Economic policies of government falling far short, says JO’s Balasuriya

Mar 29, 2017 (LBO) – Economic policies of the present Sri Lankan government are falling far short of expectations, driven by lack of confidence in the finance minister, Joint Opposition MP Tharaka Balasuriya said in parliament.

Public sector salary hikes, lower fuel prices, erratic budget decisions and vehicle purchases for ministers were some of the glaring follies of the present government, he said.

“I think it’s fair to say that even the most optimistic supporter of the government, whilst looking at the current economic situation, would say that things could be better,” he said.

Increased corruption, highlighted by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, was another example.

“This government has been a total failure burdening the people with increasing levels of taxation, whilst at the same time spending more than 790 million rupees in order to purchase vehicles for the comfort of ministers.”

“And of recent, another fleet of vehicles has been purchased for more than 500 million rupees.”

Balasuriya also referred to a drop in foreign reserves triggered by foreign selling in government bonds.

The government’s performance should be compared with the previous government which increased per capita income from USD 1062 to USD 3853, during the 2005 to 2014 period, while reducing government debt from 102 percent of GDP to 70.7 percent, and ending a civil war, he added.

Nevertheless, there has been a continuous failure of policies, as highlighted by Sri Lanka last recording a trade surplus in 1977, which successive governments are responsible for, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party MP, elected from the Kegalle district, said.

“If one considers the fact that since independence this country has increasingly become a welfare state, rewarding the unsuccessful rather than encouraging the unsuccessful to be successful, cannot entirely be blamed on this government.”

“Or consider the case of increasing tax evasion, or increasing state sector employment with decreasing levels of productivity.”

Dr. N M Perera, the famous Marxist finance minister, in his 1973 budget speech had highlighted the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s pension mechanism, but we didn’t listen, Balasuriya added.

“It is essential that we separate and identify these long term deterrents of economic growth and rectify them by developing national policies based on economic productivity and efficiency rather than party compromise.”

For this to happen, Balasuriya said confidence in the finance minister was essential.

“If a change in the ministry of finance is done, as speculated by the newspapers, we will have some hope just as we had in the case with Central Bank.”