ECONOMYNEXT – The government will not roll back import restrictions imposed on foodstuff as it will continue to encourage local production, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said.
A statement issued by the Presidential Secretariat said that the President gave these instructions to the members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Cost of Living which met at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday August 31.
The statement added that the President had said that the prices of several consumer goods, including turmeric, have risen “due to decisions taken to uplift the local agricultural industry and the farming community.”
The President had pointed out that if turmeric and other commodities are imported to control or bring prices down, the desired objective will never be achieved.
“The President says that even though public faced difficulties for a short period of time, measures that are taken to strengthen the rural economy and uplift the farming community cannot be reversed,” indicating that the closed economy strategy imposed during the beginning of the Covid outbreak will continue.
The meeting recognised that prices of several essential items had risen for the urban middle class.
“In order to earn a stable and strong income for the rural farmers who make up about 40% of the population, we need to develop confidence that they would get a high price for their products and assure a stable market for them” the statement quoted the President as saying.
The President further added that without taking such measures we cannot encourage the rural communities to engage themselves in the agricultural sector while pointing out the difficulty of removing the existing import restrictions.
The President said that in order to control the foreign exchange parity rates and to get rid of high debt burden on farmers, imports should be restricted.
The President pointed out that countries such as India and the United States have also imposed import restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Programmes to offer job opportunities to eradicate poverty is expected to uplift the economy of the underprivileged.
Samurdhi beneficiaries will have to contribute by looking after themselves. Their living condition and nutrition levels could be elevated by home gardening and providing hens and eggs for poultry farming.
The President highlighted the need for proper procedures to address the issues faced by the middle class in the suburbs due to inflation. Following the COVID 19 pandemic, the government took steps to deliver farm produce directly to the consumers at a subsidized price. President noted that continuing this practice would remove the middlemen and protect both the farmer and the consumer.
“Promoting the economic condition of the people in remote areas and reducing the cost of living burden of the people in the suburbs should be addressed simultaneously” President stressed.
In order to accomplish it and deliver farmer’s produce straight to the consumers, use of government institutions such as Sathosa, Co-operatives, Govijana Seva Centers and the Security Forces was discussed.
Revamping the island-wide network of Economic Centers and implementation of a proper system to purchase farmer’s produce was also discussed.
President advised the officials to update him once a week on the market status.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ministers Bandula Gunawardana, Ramesh Pathirana, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, State Ministers Arundika Fernando, Shasheendra Rajapaksa, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Secretary to the President, P.B Jayasundera, secretaries to the respective ministries and other officials were present at the discussion. (Colombo, September 1, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana