The Sunday Leader

Govt. Needs Time To Solve All Issues – S. B. Dissanayake

By Ashanthi Warunasuirya

While the opposition is accusing the government of the major issues that the country faces today, Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare S. B. Dissanayake says the government needs an adequate period of time to solve all these issues. But the public take to the street and protest against many issues. There are primary issues that they are talking about now. The Sunday Leader sought the views of Minister S. B. Dissanayke about these problems and many more that the country faces at present.

Excerpts of the interview:-

Q: Today people in every sector are facing major problems. University students and farmers take to the street. Taxes are increased. The rate of unemployment has gone up. Monks were arrested. Economic crisis emerges. With all these problems, the public are in frustration. As the minister of Empowerment and Welfare, what you can say about these issues?

A: When a new government comes into power, initially they have to face such problems. This government granted a salary increment for public servant as much as Rs. 10000 which was never done by a government in the entire history of Sri Lanka politics. They doubled the Samarudhi subsidy. For this subsidy which was amounting to Rs. 12 million, now has increased to Rs. 42 million. Meanwhile, they brought down the price of oil to a great extent. Due to such reasons, the expenditure of the government has gone up. But the revenue of the government has gone down. Meanwhile, there are a huge amount of debts that has not been accounted. Therefore, the government is undergoing major conflicts as a result, they have to increase certain taxes. In Asian region as well as in anywhere in the world, such problems emerge now. Against this backdrop, the government has to work very carefully. With fertilizer subsides, the government is thinking of reducing chemicals used in paddy growing. Other farmers who cultivate vegetables and other crops must be given subsidies. For that also, a scheme is implemented.


Q: Today only paddy farmers receive subsidies. Even they do not get subsidies on time. Therefore, farmers accuse the government that they only try to repeal subsidies but  do not  give any benefits to them. What are your views on these allegations?

A: In the guise of distributing fertilisers, huge frauds were carried out. With the distribution of school uniforms, the same thing happened. When the prevalent system gets changed, the public become nervous. Now farmers can receive money instead of subsidies fertiliser. The government cannot grant every one this subsidy. There is a legal way to grant them these subsidies. In a short period of time, all will be in right tract.


Q: The government brought in a new tax in the recent past. In short period of time, many such reforms happened. Why do such things happen from time to time. Is the government in a major financial crisis?

A: Yes, there is a monetary crisis. It is not only in Sri Lanka but also in the entire Asian region. Even China and India are now facing this problem. We have managed the situation so as to give minimum impact of this crisis on the public.


Q: The government is of the view that Mahinda is the cause for all these issues to crop up. Present government when they came to power knew about this situation. Saying that this taxing took place because of the debts that former regime had taken is unfair now?

A: The government has a plan at that time as well. But they have to repay loans that had been taken to development projects and their contractors. The former government did not take into account as government debts that Petroleum Corporation and Electricity Board took. But the government now has to repay them as well. As the SLFP, we think of the ways to manage them all without burdening the people any more.


Q: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says they have not swept debts under the carpet. He says when the Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister during the period between 2001 and 2005, the amount of debts as a percentage of GDP was 100 per cent. This amount has been reduced annually. By 2014, it was reduced to 75.5 per cent. He denies all allegations levelled at his government claiming that this government fabricates all these stories. What is your view on his claims?

A: Hidden debts means, they had taken loans in secrecy and swept them under the carpet. I do not think that is the case. The debts that did not get accounted in the budget were there. For example, in my ministry, Upcountry Development Authority, Southern Development Authority and Samurdi Divineguma Department were launched, according to certain agreements we have reached as per the Divineguma Act. Accordingly, we have to pay employees about Rs. five million. Finance Ministry grants us one million in this regard at present. We have arranged to pay the balance via treasury bills and loans taken from banks.


Q: The price of oil has been declined by about 75 per cent. Even though about Rs. 500 million remains because of the oil price reduction, it is said that the Petroleum Corporation and the Electricity Board are making losses. Why government cannot reverse this situation?

A: The government is reversing this situation. By reducing the oil prices, the government has incurred a certain amount of loss. Therefore, advantage of price reduction cannot be given at once. Ending of purchasing period of oil, buying oil enough for about 7 months on loans are some of the reason for this inability. We are now at the tail end of solving these issues.


Q: Why did the government increase the salaries of MPs by lakhs. But they said in the past such things never would happen again. Now it seems this government is not doing a single thing that they have promised?

A: As public servants, pensioners get high pensions, and Samurdi beneficiaries get doubled their subsidies, these things should be done as well. Rentals of houses and other payments have doubled now. It is good to give MPs their entitled payments thereby preventing financial frauds. The President once said that MPs who receive the highest salaries are in Singapore, and it is also the country where the poorest MPs exist. It is obvious that when there is a conflict, it is better to grant benefits to the public than offering them to MPs. Therefore, we as a government have to think being in the side of the public.


Q: What is the actual cause of the power cut?

A: A massive transformer has blasted causing burn injuries to many employees and breaking many machines as well. It takes some time to restore the situation. However, the CEB and the police have launched investigations to find out the reason for power cuts. But we have a responsibility not to let such power cuts happen in the future. We are now getting minimum hydro electricity as well at present. Therefore, even though expenditure on Norochcholai Power Plant is very high, we do not have other alternatives at present. But our country should have such alternatives. We as a country have that weakness.


Q: What do you think of protests being carried out by the united opposition, does it affect the government?

A: Joint opposition may go against the government. But the SLFP and United National Freedom Coalition MPs are with the government. If they try to split the SLFP via these protests, it is wrong.


Q: Still there are issues of splits within the SLFP party. To get together Maithri and Ranil, you also mediated. At present, the party that Mahinda supposed to form is not in progress. Yoshitha was released on bail. With all these happening, a rumour is spreading that Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a deal with the government. Is this rumour true?

A: But we see this conspiracy of forming a new party is still going on.  This is not a good situation. But the urgency that they showed earlier in this regard, have diminished. Now the strong relationship between Mahinda and SLFP MPs that we saw earlier is no more. Mahinda, Chandrika, and Maithri together strengthened this party. The President does not mediate in the police affairs or the FCID’s. He cannot do that either because he became the president pledging that he will stop such activities. All must come together. If the SLFP splits, it does not benefit the SLFPers. We have to work to safeguard the party, our supporters and  the coalition as well.



2 Comments for “Govt. Needs Time To Solve All Issues – S. B. Dissanayake”

  1. mahinda

    Go on till the next election and ask for another period to finish

  2. gabriella

    The only ” issue” the government needs to resolve is getting rid of dirty low-life thieves like S. B. Dissanayake. Then there will be no issues ! Why the Sunday Leader gives scum like him prominence in a national newspaper beggars belief.

    What economic credibility can a man who proudly claimed to have given the country “inflation” have ?

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