A lakh a month for daughter’s house!

Dismissing the JVP’s criticism of 40 ministers, non-cabinet ministers and deputy ministers receiving Rs 100,000 a month as house rent, Higher Education Minister Professor Wiswa Waranapala said that it was certainly more economical than providing official bungalows.

U. E. Perera, Co-ordinating Secretary (Media) to the Higher Education Minister, who is among the beneficiaries of the scheme implemented in April last year, told The Sunday Island that the Cabinet had decided to pay an allowance of Rs 100,000 monthly to those who were entitled to an official bungalow.

Perera said that his minister took care of his accommodation with Rs 100,000 whereas the government had to provide a fully furnished bungalow and meet water and electricity bills of others entitled to the housing perk. He asserted that those who lived in government bungalows were entitled to power-guzzling air-conditioning to brave the heat among other facilities.

Responding to our queries, he said his minister had rented his daughter’s house at No 35, Obahena Road, Madiwela, Kotte.

According to the Office of the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, the minister’s wife, Rani, functions as his private secretary. Among the perks and privileges afforded to private secretaries, coordinating secretaries and media secretaries was an official car.

The office said that in keeping with a recent government circular, some of them had opted to receive a monthly payment of Rs 30,000 forgoing their right to use an official car. The government has taken up the position that paying a monthly allowance was cheaper than providing and maintaining a car.

JVP MP Ranaweera Pathirana told The Sunday Island that nothing could be as irrational as the Higher Education Minister’s explanation. First of all the minister had conveniently forgotten that this situation could have been easily avoided if the SLFP leadership restricted the number of ministers, the Anuradhapura District MP said.

Waranapala had also ignored the fact that most of the beneficiaries of this scheme owned houses in the city and its suburbs. The minister’s defence was juicier than the original story. He said that a simple inquiry would reveal that the vast majority of those living at the taxpayers’ expense owned houses or rented the houses of their kith and kin as in the case of Waranapala.

Pathirana said that he was inquiring whether some of the lucky beneficiaries of Rs 100,000 house rent scheme also had MPs’ houses at Madiwela at their disposal.

The rapidly deteriorating world economic crisis should prompt the Rajapaksa administration to cut down on waste and corruption as part of its efforts to meet the financial meltdown, he said urging a comprehensive reassessment of perks and privileges received by politicians, their kith and kin and associates.

The rapidly declining international demand for tea and rubber and other exports including garments would have a catastrophic impact on the national economy, he predicted. Pathirana rejected government claims that the world economic downturn wouldn’t hurt us too badly and urged the government to take meaningful measures to cut wasteful expenditure.

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