Sri Lanka was built on loans, not tax revenue: industry minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is built on loans, not tax revenue, and social reform should come from all sectors, said Industry Minister Ramesh Pathirana.

Minister Pathirana addressing parliament on Friday August 12 said Sri Lanka had grown tremendously in universities and infrastructure but the country was built on loans not tax revenue .

“In 1948, only 10% of households had electricity and now 99% of households have electricity, while electric capacity has increased to 4,293 MW,” Pathirana said.

“We have increased the number of schools to 10,155 from 3,091. Primary enrollment has increased from 52% to 98%,” he said.

Immediately after independence from Britain, the minister said, Sri Lanka was on its way to becoming a developed nation, with Malaysia being the only country ahead of Si Lanka in the region.

“As a country always concerned about caste, religion and race, we have achieved a lot during this time,” Pathirana said.

“But we did it by taking loans, not through tax revenue,” he said.

“We now have a problem repaying these loans, because during [ex President] government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, we have decided not to take out any more loans.

That decision has now proven to be an obstacle, Pathirana said, due to the pandemic.

“That responsibility should be taken by us,” he said.

Only about 1,000 people paid more than a million in taxes and only about 31,000 out of 246,000 taxpayers paid taxes in 2021, the minister said.

In what seemed like a hint of what to expect from the next interim budget, Pathirana said tax reforms could be bittersweet for taxpayers going forward.

“We have to opt for these reforms because of the country’s situation,” he said.

He further stated that social reform in order to develop the country should come from all people in all sectors of the country.

“Even though our number of schools has increased, it doesn’t matter that more than 1.1 million students have become three-wheelers,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how many buildings we’ve built if we don’t teach English to these children. It does not matter if there is no technical knowledge.

Pathirana said that not only politicians but also officials implementing decisions should also take responsibility for social development.

“We have 40,000 graduates every year. If most of them end up unemployed with degrees, education officials should take responsibility for not giving them the right skills for the job market,” Pathirana said.

“Change must come from every person and not be expected only from politicians,” he said. (Colombo/August 12, 2022)

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