The Budget for the upcoming year – 2021 – will be presented to Parliament this Tuesday (17) by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mahinda Rajapaksa. Speaking at a media briefing held in October, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle stated that he expects the upcoming budget deficit to be 9% of GDP this year, however, hopes that the budget deficit will be stabilised at 4.5% of GDP next year despite the challenges that may come up.
It is believed by professionals that the Budget will be in line with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s national policy framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” focusing on people-centric development, economic development, and welfare for the people. Further, the Government is expected to put forward suggestions to revamp the business sector and disintegrated businesses in general.
While this is still a hot topic masked with a great deal of expectations and uncertainty, this week, The Sunday Morning took to the streets to assess the expectations, opinions, and hopes of the general public in reference to the 2021 Budget.
Focus on stabilising the economy
Harsha Abegunasekara – Founder and CEO of Help.lk
This will be quite a different Budget; the fact is that we can’t expect normal allocations as Covid has put so much pressure on the whole economy. This Budget must focus on stabilising the economy. We may see a huge bump in allocation for health because of the upcoming Covid-19 vaccine.
Compromise on luxuries and provide relief
Alanki Kishani Perera – law graduate, entrepreneur, and artist
Almost all individuals are impacted due to the prevailing economic crisis in Sri Lanka and many are left unemployed due to the pandemic. It is important that those unemployed are provided with job opportunities within local industries such as tea, fishing, and agriculture.
I do believe that the economic strain put forward by Covid-19 will be reflected in the Budget since it has severely impacted the economy of Sri Lanka in almost every way. However, at the same time I believe that relief should be granted to low-income families who are in financial distress. It is possible to provide relief by compromising on expenses and luxuries that aren’t necessary, such as vehicle permits, because this is a period of extraordinary challenges that require extreme measures and compromise.
With regard to changes in the Budget for the coming year, an increase in taxes for nonessential items might be a possibility.
Debt crisis and declining GDP to the fore
Asoka Rodrigo – entrepreneur
I believe the 2021 Budget needs to remedy the current debt crisis and the declining GDP and should mainly be dedicated to rebuilding the economy after the damage caused to it by Covid-19.
I believe the following factors should be included in the upcoming Budget:
- At least by mid-2021, the national carrier will need a bailout for its revival, and on opening the airport for tourists, concessions must be provided to the travel and hotel trade to get tourism back on track
- A cut in imports of consumer goods which can be produced locally is a must. I also believe promotions in the industrial and agricultural exports sector to increase production is vital
- Adequate funds should be allocated to the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) and railways to strength and ease state sector public transport
- Alternative incentives should be provided for foreign currency remittances and foreign investments
- It is crucial to strengthen the Paddy Marketing Board to compete with paddy mill giants to keep the rice prices under control
- Farm gate purchases must be encouraged by supermarket chains, the Corporate Wholesale Establishment (CWE), and co-operative outlets to minimise middlemen in the supply chain, to reduce consumer prices
- A substantial cut in excessive budgetary allocations for the defence sector should be diverted to the health sector, which will substantiate the expenses in battling Covid-19
- Abolishing the failed provincial council system will also help reduce government expenditure
- A monthly compulsory reduction of 5% from all private and state sector employees’ salaries could form a fund to repay local borrowings of the State, during the year 2021; with this 5% saving and a nominal interest to be paid back in monthly installments during the year 2022
Shehani Senanayake – management student at the University of Kelaniya
I do believe that the biggest focus of the 2021 Budget should be to fix the issues that were caused by Covid-19. In my opinion, firstly it should provide for the agricultural and fishing sectors, and provide more funding for small businesses around the country. There are also many people in the private sector that lost their jobs due to the pandemic and some of these people are the sole income bearers of their families. While taking steps to financially support these families, it is also the duty of the Government to provide them with suitable jobs.
Another important thing is to revamp tourism in full swing. I believe this is a great opportunity to reinstall our approach to tourism; as it is one of our biggest incomes, we must not be afraid to sink a substantial amount of money into it while taking a few risks. We can follow some of the mechanisms carried out by giant tourist destinations such as Korea. The Korean Government included the aspects of their country that they wished to advertise to the world through entertainment, in the form of reality shows, movies, and even aspects of the K-pop industry. This was a brilliant strategy, and it is the best one for Sri Lanka to follow to get tourism back on track.
Local is the way to go
Nimesh Attigalle – management student
The upcoming Budget is the next biggest conversation amongst most people. The interesting thing is that we expect this Budget to fix all our problems, provide for the health sector, the agriculture and development sector, and stabilize the economy. But all it’s going to do is make us wonder why we expect a set of power-hungry senior citizens sitting in decision-making positions to do anything but disappoint us for the rest of our lives.
Ideally, this Budget must allocate for the development sectors of the country, support the farmers and small businesses, and fund the local businesses to avoid depending on the rest of the world for spices, rice, and, buttons. If this global pandemic taught us anything, it is to strengthen local resources and build up our local industries.
Spotlight on ingrown economic development
Shyam Udayasiri – marketing manager
This year’s Budget is definitely going to be focused on Covid-19 and how we can live with it for the rest of the year without letting our economy go to the dogs. This is not an easy task because this means a majority of our finances should be allocated to the health sector and medical research. However, the country needs to focus on ingrown economic development at this point in order to survive a global crisis such as this one in the future. I also believe we need to focus on developing the tourism industry and ensuring the safety of the people when the country is open for international trade.
Compensation for caretakers
Premalatha Perera – Sunday school teacher
The Budget should provide for better provisions for small business owners and offer more funding for elders’ homes and orphanages. The funding for these institutions right now are miniscule and caretakers are not duly compensated for the incredible work they do either. Besides this, I believe the health sector should be facilitated, including the indigenous medicine sector.
-The morning –