Seven perches of land has to be allocated for every estate household in the 2013 national budget, according to citizens’ group Active Citizenship for Development Network (ACDN). The group, which recently issued a report, entitled “Budget 2013: Proposals from the Active Citizenship for Development Network”, has also proposed that “37,000 hectares of unutilised estate lands [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Provide land to each estate household in 2013 budget : Citizens’ group


Seven perches of land has to be allocated for every estate household in the 2013 national budget, according to citizens’ group Active Citizenship for Development Network (ACDN).

The group, which recently issued a report, entitled “Budget 2013: Proposals from the Active Citizenship for Development Network”, has also proposed that “37,000 hectares of unutilised estate lands [be] distributed to estate residents for own cultivation”

The report has also called for a “[diesel] subsidy of at least 25% and kerosene subsidy of at least 30% to fisher-folk to off-set cost-of-living increases”.

And “Organic fertilisers to be promoted through transferring at least Rs. 10 billion in subsidies on chemical fertilisers, and accompanied by necessary extension facilities for ecological farming from relevant ministries”.

Further, also suggested; “Increase availability of advanced-level education in at least 238 more rural and estate schools, through an immediate 10% increase in allocation, within the medium-term framework of allocating 6% of GDP for education”.

In addition, the report also indicated that there was a need for an additional 10 per cent to be allocated immediately to increase the availability of advanced-level education across 238 rural and estate schools, as well as a social security scheme for farmers and their families through “resourcing the Farmers Pension and Benefits Scheme”.

Noting that it represented 16 Pradeshiya Sabhas in Ampara, Badulla, Colombo, Jaffna, Kalutara, Kegalle, Mannar, Moneragala and Trincomalee Districts, the ACDN also revealed that it comprised the Centre for Society and Religion, the Law and Society Trust, the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement and the Uva Community Development Centre within the ranks of its member organisations. It has also stated that it had “identified agriculture, fisheries, estates and education as sectors that are of particular concern to its constituencies”.

Additionally, the report noted that, even within the education field, the “estate sector requires a particular focus in addressing the issue of plantation sector education”. And; “While there is likely to be large scale investment in school infrastructure with the 1,000 schools programme funded by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and implemented by the Economic Development Ministry, concerns remain about this programme… There was little public discussion of how to address the crisis in rural schooling. Furthermore, questions remain about the role of Provincial Councils and regional decision making with respect to the implementation of this project”.

Also added; “Farming, fishing and plantation communities, reflecting the predicament in rural Sri Lanka, are being excluded from quality education. Historically, despite low-income levels in the country, access to education and health contributed to the well-being and social advancement of women. Marginalization of the rural economy and cuts to social welfare are pushing women into difficult working conditions characteristic of the garment industry and migrant labour”.

ACDN also commented that the “2013 Budget is going to be significant given the range of protests, strikes and mobilisations making demands on the state for relief and investment… These agitations are directly related to economic policies leading to cuts in social welfare, budgets which have emphasised large infrastructure projects and financialisation over the needs of the citizenry, and external problems due to the on-going global economic crisis”.

It also suggested that the “state’s role through expenditure and investment in the rural economy will determine the welfare of broad sections of society and particularly women. The historically marginalised peripheral regions are now subject to further pressures resulting from land grabs for development projects”.

Commenting on previous budgets, ACDN also noted: “Budgetary allocation of resources is not merely an exercise by ‘experts’, be they economists or technocrats, but also reflects the push and pull of different political forces and interest groups that determine the policies of the state… This year has been marked by numerous and powerful public agitations. Protests by fishing communities and plantation workers were sparked by rising fuel prices and cost of living. Farmers have taken to the streets over the failure of the government to provide proper price mechanisms for their produce and lack of restitution for paddy lands affected by drought. The major strike action launched by university teachers comes with the demand for an increase in government expenditure for the education sector”.

The group also opined; “Potential crises in balance of payments and the stock market as well as increasing risks to private and state financial institutions have been triggered by excessive financialisation (dominance of finance capital actors and institutions) of the economy. The social and economic costs of such risks and crises are already affecting the broader population”.

Additionally suggested by ACDN in its report; “The implementation of the Provincial Council system has faced many challenges due to lack of legal clarity on the devolution of powers, the weakness of the Finance Commission with a limited role, political interference by the Executive, and national policies railroaded by Ministers and the central bureaucracy. Therefore, regional participation in economic policies and budget making through the Provincial Councils has been greatly hampered. Furthermore, decentralised Local Government bodies have been constrained due to lack of allocations and capture of the meagre revenues by political patronage. Thus Local Government budgets have also failed to deliver”.

And that; “Over the last few decades with neoliberal economic policies these sectors as well as other sectors such as health and rural development have been left out of the development vision of successive governments. While the Mahinda Chintana development vision in 2005 claimed that it is concerned about rural development and social welfare, the reality has been further neglect”.

In the report, the group also made specific note in the changes in the country’s taxation systems, putting across the following concern; “Recent changes to tax policies have reduced the Provincial Councils’ potential to collect taxes. The Business Turnover Tax (BTT) was abolished and the Nation Building Tax (NBT) introduced in 2011. Whereas BTT was a source of revenue to provincial councils, the bulk of the revenue from NBT goes to the Central Government. This has further reduced the revenue resources and autonomy of Provincial Councils”.

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