By Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera
Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday the government was attempting to put the blame on the ‘52 day-Government’ for the current economic crisis instead of Ranil Wickremesinghe government which ruled the country for 1,464 days.
He told parliament that his government which was established by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, 2018 had managed to rule the country without legal barriers only for 19 days until November, 14, 2018.
“Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera started the budget speech stating that the ‘52-day government’ should take the responsibility for the current economic crisis. He attempted to put the blame on me who functioned as the Prime Minister for 52 days not Ranil Wickremesinghe, who did so for 1464 from the 1516 days since January 8, 2015,” he said.
Mr. Rajapaksa said his government did not get the opportunity to implement the economic plans as they did successfully between 2006 and 2014.
“However, we managed to provide several concessions and tax relief for the benefit of the people. People were benefited by fuel price reduction and fertilizer concession,” he said.
He said they were able to attract foreign investments of US$ 1000 billion during the 19 days but they failed to materialize it due to the uncertainty occurred on November, 14, 2018.
“We did not get an opportunity to strengthen the rupee as we could make necessary changes in the Central Bank. We did not either have a legal basis to protect the foreign reserves. If Central Bank reserves had gone down by US$ 1000 million as claimed by the finance minister, the Central Bank governor and monetary board should be held responsible for that,” he said. He said the programme initiated by their people-sensitive government to attract foreign investments was sabotaged by the UNP-TNA coalition which was frightened of elections and added that the attempts to repair the economy which was destroyed for four years was also delayed.
Mr. Rajapaksa said his government was able to achieve an economic growth rate of 6.4 during nine years between 2006 and 2015 despite the war.
“This is a historic record in our country. When we achieved that growth rate, the whole world experienced an acute food crisis, fuel crisis, economic crisis, bank and debt crisis,” he said and added that they did not pass the burden to the people just like this government.
“We resolved all the issues, developed the country and make the whole country a work site,” he said.
“Ranil Wickremesinghe government has recorded a low growth rate for the last four years. It has reduced to 3.0 in 2018,” he said.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the industrial sector including small scale enterprises had collapsed where they were forced to shut down their industries.
“The Government has doubled the taxes during last four years. But the gross domestic product is the same,” he said.
He said the government debt burden had increased to 91 per cent from the gross domestic product in 2018 whereas it was 71 at the end of 2014.
“At the beginning of 2006, when we obtained power, the government debt was Rs. 2,222 billion. It was 91 from the GDP. The debt burden increased to Rs. 7391 billion during nine years between 2016 and 2014. But we made a huge development in infrastructure, spent for the war, restructured the North and East from that loans. However, debt burden was reduced to 71 from the GDP due to the rapid growth in the GDP,” he said.
He also said they managed debt servicing effectively as they reduced country’s interest rate.
“We were even able to double the maturity period of debts. We reduced the interest rates we paid between 2008 and 2014 by 50 per cent,” he said.
He said rupee was deteriorated only by 2.8 per cent annually but it was deteriorated by 39 per cent during the last four years between 2015 and 2018 and added that foreign exchange worth US$ 3476 million had been released to the market from the reserves.
He said the government did not have a strategy to find solutions to this crisis and added that instead of resolving these issues, finance minister was allocating funds to construct toilets to dream houses claimed to have built by the housing minister.