Govt. to reduce loan burden by 2020 – PM

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that measures are being taken to reduce the loan burden to 70 per cent of the total state revenue by 2020.

“The state revenue in 2013 was Rs. 1,137 billion whild Rs.1,162 billion would have to be paid for loan installments and loan interest,” the Prime Minister said.

“We undertook an economy filled with loans,” he said.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the launch of the Enterprise Sri Lanka programme in Moneragala yesterday.

“Over Rs. 40,000 million is needed to pay as compensation for loans obtained by the previous regime. The previous regime obtained loans to the tune of Rs.54,000 million from local banks for road construction activities. We paid the contractors since the previous government had not settled this money for the construction of 183 kilometres of roads from 2005 to 2015. But, the present government has already constructed 185 kilometres of roads. Construction work on the Central Expressway will be completed soon,” the Prime Minister said.

“A massive some of Rs.23,164 million was paid on behalf of the Internal Affairs Ministry for the activities conducted by the previous government. Furthermore, the highest ever amount of money was settled for the loans obtained for the Hambantota Harbour and Mattala Airport. In addition, colossal amounts of money has to be paid for various projects started by the previous regime,” the Premier said.

The Prime Minister said the present government is taking the country forward while strengthening the economy.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe added that when the government came to power, there was a huge dearth in various posts in the education sector. Accordingly, there was a shortage of 4,000 Principals, 854 Sri Lanka Education Administrative Service (SLEAS) personnel, a severe shortage of teachers and so on, during the period in which the then rulers boasted about uplifting the education sector.

“We constructed 26,000 toilets in schools to fulfill the scarcity of sanitation facilities. But, this amount is still not sufficient to meet the requirement,” the Prime Minister said.

He added that Rs.26,250 million was obtained as loans by SriLankan Airlines by 2015.

“As a remedy to get rid of the loan burden of the previous regime, the present government had to obtain soft loans from the IMF and take several measures, including increasing VAT. Now the country is marching forward with economic stability,” the Prime Minister added.

“That’s why I said that we had to protect our wickets before starting to score runs. Gradually, we were able to score runs. The pragmatic policies introduced by the Government helped the country obtain the GSP Plus again and we were also able to re-enter the European market. The country’s fish exports has also increased during the past three years. Accordingly, the country received a revenue of US $ 11,000 million from the fisheries sector last year. But, I believe that this amount should be further increased,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.

“As promised, we have been able to create 700,000 jobs. These figures can be monitored from the statistics of the Employee Trust Fund (ETF) and Employee Provident Fund (EPF). Now, moves are underway to increase the number of tourist arrivals to the country to 2 million per annum,” the Premier said.

The Prime Minister speaking further on the steps taken by the government for the wellbeing of the public, said eye lenses and stents are provided free. Unlike the previous government, cancer patients are allocated money without any limit. The price of 48 varieties of medicines have been reduced bringing a huge relief to the people.

“Under the measures taken to uplift the education sector, 3,000 schools have been developed and upgraded under “the Nearest school is the best school programme”. All facilities have been provided for more than 1,000 secondary schools as well,” he said.

“The Suraksha Insurance Scheme was implemented to protect school children. Political interference and patronage has been done away with from the education sector, especially when enrolling teachers. The Mahapola bursary and other educational aid have also been increased,” the Prime Minister added.

“Under the Gamata Kotiyak Programme conducted by the Youth Council, Rs.1,000 million was granted for carrying out various development projects at village level,” the Premier said.

“Several road development and agriculture development projects have also been launched throughout the country,” the Premier said.

“All these projects have been initiated by the government without any fanfare,” he said.

The biggest ever Free Trade Zone will begin operations on 15,000 acres of land in Hambantota. The Hambantota harbour is operating as a public and private venture while the Hambantota Airport will also be put to good use in future under a PPP project,” the Premier said .

The Prime Minister said that people have not been asked to bare the burden of the Hambantota port and the airport anymore.

“A Tourist Zone will be introduced along the highway system. Accordingly, a Tourist Zone will be set up in Galle, Haputale and a few other areas of the country,” the Prime Minister said.

The Premier added that people can easily obtain loans under the Enterprise Sri Lanka programme from state banks.

“This is not similar to any other bank loan programme as it is designed to create entrepreneurs,” he said.

At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, the Prime Minister distributed land deeds to 800 families from the Moneragala district.

The keys to a set of Suywaseriya ambulances were also handed over for the public service by the Prime Minister.

In addition, several rural and provincial roads will also be developed and all schools in the district without access to proper sanitation facilities will be provided with such facilities. School grounds and public playgrounds have also been earmarked to be developed via the Gamperaliya Programme to promote sports among schoolchildren.

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