More and more people are resigned to the fate that national budgets and the entire budget preparation purpose don’t serve any purpose; and there is no use of complaining, a Business Times-Research Consultancy Bureau (BT-RCB) island-wide poll and survey has revealed. Seeking the views of residents in eight districts – Colombo, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Galle, [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

No faith in budgets, doesn’t serve any purpose; BT-RCB poll


More and more people are resigned to the fate that national budgets and the entire budget preparation purpose don’t serve any purpose; and there is no use of complaining, a Business Times-Research Consultancy Bureau (BT-RCB) island-wide poll and survey has revealed.

Seeking the views of residents in eight districts – Colombo, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Galle, Kandy, Batticaloa, Ampara and Kurunegala – through streets interviews and via email, the newspaper-research survey showed that no one believes budgets anymore and that ‘the real thing’ is outside the traditional presentation of the national budget, though politicians and media make a ‘big song and dance about it”.

The pre budget, all-island poll is an annual exercise by the BT-RCB combine to gauge public perception on the budget and their comments. This year’s survey titled “Poll on Budget 2015’ was also held in the context of the Government, through newspaper advertisements, calling for public views and suggestions to be included in the Budget

A consumer examines vegetables at a local supermarket

The questions asked were – 1) Does the process of collecting public views and suggestions for the budget effectively reflect public opinion? 2) The Government says budgets are designed to serve the purpose of the people and their aspirations. Do you agree? 3) The Government says taxes are for development purposes. Do you agree? And 4)The Government says Inflation and Cost of living (COL) have come down. Do you agree with this statement?

The public was also asked to suggest the first three priorities from the list below that should be

- Reduce prices
- Development of essential infrastructure facilities
- New job opportunities
- Encourage local investors
- Develop health and education services
- Start large scale development projects

Details of the poll are captured in the graphics provided on Page 1.
Excerpts of the comments received from across the island through the RCB (street poll) and BT (email poll:

Comments: (RCB poll)


Public suggestions? Forget it … only
supporters are consulted

- There is no purpose in seeking the views of the public on the budget. It is a dubious exercise. Only the supporters are consulted and released to the media. They don’t take the independent views of the public. They write what they want.If they take our views there is no need to spend money in having Consultants for the President. The budget is a document to enhance maintaining them. It is a mechanism to popularize the regime. Only the Central Bank (CB) statistics and state media show a decline in the cost of living. Our living standards have sharply declined in the recent past. The budget needs to enhance entrepreneurship in the country. The budget is prepared with a huge package of taxes on the ground level and to enhance the supporters and kith and kin connected to multinationals to whom all the concessions are offered. Prices are rising daily. At least the pay of the working class must be increased proportionately. There has been a salary increase only once in two to three years. That too was a marginal increase compared to the price increase and taxes. No consideration is given to the average income of the family units at the preparation of the budget. Budgets are prepared on the loans taken by the previous years. This affects the small man’s budget. The cost of loans and taxes are burdened on the people.

- We don’t mind large scale development as long as we have food to eat and dress. We are also indebted. The call for suggestions is done for their survival. All this is to get close to the public to win votes. They say one thing and do the opposite. The budget allowances are fixed on term basis for a periodical period and this is unusual.

- Interest rates on fixed deposits have been slashed. Poor private sector employees have been badly affected. Their hard earnings bring no returns in their old age.

Nuwara Eliya

No price control to help consumers

We have no price control system to help the poor consumer. They just recommend world prices to determine the prices here. Oil, milk and essential stuff are free exchange by the free market forces, and this affects the poor consumers. Nuwara Eliya is dominated by the rich while the poor folk are pushed down mountain sides. No incentives to the farmer. No fixed price for vegetables. No incentives to animal husbandry in the up country.


Corruption the name of today’s game

Those days corruption was there in the name of the war but now it is present in the name of development. Such behaviour comes from drugs, mafia and thuggery. The allocations for free education and health will decline to encourage privatisation. We in Anuradhapura are suffering from this severe drought and hope to get concessions in the budget. Let the people live to reap the benefits of the development projects so far undertaken. We are almost starving and getting close to death. Colombo residents have the benefits to enjoy and spend time in well-lit parks and sidewalks while we in the dry zone walk along bunds of dead tanks not even finding a single fish for food. No doubt there has been development of an unprecedented nature by the regime but accompanied with electricity price hikes and rising bus fares.


