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Samagi Jana Balawegaya promises economic plan for Sri Lanka, new thinking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Samagi Jana Balawegaya led by Sajith Premadasa focused on the economy, hit by Coronavirus, promising to bring down fuel prices and rejuvenate the economy, while raising questions on plans for the sale of state assets.

“We will bring down the fuel prices. That will leave more disposable income in the hands of the people,” Premdasa said speaking at a rally in Colombo on the last day of campaigning.

“There are many who cannot feed themselves and cannot get a sufficient salary.

“We will give 25,000 rupees a month until the economy recovers. That will increase the money in your hands. This is our solution to the economic downturn. ”

Critics however had questioned the ability to give handouts when budgets were already under strain.

He said his father Ranasinghe Premadasa had faced criticisms when the Janasaviya program was proposed but he had done it.

Premadasa said drug kingpins (kappitho) will be given death sentence.

Harsha de Silva, former state minister Harsha de Silva said, Coronavirus crisis had driven many people below the poverty line and a short term plan was needed to revive the economy.

He said before the crisis about 4.5 percent was below the poverty line. But after the crisis many more had fallen below the poverty line. All those had to be helped, he said.

De Silva said everyone paid taxes and when a crisis hit, the government should step in. Now the tax on tinned fish was 100 rupees, on petrol it was 90 rupees.

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“A re-load card is charged 45 rupees for every 100 rupees. It is not only the super rich that pay taxes,” he said. “We are all pay taxes. In this crisis, your neighbhours are also in difficulties. Only the government can help.”

He said the government had given 5,000 or 10,000 rupees and washed its hands from the problem.

“This is not why people voted them in,” he said. “They have not put forward a program.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had lambasted the central bank governor and said even by printing money to solve the economic problems.

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had a vision but did not have an understanding of the problems faced by the common people like Sajith Premadasa, he said.

De Silva said a group with a new vision was needed to take the country forward.

“We have think out of the frame,” de Silva.

He said people were dying in the country without being able to get to hospital and the Suwaseriya ambulance service had been started.

“The word Suwaseriya is in our vocabulary now,” de Silva said. “That was because we were able to think in a new way. It is not magic.”

Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is seeking office from Colombo questioned the government’s stand on privatization.

He said the administration had promised to take back the Hambantota port within 24 hours if elected.

But it had not happened.

“But now plans are being made to sell the East Terminal of Colombo Port,” he said. “The Slave Island Police, Air Force grounds are going to be sold for a mixed development project for foreigners. The cabinet paper for 9 acres of land has already been prepared.”

“People who came saying they were would not sell national assets are now selling assets.” (Colombo/July02/2020)