My dear PBJ, I thought I should write to you to congratulate you on this year’s budget because we know that you are responsible for it even though Mahinda maama read it out in Parliament. Ah, what a change of fortunes it has been for you! It was only a few years ago that you [...]

5th Column

Former financial fiddler playing budgetary blues


My dear PBJ,

I thought I should write to you to congratulate you on this year’s budget because we know that you are responsible for it even though Mahinda maama read it out in Parliament. Ah, what a change of fortunes it has been for you!

It was only a few years ago that you gave an undertaking to the courts that you would not be holding public office again but here you are presiding over the fiscal fortunes of our country while those who judged you are now themselves being hounded!

Anyway, it must have been quite a difficult task for you to prepare a budget at a time when everyone is asking for a pay hike and all we see are hundreds of ministers going about in flashy cars surrounded by bodyguards-but you seem to have pulled it off!

I suppose the highlight of your budget was the one thousand five hundred rupee salary increase you gave public servants. Considering today’s prices, one thousand five hundred rupees will buy people at least twenty five loaves of bread, so I suppose that is a very substantial increase!

You haven’t forgotten pensioners either because you have increased their allowances by five hundred rupees a month. That would have gone a long way if they were allowed to buy goods at prices that were prevailing before they retired but I’m sure they will still be grateful to you.

I notice, PB, that you have also increased the tax on liquor and that shows how concerned you are about our health although some people would argue that more liquor is needed to drown our sorrows these days!
I see that you have allocated four billion rupees to enroll an additional 5000 students to universities because of the mistakes of Bandula and SB. You know, you could have recovered that through monthly deductions from what they earn-and it wouldn’t have taken long to recover that amount!

You have also raised taxes on vehicle imports. I am sure what you are trying to do is encourage our own car makers to realize their true potential instead of allowing Japanese and Indian cars to flood our market and that is a noble intention.

However, because we don’t really have a car of our own what will happen is that all cars will become more expensive and fewer people will be able to afford cars now. But then, who knows, that might spur someone to make a car of our own-and they could call it the ‘Mihindu’ or some such name!

What is most praiseworthy is your decision to reduce taxes on racing cars and go-karts, PB. That was simply a stroke of genius that only you could think of and I am sure it made a lot of people extremely happy-and that is the type of budget proposal which will keep you in employment for years to come!

Just imagine how this proposal would transform our transport sector: because ordinary cars are more expensive, more and more people will now buy go-karts and racing cars and what is more, because everyone will be using racing cars, we will get to our destinations even faster!

Of course, PBJ, you could have gone one step further and scored a few more brownie points if you had reduced duties on spacecraft for would-be astronauts and also reduced taxes on imported racehorses for racing enthusiasts, but unfortunately you seem to have missed out on that one!

You have also increased taxes on casinos, PB, in an attempt to raise revenue. Now if you had imposed a new tax on individuals who go to nightclubs and casinos and get into brawls that would have really helped you generate some extra money!

It was also a smart move to increase the allowances granted to judges, university academics and doctors. We know what a lot of bother judges are causing these days and both university academics and doctors strike at the drop of a hat-so it was good thinking to pacify them.

Now, with you being an old hand at budget tricks, you haven’t told them how much of an increase they would be getting. So, when they start complaining and staging protest marches a few months later, you could give them a tiny pay hike and always tell them that you kept your promises!

You must also be congratulated, PB, for your proposal to give a free pair of shoes to schoolchildren. Now we give our children free education, free uniforms, and free shoes-so I am sure the entire crisis in education will be settled by next year and all tuition masters will go out of business!

And anyway, it is a good idea to give schoolchildren a free pair of shoes because the pair of shoes they already own would be worn out by having to wait longer for ‘A’ level results and then having to trudge to the courts to get their results authorized.

So, PB, you have done your job well. And needless to say, it will be passed by those sitting near the Diyawanna Oya because these days anything that is presented there gets passed without a whimper, no matter what its impact on the country is. We will see more of that in the coming weeks, I guess.

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS-You must have felt like the race horse watching the jockey being handed the cup for winning the race when you saw Mahinda maama doing the honours and getting all the applause last week. But you can’t complain, because, if not for Mahinda maama, you would still be languishing in retirement, wouldn’t you?

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