JO, JVP refuse to see positive side of Budget | Sunday Observer

JO, JVP refuse to see positive side of Budget

Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera presenting his maiden Budget in Parliament themed “Blue-Green Budget” introduced a far-sighted vision with a series of people-friendly proposals to strengthen the economy, and proposed to amend certain outdated laws which would enable Sri Lanka to be a more vibrant and a dynamic market economy.

Minister Samaraweera in his Budget Speech which spanned over two and a half hours said, Budget 2018 will support the achievement of envisaged medium-term targets such as, per capita income of US$ 5,000, one million new jobs, FDI inflows of US$ 5 billion , and doubling exports to US$ 20 billion. The Minister told the House, in 2018, they envisage a GDP growth of 5 percent, inflation of around 6 percent and hope to bring down the Budget deficit to 4.5 percent of the GDP.

Minister Samaraweera said, the economy is expected to grow by around 4.5 percent in 2017 and projected to move gradually to a higher GDP growth path of around 6 percent by 2020, while containing the level of unemployment at 4 percent. He said, the Government’s battle to restore macroeconomic stability on a more sustainable footing needs continuous effort.

Many Government lawmakers commended the maiden Budget Speech of the Finance Minister and described it as encouraging and forward looking. However, the Joint Opposition (JO) and the JVP members were highly critical and didn’t see any positive aspects in it.

Enacting yet another drama, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa along with a group of JO MPs came to Parliament on bicycles. Before Minister Samaraweera commenced his Budget Speech, JO Leader Dinesh Gunawardena raising a privilege issue told the House that they were obstructed by the officials when they arrived in Parliament on bicycles. MP Gunawardena said JO MPs headed by former President Rajapaksa had to come to Parliament on bicycles as there is an acute shortage of petrol in the whole country. The Speaker said, he would look into the incident to ascertain whether the JO MPs faced any obstructions at Parliament entrance. Responding to MP Gunawardena’s statement, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe hailed the JO’s decision to switch over to vehicles which don’t pollute the environment even before the Government presented its eco-friendly Budget.

The Government depicting its sincerity on the process of formulating a new Constitution provided more opportunity to Parliamentarians to air their views on the Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday (November 8). Earlier the debate on the Interim Report was held on October 30 and 31 and November 1 and 2.

National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr.Harsha de Silva told the House that all 225 Parliamentarians have been given the opportunity to express their views on the proposed constitutional reforms. The Deputy Minister said even TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran in his speech explained how the Tamil political parties maintain a moderate and neutral position regarding this matter of key national importance. Dr. de Silva said all Parliamentarians should get rid of petty political differences to reach a consensus on this issue. He categorically stated, the constitutional making process should not be aimed at the election. Instead of looking back at 20 to 30 years of history, we must look at the country’s 2,500 years of history when a new Constitution is going to be introduced.

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said, almost all 225 MPs have been able to take part in this important debate. Before the debate commenced, various rumours were circulated by certain sections to mislead the people. Even the Cabinet has not given its final say to the draft constitution, yet. Certain sections launched a disinformation campaign to gain their narrow political objectives. Even a JO MP talked about bombing Parliament if the new Constitution is passed in Parliament. Minister Amaraweera said, this is the ideal opportunity to reach a compromise on the issue as even the TNA has become more flexible, accepting the unitary status and the prominence given to Buddhism.

In a situation where the SLFP has already expressed its opposition to fully abolish the Executive Presidency, UPFA Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama who expressed a divergent view during the debate proposed to abolish the Executive Presidency. The MP told the House since the time of President J. R. Jayewardene, the SLFP had been campaigning against the Executive Presidency. MP Welgama said he had always spoken against the Executive Presidency and would continue to do so. Observing that President Maithripala Sirisena is also in favour of abolishing the Executive Presidency, the MP said he would extend his support to the President to fulfil that pledge. The Government outlining its position on the controversial SAITM issue announced its decision to abolish it. The Chairman of the Committee appointed by the President to look into the SAITM crisis, National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr.Harsha de Silva told the House that the Government has decided to abolish SAITM and stop enrolling students.

Making a special statement in Parliament, the Deputy Minister said a solution in accordance with the University Grants Commission Act would be formulated for students who had been registered and studying currently at SAITM. He said, the Government would continue to hold talks with all stakeholders of the SAITM issue and hope to sort out the issue by December 31.

The fuel shortage which prevailed in the country over the past couple of days turned into a hot topic following the special statements made by JO Leader Dinesh Gunawardena and JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake. MP Gunawardena told the House, if the Speaker too finds there is no petrol for his vehicles, Parliament should understand the seriousness of the fuel crisis and the suffering of the general public.

He said the entire country is suffering due to this crisis and it is the responsibility of the Government and the relevant Minister to inform the nation when they would solve the problem. MP Dissanayake pointed out, five shipments of petrol have been imported in contravention of the due procedure and the country has suffered a massive loss of around US$ 40 million. He called upon Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga to inform the House about the politician who exerted pressure on him to give permission for the unloading of substandard petrol. 

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