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Cut waste to avert major financial crisis – Wijedasa

Former UPFA National List MP Wijedasa Rajapakshe says a sharp reduction in the number of ministers in the next Parliament is a necessity as part of the overall measures to bring down the budget deficit.

The newly appointed UNP organiser for Maharagama electorate says the country cannot allow ministerial extravagance at the taxpayers’ expense.

Responding to a query by The Island, Rajapakshe warned of an unprecedented financial crisis within the next few months unless the government cut down waste.

He urged the government not to secure further commercial borrowings at exorbitant interest rates, but take immediate austerity measures to control government expenditure.

He said the economy would be jeopardised by unrestrained commercial borrowings.

Rajapakshe estimated such borrowings in the past four years at over Rs. 2,000 billion.

He said that contrary to much publicised media reports, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had no option but to deny ministerial privileges to some of the elected members at the April 8 parliamentary poll.

The former Chairman of the parliamentary committee on public enterprises said the bottom line is that the country was struggling to pay interests on loans, public servants salaries and pensioners.

The government seemed to be ignorant or conveniently turning a blind eye to a rapidly deteriorating financial situation, he said.

He said the government was under heavy pressure due to the IMF delaying its third installment to Sri Lanka.

According to him, the country had received the first IMF installment last September and somehow managed to take the second in December, though the lending agency deferred the third payment until the middle of this year due to Sri Lanka’s failure to meet its obligations.

The IMF assistance wouldn’t be available unless the government restricts the budget deficit to 7 per cent. Rajapakshe said the country would have to take tangible action to fight waste, corruption and irregularities to bridge the deficit. He explained that the institutions under the President, too, would have to tackle waste, he said, emphasising the government wasn’t in a position to ignore the threat on the very survival of the economy.

Appreciating the defeat of the LTTE, he said a total overhaul of the economy was needed now.

Wijedasa Rajapakshe also called the MPs to review parliamentary privileges such as housing allowance received by many.

He said the government had absolutely nothing to be proud of except armed forces’ triumph over the LTTE.

All other sector, including education and health were in chaos, though ministers regularly boasted of their achievements.

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