ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has spent over 260 billion rupees in providing relief to the public since the COVID-19 crisis emerged, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.
Some 30 billion rupees spent has been spent to pay a 5,000-rupee allowance to daily wage earners every time the country was locked down, Rajapaksa said in a televised address to the nation June 25 evening.
“Every time the country is shut down due to COVID-19 risks, we spend around Rs. 30 billion in each round to provide an allowance of Rs. 5,000 for daily wage earners who lost their work due to Covid-19 situation.
“At present the government has borne this cost on a number of occasions. The government incurs a number of additional costs related to the health sector in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has incurred additional costs to conduct PCR and antigen tests, to treat identified infected persons and to set up a number of new treatment centers,” an official English translation of his speech said.
Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka, like many other countries, had to be shut down from time to time in order to contain the spread of the virus, but added that the repercussions of that decision must be understood.
“Various rules had to be put in place. The number of workers in factories and institutions had to be limited. However, this situation gravely affected our industries. In particular, the apparel industry which brought in about USD 5 billion revenue to Sri Lanka suffered a heavy loss. Their orders were suspended. Many lost their jobs. Export earnings declined,” he said.
Apparel companies continued to operate at great risk to staff and possible risk of quarantine leaks. Trade unions have demanded that garment factory workers are prioritised in Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout the same way frontline workers in the health sector and the military are. Trade unions also complain of stigma against workers, with people fearing that returning workers could bring the disease with them.