All our ancient rulers knew that without ensuring the people’s food security, it was impossible to protect the nation’s dignity, independence and sovereignty. This very reason made our people to make sure our country was self sufficient in food. We have drawn special attention to food security in view of the current global situation. Equally important is water. It is very difficult to find another country with a civilization based on irrigation such as ours.
Every budget of ours focused on the village. We know that over 80 percent of our people live in the villages and plantation areas. Village is the foundation of our country. Its foundation has been 36,000 villages and 14,026 grama seva divisions. Therefore we have included road networks, power, water, irrigation, schools, temples and even maternity clinics as areas requiring attention under the Gama Neguma village development programme.
When the speed of economic progress increases and every village and house is supplied with electricity more power generation is needed. We had a plan experts had drawn up for generating electricity. That plan had not been implemented. The Norochcholai coal power plant, Upper Kotmale hydroelectric power plant and the Kerawalapitiya power plant had all come to a standstill. But since His Excellency the President took a bold step and commenced work on these projects Sri Lanka has become the only South Asian country that has a 24-hour electricity supply seven days a week with no power cuts.
After suppressing the Uva uprising, the British Imperialists realized that our country being an island we had ensured food security and self-sufficiency since ancient times. They saw that the reason for our pride, sovereignty and self-confidence was our self-sufficiency in food. So what did they do? They destroyed our village tanks, reservoirs and irrigation systems and destroyed our self-sufficient economy. As a result we were compelled to import rice to feed our people. During World War II the people of this country had to eat very a low-quality rice variety called Bajiri.
Thereafter our people were made to become addicted to American wheat flour. After independence several heads of state tried to make this country self-sufficient in rice. The effort began with the Hon. D.S. Senanayake and continued under leaders like the Hon. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Hon. Dudley Senanayake and the Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. But they failed to achieve the goal.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa Government succeeded in restoring food security and self-sufficiency in food for the first time 100 years after it was destroyed by the British Imperialists. Also our country is becoming self-sufficient not only in rice but also in sorghum. We have achieved a major victory in sorghum cultivation. The staple food of people in the North is ulundu over 85 percent of which used to be imported until two years ago. When we re-started cultivating it in the Wanni there were no seeds for distribution among farmers there. Therefore we imported the seeds from India and distributed them among farmers.
I am proud to say that farmers in Wanni have today succeeded in producing all the ulundu this country needs. Furthermore we are reaching self-sufficiency in many other crops. His Excellency the President has posed a challenge to the Agriculture Ministry and to the farming community to make the country self-sufficient in all food items it needs. This budget has guaranteed to provide all the relief and security required for achieving that goal.
We have also made a big investment to boost the country’s milk industry. After 26 years we have imported the highest number of dairy cows and distributed them to farms. The aim is not only to raise the income level of our dairy farmers by saving the money spent on powdered milk but also make our people a healthy nation. I wish to say today that 60 percent of Nestle’s milk is bought from farmers in the North, bringing them a good income. Today milk collection centres have been set up not only by Milco but also by private companies. Our idea is not to bring the milk from villages to Colombo and sell them in packet form but to encourage people in milk production areas to consume it.
In addition to exports we have taken steps to improve facilities to store fish for longer periods and also to produce salmon which our villagers relish.
This government has been able to make the kitul industry a major foreign-exchange earner. We have taken measures to boost small and medium scale industries and develop the sugarcane industry to meet the requirements of investors and tourists.
The biggest challenge the country faced this year was the drought. Our farmers suffered incalculable losses due to the drought which also seriously affected energy generation.
The breakdown of the coal power plant stopped production. American sanctions on Iran reduced the supply of oil from Iran to our refinery. Despite these and other negative factors we were able to manage our economy.
This budget has provided relief to 1.5 million farmers. For government employees 1.3 million has been allocated. There are 500000 pensioners, 1 million war heroes, 600,000 parents of war heroes, 1 million tea, rubber and coconut small holders and 5 million medium and small scale entrepreneurs. In addition to these there are around 100,000 artistes, those who lost jobs in the July 1980 strike, female entrepreneurs and disabled people.
Accordingly the total number is 10.9 million. We hope to reduce infant mortality rate to two per thousand. The number of deaths of mothers has come down from 4.45 per 10,000 to 3.11 per 10,000. We hope to reduce this to 2.3.