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Saturday, 11 December 2010

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Country placed in a good position

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided when Parliament met at 9.30 am yesterday. After the presentation of papers and oral questions, the House took up Committee Stage debate on the Appropriation Bill 2011. The House took up financial heads under Finance and Planning and State Resources Enterprise Development Ministries and Good Governance and Infrastructure, Human Resource, Rural Affairs, Urban Affairs, Consumer Welfare, Scientific Affairs, International Monetary Cooperation, National Resources, Food and Nutrition and Social Welfare Senior Ministries for debate.

*Ravi Karunanayake (UNP): The Government is misguiding the people. The value of the Rupee has depreciated. This proves that the Governmentís financial policy is not positive.

Today Greece, Ireland, Portugal and many other European countries are running under hard conditions. Their economies have collapsed. Obama has said that salaries cannot be increased for another two years. This is because there is a severe collapse in the economic sector.

As a small country, Sri Lanka should be more careful in handling economic policies. One special characteristic of this Budget is that the expenditure is bigger than the revenue. Can a family bear Rs 100,000 when its income is about Rs 10,000. The Government goes after foreign aid and loans desperately.

The Government cannot pay salaries but they can tarnish the image of the UNP. We are here not to protect the Government but to protect the people.

International Monetary Cooperation Senior Minister Sarath Amunugama: Today is the last day of the debate on the Appropriation Bill and therefore as a tradition we take up the Finance Ministry today.

We are placed in a good position today when considering global economic trends and local economic trends. This is an advantage to the country. It is useless to debate about past policies.

The economic growth was 3.5 percent and this has been increasing up to eight percent now. The economic growth in the latter half of the year is highly appreciable. Industrial service and agricultural sectors have shown considerable development.

Today, there is a large queue to purchase vehicles. There is a high demand for electrical and electronic goods. Signs of a transformation are clearly visible.

We have to grasp opportunities and we have to take the best use of prevailing global economic opportunities. Mahinda Chintana policy aims at this task. The President is directly supervising the financial sector of the country and giving instructions when necessary.

The chicken industry experienced a collapse in some areas such as Ja-Ela and Wattala. Therefore we import chicken to suit the requirement. It takes some time to restore this sector.

The per capita income is US $ 2,042. Our view is to increase it to US $ 4,000 by 2012.

*Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair

After six years, the income of all the people will be increased. We have to develop every corner of the country equally to reach the aim. The Government has to allocate money to improve infrastructure facilities and to enhance productivity. The agrarian sector improved dramatically. When you travel in the North and the East you see cultivated paddy fields which were abandoned earlier.

We know farmers in Jaffna are the most skilful. Their products contribute to the national economy now. They faced difficulties earlier. The UNP speaks of them. The UNP gave hauls of weapons to Prabhakaran. They were delivered with a letter addressed to Prabhakaran. What was noted in the letter? The letter addressed to Prabhakaran said to kill Lieutenant Pitigala who was in-charge of the haul of weapons once it was taken over.

Now, rural areas are emerging. Two years ago, 50 percent of the GDP was contributed by the Western Province. But the situation is changing. The contribution of other areas is increasing.

Each Wasama is provided one million rupees for development. There are 14,000 Wasam. During the UNP regime, Rs 15,000 was given to a Wasama. Roads in rural areas are developed. No body in the Opposition speaks of them.

The UNP served only to Colombo. What did the UNP Leader asked us to do? He asked us to abandon paddy cultivation and import rice.

*P Ariyanethiran (TNA): If good governance was practised the people would have better opportunities. But racial discrimination made lives of our people difficult. You say the LTTE was eliminated. Then, why do you still have laws to suppress the LTTE.

We are not going to vote against the Budget, although there are many requests to vote against we obtain from voting.

*Finance and Planning Deputy Minister Geethanjana Gunawardena: As a result of the economic policy adopted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the economic development was maintained during recent years at a rate of seven to eight percent despite the global economic recess.

