will work only if the government leaders and politicians set the example by giving up most of their luxuries and the extravagant lifestyle.
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  Comments - 3

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  • Gunatunga de Silva Friday, 22 November 2013 04:22 AM

    Another case for Mr Wicks to quote.
    SLSS class 1 officer retired in 1987 after 34 years of service. Present monthly pension is Rs.26,000.

    Gunatunga de Silva Friday, 22 November 2013 05:20 AM

    Another case of a pensioner who retired in 1987 at the max po[nt in the Scientific Service class 1.getting a monthly pension today of Rs. 26000. is worth quoting Mr. Editor.

    MBG DE SILVA Friday, 22 November 2013 05:23 AM

    As an officer of the Sri lanka Scienific Service having served the state for 34 years retired in 1987 at the maximum point on the salary scale.My pension today is Rs 26,000 per month.Please Mr, Editor quote my grievence too.


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