Colombo (LNW): Leader of the Opposition MP Sajith Premadasa blatantly criticised the Budget Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2024 presented in Parliament by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance Minister, in what he described it as a ‘deceptive ploy’ aimed at the nation’s people.
Speaking to reporters outside the Chambers hours after the President unravelled the Budget for 2024, Premadasa contended that it is a compromise due to unmet income targets from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, preventing the acquisition of the second IMF tranche.
He emphasised the need to evaluate the implementation status of proposals from the 2022 budget before discussing new programs for the working people’s well-being, and asserted that the current regime has fallen short in implementing numerous promises outlined in the Budget 2022.
Commenting on the 2024 Budget Appropriation Bill, Opposition MP Dr. Harsha de Silva raised concerns about the high risks associated with it, and highlighted potential issues such as the proposed increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 15 per cent to 18 per cent, removing exemptions and adversely affecting Small and Medium Scale enterprises. Additionally, he noted a reduction in the threshold for the Social Security Levy.
The MP raised questions about the impact of the proposed increase in the loan borrowing limit and the source of these loans, expressing worries about potential effects on interest rates. Silva criticised Wickremesinghe for not addressing these concerns in the budget speech, suggesting that the details might only emerge with the issuance of relevant Gazette notifications. Furthermore, the opposition MP hinted at the President delivering the budget speech in anticipation of an upcoming election next year.
Meanwhile, Leader of the National Peoples Power (NPP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the President’s presentation of the Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2024 is a stark portrayal of a strategy reliant on ‘acquiring loans’ and ‘selling state assets’.
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament on the President’s newly presented Budget for 2024, Dissanayake strongly asserted that the government’s budget proposal for 2024 is driving the nation further into crisis.
He accused the government of exacerbating the situation by increasing the loan borrowing limit by an additional Rs. 3,400 billion beyond the initial proposal. He further contended that rather than presenting new and effective solutions to the ongoing crisis in the country, the President and his government are recycling old and failed measures.
The emphasis on loans and asset sales raises serious concerns about the economic trajectory and sustainability of the proposed budget, Dissanayake highlighted.