Exports and tourism raring to go
“Many sectors especially the export, tourism and motor trade have benefited from the 2012 Budget. The reduction of import tax on tourist transport buses and allocation of lands for tourist projects on long term leases come as positive moves especially when the country is recording high tourist arrivals this year,” Hotels Association President Anura Lokuhetti said.
|Hard days: Having bought a few essential food items this woman counts how much money she is left with.
Pix by Amila Prabodha and Athula Devapriya
Motor Traders Association President Thilak Gunasekare said the Budget was positive for the motor industry as it encourages more investments, more tax benefits and tax holidays.
“The excise duty has not been increased; only the registration fee for luxury vehicles has been increased. Commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses have been exempted from tax which is good for the country’s economy,” he said.
Dr. Jagath Peiris, Exporter’s Association’s Vice President says as the majority of exporters are small and medium scale, the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) and Nation Building Tax (NBT) comes as a boost forthe export industry. However he said the government had failed to address the main issue faced by small-scale exporters, lack of low-cost funds/capital.
Old Moor Street Trader’s Association’s President, Palaniyandhi Sundaram said traders have not been affected by the Budget but it was favourable for exporters.
“All the prices of imported goods in country would increase with the effect of the devaluation of the rupee by three percent. This will affect the prices of all goods and it is the private sector employees who will be affected as they have no relief,” said Palitha Athukorale, President of the National Union of Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Workers of Sri Lanka.
“An employee in the lowest income earning category of the public sector will receive almost Rs.20, 000 as minimum salary. But the minimum wage in the EPZ would be Rs.7, 900. There is a huge disparity between a public sector employee’s and private sector employee’s salary and the output,” he added.
Housewife K.Ratnayake was not a happy person. She complained that the price hike in essential food items, children’s education and transport were top on the list of expenses but there was nothing in the way of relief. “The government should consider bringing down the prices of food items.
The fuel hike has affected these prices. The Budget will only be complete if some relief is given to household goods,” she said. An increase in the cess on wheat flour has been included in the 2012 Budget proposals.
Bakers to up prices?
Bakery Owners’ Association Vice President Bandula Perera said the cess has been imposed on wheat flour imported from Pakistan and not on the flour made from wheat imported by Prima and Serendib. “But the three percent increase in the exchange rate will result in the increase of sugar prices and gas and diesel prices would add to our costs.
Next week the Bakery Owner’s Association will meet to discuss whether to go for an increase in the price of bread and other what-flour based food items,” he said.
No relief for us: School van services
Samantha Pradeep, a school bus service operator said the increase in the price of fuel before the Budget forced them to increase their fees. “Those plying private bus services will be getting a 50 percent discount on imported tyres but not school vans. School services should have been given relief as the increase in charges will affect many families,” he said.
Trade unions also hit out
Joint Unemployed Graduates Union Convenor Dhammika Munasinghe said there are about 40,000 unemployed graduates in the country. “This Budget has failed to mention about the unemployed graduates. When the government came into power in 2006 there were only 5000. Even in the 2011 Budget they mentioned employing 15,000 graduates as development officers. But the appointments were not given,” he said.
Public Services Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Saman Ratnapriya said if the basic salary is to be increased by Rs. 2500,the basic pay should at least be Rs.25,000. “This proposal is unfavourable to Government employees as some 80 percent of the State sector employees receive an amount less than Rs 20,000 as the basic salary. The lowest paid employee gets Rs. 1173 . This comes as an allowance and is not included in the salary or in our pensions,” he said.
Development fine but what
about prices of goods?
S.Selvanathan from Jaffna said that the government’s attempts to develop the North should be praised, but it should also show concern at the prices of common commodities that have become a burden to middle income earners in the North.
Teachers and students speak out
Ceylon Teachers Union President Joseph Stalin, said the Budget had proposed the development of 1000 secondary schools. “From the 9662 schools only 1000 schools have been proposed for development. Among the allocated 1000 schools only some 300 schools will be developed by next year. However the devolpment of other schools will be ignored,”he charged.
Ramani Fernando, with 20 years of teaching experience said the Budget proposals have failed to meet the expectations of teachers and principals. “Teachers have not been given an effective increment for the past few years. Even the salaries and other allocation given to teachers and students do not reach some schools due to poor management and lack of transparency in the Education Department,” she said.
Federation of University Teachers Association’s (FUTA) President, Nirmal Dewasiri said despite the request to raise the Budget allocation for education up to six percent of the GDP, the government has not given consideration to the country’s education sector. “We are unhappy about the outcome of the Budget proposals. Among the 10 percent increase in the salary as proposed in the 2012 Budget only five percent will be given in January and the other five percent in June.”
Meanwhile Sanath Wijesinghe, a final year student at Colombo University’s Law Faculty said the simplification of taxes was a good move but the education sector has not been given an adequate allocation unlike in many other countries.