Opposition against budget, a heavy burden on people
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Opposition parties are not happy about the 2008 budget presented by the government. Dissatisfaction is also growing in the general public as well as in some parties from the ruling coalition after the budget proposal was tabled in parliament on November 7 which allocates a whopping US$ 1.5 billion to defence spending.
For the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), the budget favours the ‘Rajapakse Brothers Company,’ a euphemism describing Mahinda Rajapakse and his younger brother Basil, respectively the president (as well as finance and defence minister) and a presidential advisor.
In a press statement, the opposition slams the budget for not providing any relief to ordinary people and for its lack of realistic policies or long term strategies or programmes in favour of the country’s development. Instead, it complains that the budget will considerably raise direct and indirect taxes with VAT and services taxes going from the current 354 billion rupees to 441 billion next year.
Expenditures should top a trillion rupees according to the president’s estimates. However, the government’s own accounting office puts the number at more than 1.5 trillion. By contrast, revenues should be around 750 billion, with an overall shortfall of about 766 billion.
Furthermore, according to the opposition, inflation should reach 22 per cent as a result of higher commodity and services prices.
Ministries directly controlled by the president will be the only ones to benefit.
The opposition, which will vote against the budget, said that education will only get 10 billion rupees (about US$ 90 million), penalising the country’s 4.5 million students.
Dissatisfaction is palpable in the streets. “The president has added a monthly relief allowance of 100 rupees on kerosene for low income families but this amounts to a single litre of kerosene,” some Colombo residents said. “We cannot be happy about this budget; it is a painful burden on us.”
Even the Jantha Vimukkthi Peramuna (JVP), the government’s main ally, has complained about Rajapakse’s budget.
“People expected a development-oriented budget. But this budget maintains an unsuitable economic managerial model and does little to help curb terrorism,” said JVP MP Wimal Weerawasnsa.
Under the circumstances the JVP has not yet decided whether or not to support the 2008 budget.
The bill will come up for second reading on November 19. The third reading is scheduled for November 23 and discussion in parliament will continue until December 14.