Sri Lanka on track to achieve MDGs


Sri Lanka on track to achieve MDGs

Text of the speech made in Parliament on budget 2012, second reading
debate by Finance and Planning Deputy Minister Gitanjana Gunawardena

First and foremost, on behalf of the people of Seethawaka and the
Kelani Valley, I would like to extend to the President, our deep
gratitude and respectful appreciation for granting benefits to the
people of our country through this budget, which as planned and directed
is, to strengthen and establish the Mahinda Chinthana National
Development Programme.

Seventy five years ago the anti-imperialist agitation was initiated
with the pioneering of the Left movement in 1936, by Philip Gunawardena,
Dr N M Perera and Dr S A Wickremesinghe, together with D M Rajapaksa and
the people of the Ruhunu-Walawe and the Kelani Valleys. D A Rajapaksa
also joined them subsequently in the struggle for independence. Though,
the independence that was bestowed upon our country in 1948 was
national, it was the government of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna
established in 1956, that ushered in the political and social
independence consolidating the independence, by expelling foreign troops
stationed in the country and nationalization of the harbour and
airports, and in protecting the island’s economic hubs.


Deputy Minister Gitanjana Gunawardena

Along with S W R D Bandaranaike, progressive leaders of the SLFP such
as D A Rajapaksa, T B Ilangaratne and the Viplavakari Sama Samaja
Leaders Philip Gunawardena, P H William De Silva and Lakshman Rajapaksa
with other patriotic Left leaders ushered in this transformation to
further establish and advance the country’s independence and freedom. In
this way victorious achievements had been bestowed upon the Sinhala,
Tamil and Muslim people of our country, especially upon the population
of the rural areas led by the Pancha Maha Balavegaya of the Sangha,
Veda, Guru, Govi and Kamkaru (the clergy, physicians, teachers, farmers
and workers).

Educational and health services

We were able to safeguard and carry forward the victories of 1956
until 1977. Invaluable assets of the country such as the Harbour, Banks
and Petroleum Companies which until then were in the hands of foreigners
or their agents, were successfully vested with the people of this
country in public ownership. Especially the rights of the vast majority
of the people of the country whose livelihood was in agriculture, were
advanced through developing educational and health services to the rural
segments of the population, improving their mobility through further
developing public transport services.

It is with pride and satisfaction that I mention that a path of
development committed to improving local production and rural
development was embarked upon by strengthening the Co-operative System
through the development of Multipurpose Co-operatives, establishment of
The CTB by nationalizing bus transport services, establishment of the
Employees Provident Fund and through a number of enactments to
strengthen the rights of workers.

The enactment of the Paddy Lands Bill and other legislation, ensured
the rights of ‘ande cultivators’ (tenant cultivators) and the
establishment of the Paddy Marketing Board, SATHOSA and re-organization
of the Marketing Department signified the new approach of promoting
local based production and rural development. It is with a degree of
pride that I mention that the establishment of the People’s Bank, which
had been based on the Cooperative Development Bank Bill is a living
monument to the people’s victory of 1956.

In 1977 the United National Party attempted to reverse such
victorious achievements of the masses. Though, a number of Corporations
and Institutions slipped away from public ownership, it was possible to
safeguard and protect the main institutions and enactments through
public agitation. Incidentally, we were successful in protecting the
Paddy Lands Act, Ports, Transport, Insurance and State Banks.

Likewise, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna has been committed to
safeguarding people’s victories to-date. We are committed as a party to
protect and safeguard the independence, freedom and the territorial
integrity of our motherland together with other patriotic groups. As a
constituent party of the United People’s Freedom Alliance, we pledged
ourselves to continue along such a path, within the Mahinda Chinthanaya
Development Programme of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I reaffirm our
pledge to ensure the development and continued public ownership of
petroleum, ports, transport and other services which had been under
threat of privatization. I wish to stress that the government is clearly
committed to ensuring the rights of the farmers and uplifting their
living standards.

I reiterate that the progressive movement has been able to protect
the social transformation and political victories which were engineered
for the people by Philip Gunawardene, Dr N M Perera, and D M Rajapaksa
together with the support of other anti-imperialist progressive leaders
over the past 75 years in spite of various obstacles and setbacks.