Tax money only uplifts the rich

Seeking public opinion is welcome. These opinion polls can reflect the views of the people and is useful to govern the country. But these opinions are twisted and amended when sent to the top hierarchy. The fact remains that whatever we say they prepare the budget the way they want. It is a mechanism to trap the masses from time to time. What they collect is disseminated among the supporters under so-called budget recommendations. Budget speeches are like fairy tales. The days when people gathered around radios to listen the budget proposals because they affected the touched the lives of the people, are no more. No one is interested in budget speeches. It is good for the rich. They collect money for the development of the regimes and the money obtained from mortgages will be left for the future generations to be born. If tax money is utilized for development why borrow in large proportions?


Airports without planes, harbours without ships

As usual think of the country first, second and for the third time and tighten your belts has been the motto of the budgets. There are airports without planes, harbours without ships, and millions are dumped by the savings of the poor man to run non profitable Mihin Lanka. This is the artificial development and promoted in the eyes of the people. We need an economy to eat well and live happily. If this corruption can be arrested money is there for development. Today’s development is like a Soda bottle; it bursts but nothing remains. What we need is a sustainable development which is the need of the nation.


Today’s education a burden on the poor

Pre-budget preparations are propagandist measures. The budget is the mechanism to trap the public. Pre budget price hikes are temporarily adjusted by the budget and become popular in the post budget period.

Education is a serious issue; the authorities cannot even conduct an examination properly. Children are burdened with 10 subjects while the London examination has only six subjects. Every time an examination is held there is a leakage of a test paper to some private tuition master. It is easy to take commissions from the construction of new highways, roads, bridges, ports and airports but the allocations for essential services like the education and health is annually dropping. There is no meaning in the budget since the Ministry of Finance is under the President and his immediate supporters. The budget is a project for them and it has no relevance to the common man. The Executive is preparing the budget for approval by a Parliament that has no control over finance. Small and medium sector entrepreneurs and the small man are heavily taxed while exemptions are given to crony capitalists.

Mounting corruption is unprecedented and even drugs are pilfered into our society where the supporters of the ruling party have been guilty. At least think of the starving masses. This budget will not bring any benefits to the ordinary man. It may promise concessions since next year the Presidential election is in the offering. The budget will help them to prepare the carrot for the forthcoming elections. Budgets are to pickpocket the common man – legitimising this process annually. The country is mortgaged and development is useless for the local entrepreneur. There is no transparency and accountability; only corruption to the highest level.


Poor water management during drought

The drought is widely spoken up but there is no money for relief. New water connections in drought affected areas are being fixed but there is no proper plan in this process.

This year’s drought is so severe that we have lost all our cultivation. We hope that by next year there would be some solution to this irrigation and drinking water problem. This Government has no solutions to offer; hence it is seeking public opinion when a budget is coming up. All this is futile exercise. This is another way to gain cheap popularity to face the next presidential election. When development comes the money tree is shaken for the kit and kin to grab a share. There is no free election system held under democratic traditions and all this is a joke. All the tax money is spent on corrupt practices, and nothing is utilized for the benefit for the people.

We consider it our duty to pay the taxes on time to carry out the development work. No doubt we are benefited by the work undertaken by the Government. But there is no other country like ours where tax money is pilfered to corrupt practices. We can be rated number one for corrupt practices. They are pilfering public assets in the guise of development.

Another issue is the Colombo stock market. It is a a den of corruption. All the statistics about the positive stock index is a ‘jil-‘mart’ exercise.


Critical of Mahinda but still vote for him

All liquor bars in the area are being controlled by a well known minister and his son. Bars were opened during the period of Vesak as well. There is no “Mathata Thitha” for the elite.

People who are living on interest of their bank savings are finding it difficult as interest rates are very low.

The said minister and the top local provincial councillor are always fighting. It has now become a habit, a nuisance and doesn’t benefit the people at all. As a result other priority issues are forgotten.

