With the presentation of the Budget 2018 just four days away, expectations are high among people, trade unions and consumer rights groups that there will be relief measures to address the rising cost of living. In the past few weeks, the Finance Ministry, in keeping with the usual procedure, has called for public proposals to [...]


Call for cost-of-living relief is heard louder as budget day nears


With the presentation of the Budget 2018 just four days away, expectations are high among people, trade unions and consumer rights groups that there will be relief measures to address the rising cost of living.

In the past few weeks, the Finance Ministry, in keeping with the usual procedure, has called for public proposals to provide budget relief.

In response, All Ceylon Public Management Assistant’s Union President Udeni Dissanayake called for an increase in the cost of living allowance paid to public sector employees for them to cope with sharp increases in the prices of consumer items.

Mr. Dissanayake said that since the Rs 10,000 allowance given to public sector employees in 2015 would be added to the basic salary only in 2020, there would be no salary increases until then for public servants. Therefore, their cost of living allowance should be increased. In another suggestion, he said the public servants’ retirement age should be raised to 65 while measure should be taken to solve salary anomalies and related issues.

Taking a similar stance is Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin, He said the Budge should contain provisions to pay teachers’ salary arrears which had not been paid since 2011.

He said the allowances paid to teachers for in-service seminars should be increased and teachers should be allowed to pursue post-graduate studies free of charge.

“Funds should be allocated for the development of infrastructure facilities in schools too, as many schools in the country lack even basic facilities,” he said.

In another proposal, the union leader called on the Government to give duty-free vehicle permits to principals.

Voicing the aspirations of pensioners, Janaka Thushara, National Organiser of the Employees’ Centre for Protecting Pensioners, demanded the restoration of the previous pension scheme and called for an increase in the pension to help retired public servants to meet their medical expenses and cope with rising cost of living. He also urged the Government to increase the dole paid to the elderly people to Rs. 2,000.

Ranjith Withanage, who heads the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection, said consumers would benefit if price control mechanisms were strictly in force and taxes on essential items, telecommunication services and electrical goods were lowered.

Suhaila Hussain, president of the Housewives Association, said she would propose the imposition of high taxes on luxury items and remove or reduce the taxes on day-to-day items.

Among those groups which submitted proposals to the Finance Ministry were private sector employees.

The demands submitted by the Inter Company Employees’ Union included formulation of a pension scheme for private sector employees and the abolition of manpower system.

Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees’ Union, called for the introduction of a health insurance scheme for EPF contributors, their children and parents. He also called on the Government to a Rs 2,000 increase in the budgetary relief allowance. To enable mothers working in the FTZ to be with their children, he called for a budgetary allocations to set up two schools in the Biyagama and Katunayake zones.

All Island Three-wheeler Drivers & Owners Association President Sudil Jayaruk said their demand would include a pension scheme for three-wheeler drivers, concessionary housing loans and a two-year training programme for new drivers.

Ceylon Motorcyclists’ Association President Chirantha Amerasinghe said tax concessions should be granted when importing high quality bikes and safety gears for riders.

The Vehicle Importers Association of Lanka said the Budget should propose measures to restrict the import of low quality vehicles. Its president Sampath Merenchige said only vehicles with high emission standards and safety features should be allowed to the market,

Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association president Gamunu Wijerathne said measures they called for included the establishment of a high standard bus service in Colombo and suburbs, the introduction of the travel card facility, subsidy for electrical buses and tax concessions for bus owners to import dual purpose vehicles, spare parts, tyres and related items.

Farmers said they hoped there would be solutions in the Budget to their their problems. Sunil Ranaweera, president of the Dambulla Combined Farmers Foundation, said the budget should focus on introducing a proper mechanism for water management, wild elephant attacks, a proper harvest distribution procedure, seed paddy production and a fixed market price for their produce.

Drawing attention to the financial difficulties faced by farmers as a result of natural disasters such as floods and droughts, Mr. Ranaweera said the Government should step in to provide relief.

All Island Multiday Fisheries Trawler Owners Association head Sujith Samantha said their interests would be served better if the Budget contained proposals to set up more fishing harbours and storage facilities and remove the import tax milk fish used as bait.

All Ceylon Bakery Owners Association President N.K. Jayawardana said the association hoped the previous budget proposal to exclude VAT when importing bakery equipment would become a reality at least after Thursday’s Budget.

Expressing the Budget hopes of the booming construction industry, Construction Chamber President Ranjith Gunatilleke said the Government should introduce a proper tax system for the construction industry. He said the sector was hit by a labour shortage and high labour costs because many unskilled youths preferred to be employed as trishaw divers or office assistants.

He said the restrictions imposed on the import of used heavy machinery should be relaxed to allow machines of upto 10 years old instead of the current 7 year limit.

Complaining that local tourism industry could not compete with other regional destinations due to high taxes, Sanath Ukwatte, president of the Tourist Hotels Association, said they would expect tax relief, subsidised loan schemes to refurbish hotels and concessions to set up training schools to meet the labour shortage in the industry.

Ananda Wijeyarathne Additional Director General of the Public Enterprises Department, said the department received nearly 90 budget proposals before the October 18 deadline. He said there were several constructive and professionally worked out proposals. These and other suitable proposals were sent for the consideration of the Finance Minister.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

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