Hanky Panky

Sri Lanka’s main opposition Sunday demanded the postponement of the annual budget until after the presidential vote next month, arguing that the government may use it to boost its electoral fortunes. Sri Lanka’s main opposition Sunday demanded the postponement of the annual budget until after the presidential vote next month, arguing that the government may use it to boost its electoral fortunes. The opposition United National Party (UNP) said it wrote to outgoing President Chandrika Kumaratunga asking that the budget for next year be deferred until after the November 17 elections.

The government has scheduled the budget for November 8.

“The presentation of the budget on this day amounts to nothing more than a propaganda exercise for the government to mislead the people by making empty pledges that have no prospects of fulfilment,” UNP deputy Karu Jayasuriya said.

He said UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe and his main rival, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, have separately offered a series of new revenue and expenditure proposals which should be incorporated in the budget for 2006.

“Given that the budget sets government fiscal policy up to the end of 2006, it is only fair that it be determined by the policies and manifesto of the new president elected next month,” Jayasuriya said.

Both candidates have included a series of welfare measures, including duty-free cars for public servants, subsidised fertiliser and free meals to school children, in their policies.

The opposition candidate says his welfare measures will cost 50 million dollars in the first year while the premier is yet to quantify how much his proposals will cost.

The preliminary budget estimates presented in parliament earlier this month show a 23 percent increase in defence spending next year with the defence allocation going up to nearly 700 million dollars.

Premier Rajapakse has promised to overhaul the Norwegian-backed peace initiative with Tamil Tiger rebels while Wickremesinghe has pledged to resume negotiations with the rebels if elected. – AFP

-Amal Jayasinghe: win98win@gmail.com