There were mega development projects initiated including Norochcholai, Kerawalapitiya power plants, Hambantota Harbour, Mattala Airport, road network, etc.

Seventy-one percent of the allocations made to the Defence Ministry is to pay the salaries of the servicemen in the Three Forces and the Police who made various sacrifices to unite the nation. Now, those servicemen are engaged in de-mining with their hands to make a convenient environment for the public. Servicemen are also engaged in various development projects to uplift the countryís economy. On the other hand, 1.2 million square kilometres in the sea bed where we explore for petroleum is looked after by the Forces.

The allocation made for the Defence Ministry is an allocation made for the future of the country and allocation made for the generation to come.

The UNP is not considering these positive sides of the allocations. The allocations made for the Defence Head is utilized for the Urban Development Authority, Hambantota Development, Coast Conservation as well.

We canít forget the incident in 1973 in Chile. The President who was elected by the public was killed.

General Augusto Pinochet was made President. We wonít allow this history to repeat in Sri Lanka.

Still, there are conspiracies. President Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Oxford to tell the story of freedom. It was cancelled. A few of our people including Members have supported those protest.

*Eran Wickramaratne (UNP): This Budget has not provided relief for the people. The allocation made for the Education and Health sectors are not adequate. This economic policy increases the inflation rate affecting the poor in the country.

*Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody: I like to announce a delegation from Australian Parliament has arrived, to visit Sri Lankan Parliament. We welcome them who are in the Speakerís Gallery.

The Members in the Government and Opposition thumped the tables in welcome.

*A H M Azwer takes the Chair.

*S Alantin (UPFA): Most of the resettlers in the North are unemployed. They depend on relief provided by the Government. It is necessary to formulate a mechanism to provide them employment opportunities. Villages in the North and East are backward in development.

The entire northern region was completely destroyed by the war. Additional funds are required to rebuild the north and bring back normalcy to the region. A number of vacancies are existing in the Education Department of the North. They need to be filled to uplift the education system in the North.

*M H A Haleem (UNP): The Government provides facilities for Muslim devotees visiting Macca for the Hajj festival. The responsibility of organising Hajj Pilgrimage was rendered with Minister Fowzi last year. This year, a special committee was appointed to organise the pilgrimage. The responsibilities of this committee were providing required facilities, arranging visas and coordinating the activities of Muslim devotees. But this committee has failed in organising the pilgrimage successfully. Devotees attending the pilgrimage had to face many difficulties. The committee members arrived in the country without fulfilling their responsibilities.

*Technology and Research Deputy Minister Faizer Musthapha: All required facilities including food, transport, rooms were provided for devotees. We cut off unnecessary expenses due to proper coordination and organising of the pilgrimage. It paved the way to provide more chances for poor people as well.

*V S Radhakrishnan (UPFA): Living standards of the people of the country are gradually increasing due to many fruitful decisions taken by the Government. An environment conducive for the investment has been created in the country after the end of the war. Foreign investors are arriving in the country due to this.

The upcountry is being developed through many development plans. But salary anomalies of plantation workers have not been rectified. I expect that the President will take measures to overcome this problem.

*Anura Kumara Dissanayake (DNA): Democracy doesnít exsist in the country. The economy and politics of the country have been converted into casino economy and casino politics. Our culture has become a casino culture with the passing of the Casino Act in Parliament.

Today, only three or four people handle the whole economic and administrative structure in the entire country. Corruption, malpractice and bribes are main features of the casino culture emerging in Sri Lanka.


Speaker thanks all

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa concluding the budget debate yesterday in Parliament thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa for arriving at the house to present the budget and to make the final speech in the budget debate in his capacity as the Finance and Planning Minister.

He thanked Government and Opposition MPs including Prime Minister D M Jayaratne, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody and Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu for the cooperation extended to make the budget debate a success with valuable suggestions for improvement. He thanked the Parliamentary Staff, Officers of the Ministries including Secretaries to the Ministers, media personnel, all institutions attached to Parliament, security forces and Police for the support received in conducting the budget debate. The Speaker also extended Christmas and New Year wishes to all.

Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva extended his gratitude to all who dedicated to conduct the budget debate in a successful note including the Speaker. He appreciated labour and time of all during parliamentary sessions during the Budget debate which continued for 16 days.

Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga on behalf of the opposition also extended his gratitude for everybody who supported during the budget debate.


Corrupt heads vanish

Senior Minister D E W Gunasekara told Parliament yesterday that heads of several Government statuary bodies, who have corruption charges against them have left the country.

The Minister said that permission should be given by the Speaker to enable these persons to be summoned before the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) even if they reside abroad.

He said the auditing in Government Corporations and Boards was very weak.


The power vested with the Cabinet has been taken out and given to a few people.

Senior politicians were disregarded and neglected. It is reported that one politician is behind the Casino deal.

*Scientific Affairs Senior Minister Prof Tissa Vitarana: Anura Dissanayake MP talked about a casino political system. There was a casino liberal economic policy in the country and it was the UNP which introduced it. Today, the foundation needed to change this economic policy has been laid by the President under Mahinda Chintana policy.

Some say that the number of Ministers are too much. The senior ministerial portfolios are introduced to establish a better coordination among Ministries which are coming under one broad subject and to take that responsibility as a whole. I am happy to work as the Scientific Affairs Senior Minister.

I must answer to Iran Wickramaratne too. I think that he addressed the House in English to attract the attention of the international community to his speech. High amount of foreign reserves shows the high confidence of the international community on us. Foreign investors become more and more confident when there is a high amount of foreign reserves. Therefore I request him not to make this kind of statements in favour of foreign people who are opposed to us.

*Estate Resources and Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Sarath Kumara Gunaratne: This was a newly created ministerial portfolio and we have developed it to be a very important ministry today. We have been capable of converting plantation industries which were running at a loss to profit gaining industries.

Today, those who were working in foreign countries are now coming back to the country to support plantation industries by investing. Both local and foreign investments flow into the country.

The Eppawala phosphate deposit has changed into a profit earning avenue with the implementation of a project to supply fertilizer to the country.

Laksala and Salu Sala are now revived. Programs to strengthen them are being implemented.

Let us be united as Sri Lankans disregarding party, ethnicity and other differences among us to work for the country.

*Lakshman Kiriella (UNP): Many Government members spoke about development today. It is clear that most of them brought out their expectations about development.

The prices of essential items are going up. If development happens the people should feel it. The statistics presented by the Government are false.

That is why even foreign investors do not come to our country. Employment opportunities have decreased.

*Human Resources Senior Minister D E W Gunasekere: Most of the Opposition members brought out the same facts that they brought out in the Second Reading of the Budget.

They have forgotten that there is a difference between the Second Reading and the Committee Stage.

None of them referred to a specific department and debated about its financial allocations. Most of the issues pointed out by the Opposition members have been answered by the Government. There was only one new point in member Kiriellaís speech. That is the claims that the statistics presented to this Parliament are not correct. I think it is for the first time in history that such a criticism was directed.

There may be minute changes in calculations but as a whole they are correct. Accepting them or not is upto him.

Consider economic factors one by one. Do not they show positive results? We endeavoured to improve all aspects gradually since 2001.

Today, the balance of power in the world and economic power of the world have been changing. We have to understand this. We have to explore new markets in the world. That is what we are doing now. Administration of State institutions is made more transparent. Annual reports are published and internal audits have been conducted in almost all institutions.

*Dayasiri Jayasekara (UNP): I agree about the facts presented about COPE by Senior Minister D E W Gunasekara and I honour him over his great service to lead to the COPE. However, I regret that they are made Senior Ministers and that a Vishramapaya is created for them.

The Mihin Air suffers a loss today. Why does the Government run such institutions? You sold the Shell Gas in 1995 and then bought it back.

