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By Sujith Konara

State Minister of Public Enterprise Development, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena speaks to the Rivira Group on the upcoming Budget proposals next month.

Q: Can you comment on the forthcoming budget? I am quite sure that the forthcoming budget will not burden the ordinary people. By now the national income has risen by two percent and it will further increase after this budget. There are many proposals to generate more revenue in the long term. There are proposals to provide incentives to industries like tourism.

Q: Why do you claim that the forthcoming budget will be a good one? The Minister of Finance listened to the proposals made by all stakeholders in the economy and so I think it will be peoplefriendly.

Q: If the country’s economy slipped down how do find revenue to settle foreign debts in the next two years and meet government expenditure? The budget proposals intend to promote export income, foreign investments and generate more national income. By these strategies the government intends to increase the national revenue.

Q: The inflations has now risen to unprecedented levels. Do you agree? In certain months inflation did rise due to natural disasters like floods and droughts. And in certain months inflation came down due low prices in agricultural products but on the whole I do agree that certain commodities still high in prices.

Q: What is the suggested remedy for rising inflation? Unless we increase the national income inflation cannot be controlled by any government. The remedy for this is to increase export income. Q: Does this budget propose to bring down the prices of motorcars? In order to provide some relief to low income groups the budget may reduce the tax of small vehicles.

Q: In that case will dollar rate go up? There won’t be a big impact on the dollar as these vehicles are low priced Indian makes.

Q: There is a speculation that the prices of beer and wine will go down. Could you comment on that? If you want to support the tourism industry you have to give such incentives. It doesn’t mean opening up more and more liquor shops in the country. Limitations are in place not to popularize liquor among the masses.Certain countries like Malaysia and Singapore has given a lot of incentives to tourists without affecting their culture. Our tourist industry is falling behind our competitors due to lack of incentives.

Q: Are you quite sure that the local government elections would be held in January? The government has completed all the necessary work to hold the elections except publishing the relevant gazette and it will be done next week and then the ball is in the Elections Commissioner’s court. He gave an assurance that he can hold elections before February.

Q: There are speculations that the holding of provincial council elections would be further delayed. Do you foresee such delay? No, I don’t think it will be delayed further. No sooner than the Delimitation Committee finish its work the provincial council elections will be held before this year is out.

Q: For what reasons the President called a meeting of the SLFP members in the government? In coming January we have to get ready for local government elections. The President wants every party member of the SLFP party to fully support the party contestants. But some of the SLFPers are not extending full support to the party, instead they act on their own in a way detrimental to the party. The President wants to know whether they take a stand to support the party or else what standthey take.

Q: What would be the party decision if the dissenting members do not agree to toe the line? In that case the President and the central committee would take a firm decision against them.

Q: Has the former president been invited? As an MP he was also invited.

Q: Is the party trying to patch up the differences between the President and the former president? The SLFP is trying to bring both of them together. If the party is divided, we are bound to lose at the elections. If they reach a compromise, it will be advantageous to the party.

Q: Some party organizers loyal to the former president have been removed from the office. Doesn’t it detrimental to the unity of the party? Only some have been removed because they are not actively engaged in the party activities. But if they are actively involved in the party work by now they can regain their office.

Q: There is much opposition to the proposed constitution. The SLFP also half-heartedly involved in that process. Don’t you feel so? The SLFP has forwarded its proposals and it clearly expressed its stand on the new constitution. It is now only in the drafting stage. No one need to have any prejudgment on it or panic about it as it has not reached a finality.

Q: Isn’t it the opportune to make a new constitution while all the major parties as well as minor parties agreeing to frame a new constitution? Previously constitutions were framed unilaterally but now all have reached a consensus to draft a new constitution. Many citizens express their views and opinions to form a new constitution. This is a healthy development to frame a constitution that would be agreeable to all and sundry.

(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)