BT-RCB budget survey draws Treasury attention
A 3-pronged approach by the Business Times (BT) last week in asking the public what they expect in the Government’s next 2013 budget, drew a favourable response from the Treasury. The survey-cum-poll conducted jointly by the BT and the Colombo-based Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB), which raised many issues on governance and the need for the views of the public to be considered in the budget instead of only those from Colombo-based trade chambers and other organizations, saw Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera hurriedly call a meeting of senior officials on Monday where a ‘people’s friendly’ budget process was discussed.
“Although there was no mention of the Business Times’ comprehensive coverage on the budget at the meeting, the Treasury Secretary is reported to have told some officials (before the meeting) that the views expressed in the BT-RCB report should be taken into consideration,” a Finance ministry official said. The Treasury Secretary was of the view that that the budget should be ‘people’s friendly’ and the Government would arrive at a theme after completing the initial process. The BT-RCB report included a survey of over 900 respondents in all the districts, an email poll and a panel discussion – all, seeking views on the Government performance, so far, in the current 2012 budget and people’s expectations in the November budget. The report can be viewed on www.sundaytimes.lk.
Respondents called for a reduction in the cost of living, taxes on essentials and borrowings; overspending, a firm resolve from the President to tackle corruption and mismanagement; and a complaint that the ‘rulers’ decide their share of the budget first and then distribute the balance to others. Monday’s meeting discussed a stimulus package for export, industrial agricultural and plantation sectors. Senior Treasury officials were directed to work out this package despite the fact that Sri Lanka is heading deeper into a balance of payments crisis.
Austerity measures would also be proposed in the budget to avoid the impending crisis, other Finance Ministry sources said adding that the poorest and the needy sections of the people will be provided with financial relief under this stimulus package. The sources said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, also Finance Minister, has commenced the pre-budget consultative process and is travelling around the districts. He met with the leaders and representatives of trade unions at the Temple Trees this week to seek their suggestions and proposals.
Trade unions suggested increasing salaries of the public and private sector employees, reducing the prices of essential commodities and providing assistance for local industrialists through the 2013 budget. The public, professionals, academia, artists and the media will also be invited to submit their proposals and suggestions before September 30 and also indicate any failures in projects and ways of correcting these, aimed at ensuring the 2013 budget will facilitate speedy development in the country, the sources said.
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