Budget allocation for defence is non-negotiable

–Minister Amunugama

By Steve A. Morrell

Senior Minister, Dr. Sarath Amunugama said although there are many questions on expenditure for defense, budgetary allocations for this sector is a non-negotiable and is unmistakably part of this government’s investment platform.

At a panel discussion on the 2014 Budget, he said quite unlike the second world war when the British government de-mobilized their armed forces and had them return to civilian life; in the current context, although the war is over, "we cannot forget those in the frontlines who won the war for us. They will continue to enjoy all their perks, medical assistance, pensions, salaries, quarters, allowances and everything they were entitled to during the war".

"Don’t forget these soldiers have been trained to use their guns. If they are let loose with nothing to do in our villages, we will be creating a group of criminals. You will not want that to happen", the Minister said.

The panel discussion held at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) last week comprised, in addition to Minister Amunugama, Economist Dr. Anura Ekanayake, the Moderator, Dr. Harsha de Silva, UNP MP, Sunil Handunhetty of the JVP and Minister Udaya Gammanpila of the Hela Urumaya.

Amunugama said through fiscal consolidation growth is expected to move from 7.5% to 8% growth in the rural sector. "We have a stable and strong government. The President discussed aspect of inclusions and exclusions with various groups before he budget was drafted".

There is no serious concern regarding the Sri Lankan economy. The macro economic indicators are good. Control of the budget deficit will be a continuous feature over the next three years, he assured.

Harsha de Silva said taxes now at maximum and there was hardly any aspect that deserved mention that was not in the tax net. At every turn, a tax levy of about 38% or more on anything bought is taxed.

The inevitable question of casinos was debated quite extensively. De Silva reiterated his views confirming that at no stage did he say he was against casinos. He confirmed that his contention was that such casinos should not be given tax holidays.

Both Sunil Handunhetty and Harsha de Silva debated the price of oil and counter measures that could be implemented to reduce economic shocks stemming from the price of petroleum.

Minister Gamanpilla confirmed there were gas deposits that could be extracted, but this was still at survey level.

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