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Opposition challenges PBJ’s request for goverment workers to donate salary

ECONOMYNEXT – The Samagi Jana Balavegaya is challenging the government’s statement that the country can save Rs 100 billion if the state sector employees forego a month’s wages to help balance the government’s budget.

Former Member of Parliament Dr Harsha de Silva told reporters today that the annual allocation for central government salaries is around Rs 450 billion and because there are approximately 1.2 million state workers including the Armed Forces and Police personnel, one month’s wages would come to less than Rs 40 billion.

This is without the Rs. 162 billion needed annually for the employees of the provincial councils, de Silva said.

According to Budget estimates for 2020 available on the treasury.lk website for total central government sector employees emoluments are expected to cost Rs 512 billion per annum.

De Silva’s statement comes in the wake of a request by the head of the Public Service, the President’s Secretary to all public servants to forego all or part of their salaries in view of the financial crisis being faced by the government.

The President’s Secretary Dr. P B Jayasundera sent out a letter to all heads of departments, Ministry Secretaries and Statutory bodies last week with this request.

Jayasundera in his letter said that while battling the COVID 19 threat the government also has to repay its foreign and domestic debt. “While domestic debt can be managed, the foreign debts have to be serviced,” he pointed out.

In his letter, Jayasundera also called the country’s “organized and traditional private sector regressive,” prompting a strong reaction from de Silva.

The former MP said that the private sector workers had continued to come to work providing essential services including the transport of goods and services, sometimes with no wages or payments that were far below their normal salaries.

“Many of these workers did not receive their April salaries because the private sector could not pay those wages,” he said.

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He said that the banks were expected to provide working capital to the private sector at four per cent interest but this has not been paid to most institutions as the banks say they are overwhelmed by the number of applications. (Colombo, May 9, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana