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Hakeem sworn in as MP

by Wijitha Nakkawita and Lakshmi de Silva

SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem who resigned to contest the Eastern Provincial Council Elections was sworn in as a Member of Parliament before Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara yesterday (10) morning in the House.

Power Minister complains of damage to transformers

Minister of Power and Energy, Mahindananda Alutgamage said that a JVP member had thrown a chain on a power line at Medirigiriya and damaged two power transformers. The CEB was able to revive the power supply within two hours. The damage had caused a severe loss to the CEB and the JVP member was to be arrested by the police who were investigating the matter.

Apart from that there was no interruption to the power supply by the CEB. The strike was a failure, he said.

JVP wants day’s debate on oil exploration tender

JVP Group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake requested a day’s debate in Parliament on the award of tenders for oil exploration. The Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M.Fowzie said the debate will be allowed.

The Minister replying to a question raised in the House said that the Petroleum Corporation was making a loss of 4 billion rupees monthly and the loss incurred on the LIOC filling stations was another 400 million rupees a month. However the LIOC had lowered their prices of fuel after he requested them to do. If they refused to bring down the prices, the government would take over the LIOC.

Finance and Excise Bills passed without division

A number of Finance and Excise Bills were presented in the House yesterday and they were passed without division.

Making a statement in the House regarding government revenue Minister of Finance and Government Revenue Ranjith Siyamabalapitiya said the revenue for the year 2007 was 565 billion rupees. When compared with the revenue of the year 2004 it was an increase of 82 percent. The income from taxation in 2004 was 282 billion rupees but it increased to 506 billion rupees in 2007 and it was an increase of 81 percent.

There was also an 84 percent increase in non- tax revenue in 2007 he said.

The strengthening of tax administration and increasing the number of taxable people by 100,000 new taxable persons had been possible during the past two years with 1000 new tax officers recruited to the Department of Inland Revenue had made it possible to increase the revenue but it should be emphasized that we did not sell state enterprises or public assets like the previous UNP government to increase government revenue he noted.

Colombo District UNP member Ravi Karunanayke said the Governor Central Bank had said the country’s economy was on a shaky platform and the government revenue was barely sufficient pay the loans it had taken at high interest rates. Of the revenue of 775 billion rupees revenue 580 billion was used for repayment of loans and interest so that there was no funds available for capital expenditure, he noted.

The bank interest rates were high and the interest rate of Treasury Bills was 17.5 percent and the inflation rate was 38 percent, he said.

Minister of Nation Building Jagath Pushpakumara said member Karunanayake was talking about fiscal policies but he was the person who closed the CWE and spent large sums of money as salaries to people who did not have qualifications. He had made a hue and cry about Munda Gas but the gas never came ashore. After keeping the CWE open for 24 hours and paying high salaries to his own people he made it go bankrupt and closed it putting out employees. Today he was trying to tell the government how to run the country’s economy when he could not manage the CWE as the minister of consumer affairs.

Lakshman Nipunarachchi (JVP) said the Deputy Minister of Finance did not appear to have read the Central Bank reports as it was very clear that the government revenue on excise duty on liquor and tobacco was one of the main areas of the increase in revenue. Though the government claimed it was going to reduce the consumption of alcohol and tobacco these had increased.

The propaganda and advertising done by the National Lotteries Board was done in an irregular way and its sales promotion bills were very high though the salaries of its employees were not increased. Even the lottery ticket agents were given only a commission of Rs.1.50 on a lottery ticket that was not sufficient and it was understood that the price of the ticket was to be increased to Rs. 20 he said.

Udayashantha Gunasekara (JNP) said the government should make use of the opportunity of hosting the SAARC summit to show some foreign powers and NGOs that were attempting to destabilize the country that Sri Lanka was capable of hosting an international summit meeting. But the government should also stop corruption within it and curtail waste of funds so that some parties in the Opposition who were in truck with foreign powers and NGOs working on the UNP-LTTE agenda to tarnish the country’s image abroad could be silenced.

Minister of Investment Promotion Dr. Sarath Amunugama said for the first time a political party in the Opposition was demanding for the postponement of elections though all parties in the Opposition usually demanded elections to feel the pulse of the people. The strike was organized by such parties who were identified as wolves in sheep’s clothing.

(SI)


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