Price stability, public expectation
Sunday Observer Business and Finance spoke to a cross-section of the
people to seek their views and expectations from the government’s first
Budget which will be presented in Parliament on November 20.
A farmer of Nochchiyagama said, “We need a stable and profitable
price for our products and for that the government should come up with
appropriate policies. Every year farmers who cultivate paddy, potatoes,
big onions and vegetables face the same issue in the harvesting season.”
The government has guaranteed a minimum price of Rs. 50 per kg for
paddy but it does not work and today the market price has dropped below
Rs. 25 per kg which is below the cost of production. The Paddy Marketing
Board cannot purchase a major portion of the harvest and, therefore,
always fails in influencing the market price. To protect potato and big
onion farmers the government should curtail imports of these items
before the local products come to the market. Local production of these
items is only a small portion of demand.
An agriculture sector expert said the government should have a market
based approach in addressing these issues in the agricultural sector. A
guaranteed minimum price is not a practical solution and every year the
government pumps billions of rupees to purchase paddy which fails to
stabilise the price.
The PMB incurs huge losses every year and government intervention
contributes to the fiscal burden. The Government cannot intervene in the
markets of perishable commodities such as potatoes, big onions and
vegetables. As a result farmers are affected.
The Government cannot give a higher price to farmers and a low price
to consumers simultaneously. The only solution is to curtail imports
through higher taxes and let the prices of these agro products be at a
higher level. There are only few commodities and, therefore, it would
not be a big burden on the consumers.
Sustainable growth in the agriculture sector and increase in income
for the rural community would create a positive impact on the economy.
Strengthening the agricultural supply chain is another way the
government can address this issue. Setting up dryers for paddy,
warehouses, cold stores and other storage facilities for perishable
commodities will help address the problem to a great extent. The
Government should consider tax concessions for these sectors, he said.
The agriculture extension service is not working properly and there
is no proper information service for farmers. Cultivation planning
through better information sharing will help avert such market issues.
Restrict imports - Businessman
Managing Director, Abaya Industrial and Marketing (Pvt) Ltd., Robert
Abayasekara said duty-free imports should be restricted to BOI-approved
hotels and apartment projects. Most of the equipment can and are
manufactured in the country. By granting BOI facilities the government
is encouraging imports than promoting manufacturing in the country.
Investments on vocational training should be increased as there is
lack of skilled workers.
Steps should be taken to provide loans for small and medium sector
enterprises without collateral as they should be supported for long term
Tap local resources - Jaffna Chamber
President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jaffna, Kularatnam
Vignesh said the fisheries, agriculture and tourism sectors in the North
have enormous potential to contribute to regional and national economic
The vast resource available in the region to develop these sectors
have not been adequately tapped to boost the local economy.
“The lack of new technological facilities such as state-of-the-art
storage and packaging facilities have hindered growth in the fisheries
There is a huge scope for growth in tobacco and onion cultivation in
the area which is hampered by imports. Steps should be taken to curtail
imports and protect local farmers.
The absence of modern facilities have paved the way for exploitation
The lack of transportation and accommodation facilities have
discouraged entrepreneurs in the tourism sector which has vast potential
for development in the area.
The opening of the Kankasanthurai harbour will be a huge benefit to
the development of business.
Launching of connecting flights to Jaffna through the Katunayake
airport instead of visitors having to travel to Ratmalana to take a
connecting flight which is a huge cost and a waste of time will help
promote tourism in the North which has ample scope for eco-tourism.
Guranteed price for fresh milk - Anuradhapura farmer
R.M. Punchibanda, a farmer in Anuradhapura said there were nothing
much given to the agriculture sector in past Budgets. Farmers want a
guaranteed price for dried chillies, onions, potatoes and paddy.
“We also call for a guaranteed price for locally-produced fresh milk
and increase the price of a litre to Rs. 70 or 80.
The fertiliser subsidy scheme at Rs. 350 per 50 kg bag for paddy
cultivation needs to continue.
The development of irrigation projects in the dry zone will help the
paddy farmers in a major way,” they said.
Farmers could produce enough chillies, onions and potatoes and paddy
to meet local demand.
In addition to the guaranteed price of paddy at Rs. 80 per kilo, seed
paddy must be supplied free.
Increase Samurdhi allowance - Samurdhi beneficiary
A few three-wheeler drivers in Pettah said, “Although President
Rajapaksa had proposed a pension and insurance schemes for tri-shaw
drivers in the 2014 and 2015 Budgets it was never implemented.
“We request this relief to be provided in the next Budget.”
The Samurdhi allowance should be increased to Rs. 5,000 monthly for a
family of four or more, Rs. 3,000 for a three-member family and Rs.
2,000 for families with less than three members.
The monthly allowance for the elderly needs to be increased to Rs.
5,000 and special recreation centres and facilities should be provided
for them, a Samurdhi beneficiary said.The government should provide
50,000 scholarships to students of low income families. The stipend of
Rs. 5,000 monthly to university students should continue, a teacher
The previous government proposed a pension scheme for apparel sector
employees but without success.
We hope the government will fulfill this in the next Budget.
The facility of loans should be extended to apparel sector employees
too, a few garment employees said.
As the public servants benefit from salary increases and increase of
cost of living allowances, the private sector employees too should get
similar benefits, they insisted.Pavement vendors Manjula Kumara, Faizer
and Somalatha Hewage said that pavement vendors and small-scale
self-employed people should be exempted from Local Authority levies.
The government should provide suitable locations for us to continue
Secretary, Womens Employees Association, Free Trade Zones, Ms.
Dilrukshi Perera said that the minimum salary of employees of the
Katunayake, Koggala and Biyagama zones which is Rs. 15,000 should be
increased by the Budget.
There is absolutely no relief for FTZ workers. Their living
conditions are pathetic and the Government should have been more
considerate towards them as they earn a large amount of foreign
Funds for the construction of hostel facilities for free trade zone
and export zone employees, are a top priority, they said.A retailer in
Hendala said the shortage of coins has been a persistent issue for
He said the narrow profit margin for retailers is a major challenge
to sustain businesses.
The adjustment to the supper market taxes this year have adversely
affected retailers who have lost a large number customers who purchase
goods from supermarkets at almost the same price as in retail shops.