Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has underlined that it is essential that we build a society on a strong foundation of democracy and reconciliation based on the diversity of our nation in order to make our vision 2025 a reality.
“We are at the cross roads of history. Are we to walk forward united in our diversity or go back to a dark era?, “ he posed.
Finance Mangala Samaraweeera made this observation delivering his speech titled ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ presenting his maiden budget, which is the 72 nd budget of the island nation.
During his address, Minister Mangala said: “We have to work with grater vigor to win the hearts of the war affected and improve the livelihood of these people. 12600 rehabilitated combatants are to be provided with a stable life. Sri Lanka witnesses some early harvests of prudent economic management policies of the government. As a new Government, we have been able to make a decisive turnaround in the public finance management within a relatively short-period. We introduced reforms to domestic revenue mobilization and engaged productively with international development partners to regain lost confidence in Sri Lanka.
I would like to thank the President, the Prime Minister and others who were part of the process to make this budget. Overall economy is expected to grow by around 4.5% in 2017 and projected to move gradually to a higher GDP growth path of around 6.0% by 2020, while containing the level of unemployment at around 4% level. Although, we have already taken measures to strengthen the official reserves, but relatively high inflation observed in the recent months is expected to decelerate as the effects of supply side shocks wane. Thus, we expect real interest rates and real exchange rates to adjust towards equilibrium levels over the medium-term.
An excise duty will be imposed on raw materials used for Ethanol production based on the quantity. I also propose to introduce an excise duty of Rs. 15 per litre on non-potable alcohol. Both these will be implemented from mid-night today. We will issue licenses to import Cigarettes and Cigars. We will introduce new customs law.
Rs. 2.5 million is allocated to Muslims displaced from the North. This will include the rehabilitation of Mannar town and Silawathura. We will establish a modern economic center in Jaffna which will be connected to the Dambulla Economic Center and Colombo, creating an economic triangle.
Myladi Fisheries Harbour will be improved. Small industries in the North Province will be supported and we have allocated Rs. 1 billion for this and low interest loan scheme for those in debt in the North and North Central Province. 50,000 brick and mortar type houses will be built in the North and East. Rs. 2. 7 billion allocated to construct a home for differently- abled women in the North and the East.
Medical and emergency insurance for artists will be established.Rs. 250 million allocated to develop and upgrade religious places. Rs. 50 million allocated to establish a Buddhist library. Rs. 17,000 million allocated to develop Kandy, Anuradhapura, Galle and Jaffna. We will allocate Rs. 24,000 million for urban regeneration projects.
Rs. 2,000 million allocated to construct 25,000 housing units for those in line houses. Rs. 3,000 million has been allocated to construct housing units in the North and East provinces. Low income families will be provided 20,000 housing units by 2020. We will allocate Rs. 17,500 to construct them. We will provide a similar insurance to university students as we did for school students. Ayurvedic medicine center which will provide PHD's will be established. IT faculties will also be established in 7 universities. A faculty for marine education will be established at the Ruhuna University and we have allocated Rs. 250 million for this. Rs. 1,250 million will be allocated to establish medical faculties at Wayamba, Sabaragamu and Moratuwa. Payment of Rs. 3,500 to students in national colleges will be increased to Rs. 5,000. We will establish a center at the Maharagama teacher training center to train english language teachers.
In a bid to ensure women entrepreneurs have the necessary backing, we will give them a tax relief of 10 percent more than is already promised. We propose all vehicles in the country to be powered by non-fossil fuel sources by 2040. To this end, all Government vehicles will be converted to hybrid or electric vehicles by 2025.”