Farmers will have to waste their time for at least three days to buy a bag of fertilizer at Rs. 300. The daily pay for an unskilled worker is around Rs.800. He is losing Rs. 800 x 3 = Rs. 2,400 for wasting time for three days. Therefore there is no benefit from the fertilizer subsidy.

Most of the people who criticise the President still vote for him. That is because there is no one with some strength to give him a good fight.
Inflation and cost of living show a decline according to statistics but there is no transparency or clarity in the method of calculating these indices.
The country is economically sound in accordance with facts and figures of the year end budget. That is because the data in the budget is being determined in accordance with political agendas.


Govt. definition of development different from people’s aspirations

The public call for suggestions by the Finance Ministry normally doesn’t work. But it at least allows a formal system for representations to be made, according to one comment received in the pre budget email poll by the Business Times.

“Also because it is solicited it provides a broader feedback than unsolicited ones, which is only limited to the more vocal special interest group with political access. Some of the import duty reductions and duty increases are a result of such lobbying,” this respondent said.
Excerpts of all comments:

Price stability with mild inflation necessary

-There is a need for effective, efficient, economic, fair, equitable and optimum revenue raising and expenditure management, assuring sustainable growth and development that touches all citizens equitably with prosperity and full employment.
- Improvement of the economy by stimulating investment, production and productivity.
- Required price stability with mild inflation (2 per cent or less to stimulate growth). For this the budget deficit should be contained within 5 per cent of GDP.
- Funds are needed to enhance social infrastructure such as health and education and physical infrastructure such as roads, ports and ICT.
- Reduce total spending and domestic borrowings so that interest rates are low and people can borrow and invest their savings at reasonable rates to create jobs and improve living standards. Also do not print money to finance the budget as it depreciates the currency and pushes up prices making life difficult for everyone

- Calling for budget representations from the people doesn’t work. I doubt whether even 1 per cent (200,000 people) of the population respond.
Not to fill the people’s pockets

n Budgets are designed to help Governments acquire money. If they were designed to serve people and meet their aspirations they would work towards putting money in pockets of every citizen and better their future prospects.

- Budgets are not for the people. They represent a combination of the government’s aspirations, donor agency mandated reforms and necessary book balancing.

- The Government’s definition of ‘development’ is different to the people’s. The majority of the people in this country have no stake in the ‘development’ that is going on. Real development involves education, raising of living standards, means to grow personal economic and social well being of the poorest, the eradication of thuggery and lawlessness and its condoning by the authorities who remain silent on the issue…and so much more. We talk of arcades, walkways and highways. Yes these significantly enhance the product to tourists. But they must also show the trickle down value and benefit of enhanced tourism revenue, to the common man. The fact is that are many hamlets and villages around the island which haven’t even a foot bridge to cross raging rivers, etc during inclement weather.
- Secondary and tertiary roads are in a mess. We have a severe drought. Real development will try to tackle climate issues – seek answers to the question – is there something we can do to collect water when it falls and have a system to channel it to the dry zone? How much water in the city clogs drains and flows uselessly away? How many times are sluice gates opened flooding large areas of the country whilst this resource is wasted and farmers in the NCP and Southern Province are surviving today? Show me some results and I’ll think the money I pay as tax is well spent!
Development of a few

-Taxes for development? Development of what? Personal wealth of a selected lot?

- Are taxes for development? Certainly not…that is in the utopia of the CB Governor and Treasury Secretary (and whoever else subscribes to that view). My purse and bank balance says different!

- If you look at budgets since 1987 and if you define development as capital spending, all capital spending has been financed by debt not taxes. It will remain so until there is a surplus in the current account of the budget.

- Inflation and COL: It’s not coming down. After manipulating the methodology of calculating, they publish lower figures. Who is fooling who?
- If the Government raises the general economic standards and well being (health and education among so many other factors) of the ‘common man’ we will have the resources to pay reasonable premiums in terms of prices, etc. However if they persist in offering power and petrol at some of the highest tariff structures in the world without the wherewithal to meet such expenditure, then the budget is a callous exercise to earn money for someone else, not the citizen.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.