Budget as usual: UNP to announce plan tomorrow
With the government being determined to go ahead with Tuesday’s Budget in spite of a request from the UNP to postpone it for a date after the presidential poll on November 17, all opposition parties, except the JVP, have denounced the Budget presentation as undemocratic and unfair.

These opposition parties with a parliamentary strength of 107 seats (68 UNP, 22 TNA, 06 SLMC, 02 UPF, 08 CWC and one JHU dissident monk) — six short of a majority in the 225 seat House — have taken a decision to oppose the Budget when it comes for a vote.

The JVP and the JHU which sit on the opposition benches and back the candidacy of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse at the November 17 polls, are supportive of the Budget.

The UNP last night said it would announce its decision tomorrow as to what action it would take if the Budget was misused to give undue advantage to Mr. Rajapakse at the election.

UNP’s economics expert and Colombo district parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena said the President had directed the Finance Minister not to make it an “election Budget” and hence they were hopeful her directive would be followed.

He said Tuesday’s event would be only a presentation of Budget proposals which needed to be approved if they were to be implemented. In deference to the UNP’s request, President Chandrika Kumaratunga asked Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama to look into the matter and submit a reply but no decision to postpone the Budget was taken.

SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem said the presentation of the Budget was an “undemocratic” act by a desperate government in the face of certain defeat at the November 17 election.

TNA parliamentary group leader Joseph Pararajasingham said it was not proper to bring the Budget before an election and the newly elected President should be allowed to present his economic policy through the Budget. CWC deputy leader R. Yogarajan said his party was also opposing the Budget before the election.

According to the Appropriation Bill presented to Parliament last month, total government expenditure for 2006 was estimated at Rs. 568 billion, up from 438 billion in 2005.

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