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Government Unable to Increase Public Servants’ Salaries Due to Revenue Constraints: Minister Gunawardhana

July 11, Colombo (LNW): Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana informed Parliament yesterday that the government can no longer provide a salary increase for public servants from state tax revenue, as there is no projected revenue growth allocated for this purpose in 2024.

He highlighted that between 50 percent and 86 percent of the total revenue obtained from taxes levied on ordinary citizens is allocated to the salaries and pensions of public servants. In 2020, despite low state revenue, 86.7 percent of the total revenue was used for these expenses.

Dr. Gunawardhana presented detailed statistics on the salary payments of public servants from 2014, emphasizing that any government must maintain sufficient income for daily expenses, including paying pensions and salaries to public servants. Welfare benefits like “Aswesuma” also need to be provided, and without adequate funds, the government is forced into debt. Last year, Rs. 4.7 trillion was spent on government employee salaries and other expenses, while only Rs. 3 trillion was received from all revenue channels, including taxes and non-tax revenues.

He criticized opposition members for making false promises on political platforms, knowing they cannot fulfill them if they come into power. Dr. Gunawardhana stressed the importance of transparency, noting that more than half of the tax revenue is spent on paying government employee salaries and pensions. He also mentioned that while governments have previously increased wages by printing money, this option is no longer viable due to restrictions from the International Monetary Fund, which has advised the Sri Lankan government against money printing.

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