By Mangala Samaraweera –
At the time the country’s economy has been destabilized due to reckless action by the present government and I as the former finance minister completely reject the attempt by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to pass on the responsibility of their economic destabilization on the Yahapalana government.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse had released a statement on April 18, taking his political game one step further. I thought it would be better to remind that the result of this power politics that ignores the lives of the people of our country is a more tragic crime.
I do not think I should recall how the then Opposition Leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, tried to politicize the Easter Sunday Attack in a shameless manner when it took place on April 21, 2019.
PM Mahinda Rajapaksa in his statement has made repeated attempts to convince that Sri Lanka had to face this corona epidemic at a time of severe economic downturn and the “Good Governance” Government was responsible for this economic debacles.
The increased GDP Growth rate shown by the MR Govt. was due to increased government expenditure due to the debt stock together with the cost of corruption during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime which has benefited the people very little.
However, I take this opportunity to recall the key developments that the Government of Good Governance has rendered to the benefit of all the people for the economic development of this country.
* There was an unprecedented natural disaster of severe drought in 2016 and floods in 2017 which caused a loss of 1% GDP to the economy.
* 52 days unconstitutional debacle orchestrated with the support of the Head of State in 2018 created public finance and economic havoc
* 21st April 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attack created a set back in the tourism industry which was fast improving.
* Two party experiments in governance-stalled the speedy recovery, management and reform process.
Despite the man-made and natural disasters, the Good Governance Government has been able to bring about economic and social benefits for the people in a tangible manner.
1. Revenue of the government one of the lowest in the world by the end of 2014 at 10.5% of the GDP. Good governance government raised it above 13% of GDP. In absolute terms revenue levels doubled by the end of 2019 from what it was in 2014.
2. Not a single cent was added to basic salaries of government employees from 2006 and we from 2015 doubled the salaries of public servants in 5 years; more was added to certain sectors like, judiciary and police. Pensions of over 500,000 pensioners were nearly doubled.
3. Pension increment due on the 1st of January 2020 benefiting nearly 90,000 pensioners was scrapped. Staff officers’ allowances were also stopped by incumbent rulers of this government.
4. During the post 2015–broad based distribution of development to over 14,000 Grama Niladari divisions across the country based on rapid rural development program- Gamperaliya began to bring about benefits of true national development was scrapped.
5. So is the broad-based program for generating entrepreneurial culture through promotion of the private sector investment -Enterprise Sri Lanka programme was scrapped.
6. Moragahakanda-Kaluganga with an investment outlays of about US $ 1500 Mn were successfully completed. This was thus far the biggest development program completed after the Mahaweli.Development Project.
7. Highway extension to Hambantota and Railway Line to Beliatta was completed. Highway to Kandy was partially completed. Many water supply schemes were completed island wide.
8. With the massive investment on all manner of infrastructure programs, North and East was mainstreamed during the 5 years realizing a measure of true integration. Very comprehensive urban development program was implemented with a long-term in view. Health and education national budget locations were increased every year.
In spite of the above achievement, Sri Lanka has recorded a primary surplus in its fiscal accounts for 2017, 2018 and until we left in 2019. This was a record to highlight the successful economic management which the country has witnessed in six decades after 1954-55.
In addition, Sri Lanka maintained a healthy international relations program with all the countries benefiting everybody in the country. The then prevailing black spots by 2014 on the Sri Lanka’s international radar was completely cleaned during five years from 2015 and since then Sri Lanka had never been figured on in any issue associated with human rights, or political affairs- many of which were prevalent on daily basis prior to 2015.
Tax cut with no foresight introduced administratively effective in December 2019 has brought about a fiscal malady which will have far reaching negative consequences for many years to come. Before the two-month coming into power, Sri Lanka was downgraded by rating agencies for want of a clear program for revenue management, reserve and debt management. Sri Lanka had to beg postponement of debt repayments.
No budget since 17th Nov 2019; Vote on Account is going to be effective till 30th April 2020. Thereafter it is in question with no approved budget?
By now the world oil prices have come down tremendously signaling a negative value. Had the oil price formula introduced when I was the Finance minister is in force the people of this country would have had the opportunity to buy fuel at less more than 50% of the current retail price. This government robbed the people of this facility.
The government’s short sighted economic policy has compelled it to go for money printing in millions paving the way for inflation and the debt burden has increased. As a result Sri Lanka had to beg postponement of debt repayments.
In every disastrous event that has devastated, damaged and endangered the lives of our people, the political history of Sri Lanka has proved that Rajapaksa political fanatics arrogated it to strengthen its power politics. The tsunami tragedy, the war against the LTTE and the Easter Sunday attack are just a few of the notorious instances of Rajapaksa politics.
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa! you have held the office of President for nearly 10 years. Anyone who remembers the serious damage done to the economy of Sri Lanka will surely feel very disgusted with these words. It is because of the 10 years of massive debt that the Rajapaksa government has taken, the commissions, the unsuccessful popular projects, the Greek bond transactions and the nepotism has lead the economy of the country in to the intensive care unit in 2015. As I have repeatedly said that good governance govt.not only helped to revive the economy but also brought the economy up to the level of a normal patient.
It doesn’t have to be easy or simple. We had to repay even the biggest installment of the debt obtained by them in the history of the country. . It is to liberate the country from the burden of huge commercial loans obtained by Rajapaksa govt. with the intention of making quick bucks as commissions. Instead of the commercial loans for large scale projects if the Rajapaksa Government had concluded them as the BOO/BOT project loan the economy would not have gone to this level.
I should say that it is in this backdrop that the economy of the country, as you have mentioned, has led to the most catastrophic situation due to short-sighted political decisions taken by the caretaker government of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in which you are also the Prime Minister which came in to office in late 2019. Every relief provided by the Yahapaalana government to the people were cut under the guise of popular tax cut by this government where you function as the finance minister and the prime minister. It was you as the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister of this government who made the cuts under the guise of popular tax cuts every relief provided by the yahapaalana government to the people.
The government of Sri Lanka has not expressed any concern about the coronavirus when it was spreading in December 2019 in the world. Although the first coronavirus infection was identified on January 27, the government did not care for the safety of the people.
It is to be reminded that even from the beginning of the Corona Plague, this government had enough time to formulate and implement a successful program to protect the lives of the people of this country.
However, due to the negligence of the government or certain actions of the government, while the coronavirus is gradually spreading in Sri Lanka, the government was in power greed made use the provisions of Article 70 (1) of the Constitution read with Article 33 (2) (c) of the Constitution is a concession to the power of the Government It is ridiculous for you to point out that only the provisions relating to the powers conferred by the President under Article 150 (3) of the Constitution have been conducive to the crisis created by your government itself. Even in the face of such a tragedy, your government wanted to dissolve the Parliament that is otherwise in force until September this year and make their political power project a success. A pandemic appeared, and the Parliament was dissolved not because of a national interest or a political crisis but simply because of the political will of the Rajapaksas, including you.
The true meaning of this statement is that people will have to risk their lives to enable the government to consolidate their power. I totally reject that statement, which confirms your shameless political character.
However, as an opposition we are ready to work together to support the safety of the entire country at any time.Our Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa have stated on several previous occasions that we are prepared to assist the government as an opposition. I remind it once again.
We will not support the political fanaticism of the government including you. However, we are ready to assist the country to be free from the coronal epidemic and to end all efforts to protect human lives.