Money, Capital Market and State Enterprises Reform State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said those who pressurise the government into imposing an island wide lockdown pay no attention to the plight of 4.2 million Sri Lankans who live on daily wages, self-employment and to casual workers in the state and private sector.
The government is not in a position to continuously pay Rs.5,000 a month or distribute food parcels worth Rs.10,000 either to over four million families who will end up cent less and destitute if the government goes for a countrywide lockdown, Minister Cabraal added.
Minister Cabraal told Daily Mirror yesterday that those who urge the government to impose a lockdown are those who have a steady monthly income as employees of the public and private sector and those who attempt to use it as a political weapon against the government.
“How does an island-wide imposition of lockdown affect the already weakened economy? We will have to halt all productions, the industry, agricultural and trading activities, tourist industry. It will also affect the main revenue generated sources to the state like the Sri Lanka Customs, Inland Revenue Department and Excise Department.the main exports like garments and apparel, tea, rubber and all other exports will get hit badly. Therefore, I believe that a complete confinement in the country will no doubt be a disaster to the people and the country. If that happens, our foreign reserves will deplete further, precipitating a depreciation of the rupee to unfathomable measures which ultimately lead to increase the Cost of Living,” Minister Cabraal emphasised.
The government’s immunisation drive is progressing satisfactorily which was commended even by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The government has fully inoculated 52% of the total population by now and over 20% have been given the first jab. The government’s target is to immunise all
Sri Lankans over 30 years of age by end October. By that time, the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka would be fully controlled. However, the government will not hesitate to isolate highly contagious pockets in the country, Minister Cabraal said.
“We must pay attention to the long term effects of an island-wide lockdown on the people and the economy. One may see it as an ad-hoc solution to the current health crisis. But in the long run and for the majority of Sri Lankans, I don’t see imposing a countrywide lockdown is a pragmatic idea,” Minister Cabraal stressed. (SANDUN A. JAYASEKERA)