Social development

Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people who value democracy are beholden to
the President and our war heroes for ending 30 years of destruction
through the defeat of barbaric terrorists, following the victory of the
sons of 1956, at Presidential Election 2005 and establishing the full
and undisputed ownership of 25,000 square miles of land area and 1.2
million square kilometers of the surrounding seas with vast assets of
the maritime belt and the sea bed, in the people of this country.

With the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka has approached a defining
moment in its history of social development. In peace and stability
established with the end of a long and hard fought war and with raising
of expectations of better standard of living amongst the people, the
country faces many challenges in realizing the peace dividends in
development.

Budget proposals

Sri Lanka having achieved Lower Middle Income Country status, in
moving ahead with the challenges of a vibrant economy with equitable
distribution of benefits of development. Having also achieved many of
the targets of Millennium Development Goals and with the necessary
environment for it being in place the country is on track to achieve the
remaining targets as well as to minimize regional disparities. Indeed
the “Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future” is to share benefits of
growth across all segments of the population and prevent inequalities,
social exclusion and adverse environmental impacts that have been
witnessed in some of the rapidly growing economies.

The achievements of our development policies are significant. Poverty
Head Count has been reduced from 15.2 per cent in 2006/07 to 8.9 per
cent at present. I present these figures provided by the Department of
Census and Statistics as answer to the issues raised by the Opposition
with regard to poverty alleviation to be included in the Hansard. With
that, I would like to mention the following figures as well.

*The un-employment rate has been reduced from 8 percent in 2005 to 5
percent

*Per capita income which was at US $ 1,226 in 2005 has been increased
up to US $ 2,800 by now and it was doubled within a space of four years
between 2004 and 2008.

*The fiscal deficit that was contained at 8.0 percent of GDP in 2010
will be reduced in 2011 and is targeted at 6.2 percent in 2012.

*Overall gross investment is projected to increase to 29.5 percent of
GDP from 27.8 percent in 2010.

*There has been a continuous recovery in government revenue with the
revenue to GDP ratio remaining on its upward trend, increasing from 14.5
percent in 2009 to 14.6 percent in 2010 and is targeted at 14.7 percent
in 2012.

*On the social side, the achievements are impressive with life
expectancy at 74.0 years and literacy at 91.4 percent.

Accordingly, it is evident that Sri Lanka is on track in achieving
the targets of Millennium Development Goals. It is in this favourable
context that we must view the budget proposals for 2012. The budget
proposals set out the development agenda for 2012 within the policy
framework of Mahinda Chinthana. The proposed budgetary framework is
holistic in its approach and targets different development issues and
needs of the people. The special focus is to take care of different
facets of poverty.

The budget 2012 addresses issues of development such as
comprehensively promoting growth, broadening equity and inclusivity and
taking care of those who are excluded from and subsist at the margins of
development. An important facet of such exclusion is isolation of people
and households as well as villages, communities and regions. It is
necessary to connect communities with each other in order to benefit
from development taking place in different parts of the country.

Development programmes

It is in the context of connecting people with development, that we
must recognize the emphasis the budget places on the improvement of
physical infrastructure, especially roads, transport and electricity
that connect people physically and economically as well as the
investments in education, health, water and sanitation, and housing in
connecting people socially with the mainstream development.

It is then that rural development programmes can provide
opportunities for rural communities to link up economically and
socially.

We want people to move beyond subsistence to developing their full
capabilities, thereby widening the range of choices in respect of what
they can do in their lives and how they can participate in the
development of their society. Investments in the rural sector towards
creating new income opportunities are necessary to create opportunities
for rural people within the localities they live.

Whereas programmes to impact on the development of economies of 10
lakhs of families has commenced under the ‘Divi Neguma’ last year, it is
particularly significant that the President has made provision in this
budget to expand the coverage of this programme to include 25 lakhs of
families by end of year 2012.

Development programmes for the rural population through the creation
of ‘Enterprise Villages’ and the ‘Pura Neguma’ are also included. We
have to appreciate that Rs 7,000 million has been allocated for
modernization through re-development of small towns in 100 local
authority areas. Continued support to Small and Medium Enterprises with
programmes of technology transfer and skills development complement the
rural centric development strategy which is being financed by the
budget.

Economical progress

Special mention must be made of the support to the Ranaviru. It
encompasses the creation of development opportunities to the War Heroes
whose services to the nation must continue to be recognized.

The proposal for ‘Ranaviru Divi Neguma’ for disabled soldiers and
members of their families to be engaged in self-employment is a step in
the right direction to establish them and their families as partners in
development.

