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UPFA's maiden budget today

by Manjula Fernando

Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama will present the maiden budget of the United People's Freedom Alliance Government in Parliament this afternoon.

The budget is widely expected to be people-friendly, with the emphasis on the welfare of poor and rural masses. A considerable pay hike for public servants and pensioners is also on the cards.

The majority of proposals of the development-oriented budget will be aimed at boosting the rural economy through a comprehensive package of concessions to rejuvenate small and medium scale industries.

Nevertheless, the budget will include measures to ensure the growth of the private sector and encourage foreign investment. Budgetary allocations for health, transport and education are also expected to be raised.

"This will be the first budget, after 1977, prepared without World Bank and IMF inputs. The two lending giants were not consulted for drawing up the proposals.

It will be presented to the House in Sinhala by Minister Amunugama," a Finance Ministry spokesman said adding that this was in deviation to the earlier custom where it was read in English for the benefit of a small percentage of elites.

"Despite the hardships resulting from the oil crisis and global economic setbacks, the Government has done its best to deliver its pledges to the masses thorough this maiden budget," he said.

Speaking to the Daily News earlier, Minister Amunugama said the Government has already fulfilled a number of pledges given to the people.

The maiden budget of the UPFA Government intends to further fulfil these pledges. "The Government hopes to give all possible relief measures to the people particularly to the rural masses as promised."

The Government also invited the public, political parties and business organisations to submit their proposals for the budget.

Export related institutions, national business agencies, manufacturing and construction associations, small and medium enterprises and the textile industry responded to this appeal, in addition to political parties such as the SLFP, JVP, MEP, LSSP and CP.

The Employers Federation of Ceylon, Export Development Board, National Council for Economic Development, Excise Department, Association of Tax Officers of Sri Lanka Customs and a large number of individuals also contributed.

The budget will focus on spending more on rural development and agriculture sector out of its total expenditure, Rs.438.9 billion for 2005.

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