Sri Lanka ex-president offers ‘finger-lickin’ economic class

ECOONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa made a rare speech in parliament today to criticise concessions in the latest budget and comparing it to inviting a vegetarian to feast at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

The former leader who turns 71 on Friday lambasted the 2017 budget unveiled last week as being too little for the common man.

However, he said the budget offered generous incentives to foreigners to buy property and even have access to local bank funding.

He said the price reductions in essential food was insufficient to make an impact on domestic spending because most people bought only a few 100 grams of dhal and sugar to ensure any significant savings in household spending.

He criticised Finance minister Ravi Karunanayake for overturning the 2014 ban on foreigners owning property. Rajapaksa said the finance minister made it worse by allowing up to 40 per cent local bank financing for foreigners buying property.

He also objected to the government claiming that Chinese loans were too expensive and that his administration had taken foreign loans outside the national budget.

"If there are trillions of rupees in foreign loans that are not in the books, you don’t have to pay them," Rajapaksa said. "Simple, what is not in the books, you don’t have to repay." "I challenge the government to disclose what these loans and tell us the source of such loans."

He said the government was also trying to undermine the Central Bank. He tabled documents purportedly written by the Central Bank Governor resisting moves of the government. It was not immediately clear how exactly the government was trying to take away the powers of the Central Bank.

He wrapped up his speech with a reference to KFC, which advertises itself as having "finger lickin" good food, including a wide range of chicken.

"What is offered in the budget is like giving chicken to a vegetarian. You take a strict vegetarian like (Rajapaksa’s MP son) Namal to KFC and ask him to eat as much he can."

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At this point, a government MP interrupted the former leader to remind him that KFC had a decent range of vegetarian food, including french fries. "Oh, since when," shot back Rajapaksa.

The former leader stumbled many a time while reading from his prepared text. It promoted deputy Minister Ajith Perera to ask the Speaker to arrange a teleprompter in parliament for the former leader. (COLOMBO, Nov 16 2016)

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