“The budget introduced a new ‘Environment Conservation Levy’ to counter damage caused to the environment through water and air pollution and soil erosion. The government estimates the cost of these forms of environmental damage to be over 2 percent of GDP. The government intends to devote more funds to environmental protection by taxing individuals, businesses, and items considered to be harmful to the environment. It will collect Rs 20 per month from every household that owns a vehicle, a telephone and an electricity connection. (Comment: While the environment conservation goal is laudable, this is likely to be another of the many supposedly purpose-designated taxes that in practice mostly ends up going towards general revenue.)” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The ‘Unclassified’ cable discusses the Rajapaksa’s 2008 budget . The cable was written on December 13, 2007 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert O. Blake.
The ambassador wrote; “Another notable feature of the 2008 budget is its heavy total allocations to ministries controlled by President Rajapaksa or his brothers. Between them, the four brothers effectively control 53 percent of the 2008 government budget. (Note: Some sources, such as a recent “Economist” article about the Rajapaksa family, cite a figure of 70 percent for their control of the budget, but this appears exaggerated.) The President directly controls 51 percent of the budget: Ministry of Finance and Planning (29 percent), Ministry of Defense (16 percent, run by brother Gothabaya as Secretary), Ministry of Nation Building (5 percent for politically important poverty alleviation and village development programs, run by brother Basil as Advisor) and Office of the President (0.6 percent). The President’s elder brother, Chamal, heads the Ministry of Ports and Aviation (2 percent) and the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (0.06 percent). One commentator on the budget noted that these ministries were the only ones whose budget allocations increased by more than the rate of inflation.”
To read more on Weliweriya protest click here