*Shantha Bandara (UPFA) takes the Chair State Resources and Enterprises Development Minister Dayashritha Tissera:

Due to the terrorist menace, we could not operate industries and factories in North and East. Under new light, we have taken initiatives to commence the operation of those factories and industries, thus bringing prosperity to the people in those areas. We have planned to establish State Resources Management Corporation to take all these institutions as a whole to find solutions.

*Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair

*Mawai Senadhirajah (TNA): There are voluntary teachers at schools in our areas. But no proposals have been made about them in this Budget. I think some kind of solution should be given to them. Allocations should be equally divided into all Provinces.

*Social Services Minister Felix Perera: Dayasiri Jayasekera said the economic policy is deteriorating but we have to say is that the popularity of UNP is deteriorating.

The EPF and ETF are deposited in the Central Bank. So the beneficiaries will get extra money when they retire. But that money is circulated in our country.

The Hambantota Port is constructed not only for Hambantota but for the entire country.

Bangladesh is exporting Rs 12.5 billion worth garments. The raw materials are imported in ships and those mother ships cannot go there. If we can get those ships to Hambantota within two or three years we can settle the loan we got for Hambantota Port construction.

*Vijayakala Maheshwaran (UNP): The decentralized Budget provides five million rupees for a Parliamentarian annually. But this amount is not enough for the Members in North and East. So I suggest an adequate amount of money should be allocated for Members in those areas.

*Harsha de Silva (UNP): Geethanjana Gunawardena talked of my grandfather M W de Silva. Their father and my grandfather were Members in the Cabinet of SWRD Bandaranaike Government. My grandfather resigned as his father Philip Gunawardena was forced to resign. I am not intellectually dishonest.

*Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadheera: It was during the UNP regime that the highest debt rate was reported in 2002. We reduced the debt rate through proper financial strategies. But the Opposition never appreciated this achievement.

The Government has handled the economic policies in a transparent manner. That is why the country is marching towards economic prosperity. We have an accurate vision to see future targets. Through this far-sighted policies, the country will achieve development goals easily.

*Harin Fernando (UNP): The Government must accept constructive criticisms made by the Opposition. You must improve your tolerance if you are going on a journey of achieving targets. The Government will not be able to be the Wonder of Asia unless Government Members listen to the Opposition.

The State expenses are much higher than the State revenue. The interest rate payments of the loans obtained by the Government is also very high. So the people have to shoulder those burdens.

*Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena:The Government achieved a considerable economic growth within the last two years. It is proved with achieving a 7.1 percent economic growth rate in the first quarter of this year. It is the UNP that privatized 44 State organizations.

We never sold any State organization to the private sector. What we did was taking steps to revive all State institutions. Wijayadasa Rajapaksa (UNP): The Government said that it is in the process of creating an advanced political culture. How would you create an advanced political culture without listening to the Opposition. The Government is trying to convert the country into the Wonder of Asia. How can you create a developed country, with the highest debt rate, highest poverty rate and low-living standards.

*Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa takes the Chair. Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena:

This budget symbolises the turning point of the country. However, we do not see a meaningful engagement by the Opposition in this budget.

The opposition asked how many people obtain the per capita income in the country. The per capita income is calculated by during total income by the population. When this is calculated even a child who is less than one year is counted in arriving at the per capita income.

However, all know that they are not contributing to the income of the country. The logic of the opposition cannot be accepted.

The hike of prices of essential items cannot be solved just by shouting. Today, we have been able to maintain stable prices for many items. The value of the Rupee has become stable.We can attain a wonderful revolutionally change in macro-economics with the correct policies followed by the government.

The country has high rates of literacy and high ranks in health indices. If the allocations are not sufficient for education and health, how can these sectors show such positive results? Massive development projects are also being implemented in the country and airports, ports and flyovers are being built in the country.

Financial heads were passed with amendments. The House was adjourned until 9.30 am on January 4.

 

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