The analysis of the budget would be incomplete without reference to
strategies for promoting growth. While sustaining the growth momentum,
promoting industry and tourism creates employment opportunities for
people. Measures in line with the Mahinda Chinthanaya Development
Programme for development of small industries and the tourism sector as
well as for employment creation for the rural population, have been
given due place within strategies for economic development as included
in the budget.

In this context the proposals for New Investment Priorities, Banking
and Business Development, Export Development, support for the Textile,
Pharmaceutical and Manufacturing Industries constitute focal strategic
areas for promoting growth, Maintaining 8 percent economic growth would
be an added strength in this regard.

It is necessary to integrate the different strategic development
facets of the Budget 2012. We have had to steer through the peoples’
revolution of 1956 as well as the open market on-slaught of 1977. It
must be noted that the development transformation envisaged by the
Mahinda Chinthana in 2005 in terms of political, social and economical
progress is strengthened by achievement of peace in 2009.

Policies that have been introduced in the budget would be managed in
the context of global effects in developing durable solutions to
development issues we are facing today. It necessitates continuous
monitoring of policy implementation and taking timely corrective action.
This is a necessary condition for moving off the beaten path. This is
the role for the public sector and the challenge for public-private
partnership. The budget 2012 assigns crucial roles to the public and
private sectors in taking this new path.

We believe that the Budget 2012 provides for making Sri Lanka the
‘Dynamic Economic Hub of Asia,’ as planned in Mahinda Chinthana. Today,
we have been able to secure the contributions of our own academics and
professionals as well as engineers, technicians and architects etc. for
the development process, in particular towards the establishment of five
regional hubs i.e. Naval, aero, commercial, power and knowledge hubs.
All of them have come forward willingly to strengthen and accelerate the
development process. The knowledge hub will enhance education
opportunities for our children and it will help future development of
the country. The budget proposals as well as Mahinda Chinthana provide
to encourage contribution of our own engineers and other professionals
in the development projects launched with foreign aid. I would like to
make note on a question raised by Kabir Hasheem with regard to the gold
reserves of the Central Bank and wish to remind that I have made a clear
statement in that respect on November 8, 2011 in Parliament.

The budget 2012 has made proposals not only for granting benefits to
farmers, workers and the employees of the State sector, but also for
encouraging domestic industries, exports, research and skills
development. Therefore, we all must appreciate these budget proposals
prepared with the aim of accelerating and enhancing the development
process of the country.

Today, in an environment which ensures territorial integrity,
sovereignty and peace, the North and the East are also reaping the
benefits of development. It will help to build much stronger social,
political and economic relationships between people in those areas and
other parts of the country.

We have been able to defeat the LTTE terrorists and now we are
marching towards a great economic and social development which could
strengthen the unity of all Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim people in the
country. Road development also contributes to achieving this objective.
It will help to connect the North and the South. It will help to connect
the East and the West. Accordingly, people in various parts of the
country will get the opportunity to move with each other and build up
strong social and economic relationships and interactions with mutual
understanding.

Universal franchise

I regret to mention that some politicians from the North and the East
continuously try to subvert these social and economic development
initiatives. But, we all must appreciate the excellent efforts made by
President, Mahinda Rajapaksa for the development of the villages which
had been under control of LTTE for 30 years. At the time of LTTE’s
control of the North, these MPs were keeping silent with regard to the
development issues of such areas. Had they spoken, they would have met
with the same fate and paid with their lives like thousands of people
who were killed by the LTTE. We were saddened to listen to the speeches
they made at that time in this House.

It is our duty to ensure an environment where all communities will
continue to enjoy peace and prosperity within the context of a Unitary
State of Sri Lanka. We detest the efforts made by anybody to disturb and
destroy the prevailing peaceful environment conducive to moving towards
prosperity. Not only we, but all people including the people of the
North and the East have repeatedly requested to ensure peace and
security in the country. The results of the Presidential Elections, the
General Election, the Provincial Councils Elections and the Local
Authorities Elections have clearly confirmed this fact.

Therefore, as the representatives of the people, it is our duty to
make sure that the trust repost on us by them is maintained by way of
contributing to the policies and development initiatives of the
government.

For that we have to remind ourselves that the recently concluded
General Election was the election at which we were returned to this
Parliament, which has an uninterrupted tenure of democratic governance
through universal franchise since 1931.

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