Sri Lanka’s former Finance Minister Mangala Samarweera has accused the newly elected government of lacking an economic vision as state revenue fell by two thirds this year, with the economy showing negative growth.
In a scathing attack on the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government, Samaraweera blamed a ‘power before country’ attitude by the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the status quo.
The vote on account for the final four months of this year has allocated Rs 1,700 billion for state expenditure; to cover this amount, owing to fall in state revenue, the government has raised Rs 1,300 billion in loans, which clearly demonstrates the economic crisis the country is undergoing, said Samaraweera.
No development initiative will be carried out this year, he said, due to no budget being passed for 2020 and state revenue for the next four months is expected to amount to only Rs 400 billion.
“This is a two-thirds drop in revenue when looking at the time I was Minister of Finance. Following last year’s presidential election, parliament was prorogued and was not summoned from March 2 till August 20. This robbed the people of an opportunity to see the true state of the economy,” he said.
Noting that the economy reported a negative growth of 1.6% during the first quarter of 2020, for the first time since 2001, Samareewara accused the government of hiding from the public the real decline of the economy until the night before the election.
“The damage caused to the country by the SLPP government’s economic vision or lack thereof is far more serious than the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
According to Samaraweera, state revenue dropped so significantly that the government had to borrow monthly to pay state sector salaries, raising questions about a government promise to recruit 50,000 graduates to the state sector at a monthly remuneration of Rs 20,000 each.
The former minister called into question government plans to recruit these graduates to the Ministry of Defence when there are teaching and development vacancies at provincial and central government levels. He also alleged that moves are underway to provide military training to these recruits after assigning them to divisional secretariats. As previously unseen in any democratic state, he said, the Ministry of Home Affairs has been brought under the Ministry of Defence along with all divisional secretariats and government agents’ offices. Salaries to be paid to these graduates who will be recruited to fields where no productivity is expected, the government will have to borrow Rs 3 billion every month, adding to the burdens already imposed on the public, said Samaraweera.
“In a context where high profile individuals of the SLPP have said their party must emulate the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), these appointments must be examined,” he said.
The former minister added that suspicion is raised as to whether the military trained recruits will be used as a spy service similar to those employed by the CCP, as a first step towards
“Every party that obtained a two-thirds majority in parliament in Sri Lanka tried to consolidate the ruling family’s power, in order to secure their political future. This government too, has prioritised consolidating its power for its future generation, over developing the country,” said Samarweera. (Economy Next)
True patriots who have genuine love for the country, he said, condemns these alleged moves to militarise the country under the guise of patriotism and using innocent university graduates to this end at a time when the economy is undergoing a major crisis.