Sri Lankan 2015 budget raises pay, lowers tariffs
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government introduced a proposed national budget on Friday that would increase salaries and reduce water and electricity charges ahead of a possible presidential election in 2015.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the finance minister, read the proposals in Parliament.
Rajapaksa was at the peak of his popularity after ending a 25-year civil war five years ago. However, a recent provincial election showed a dramatic slide in support amid economic hardships and a collapse of rule of law.
Rajapaksa has hinted that he may seek a third term in an election in January, two years ahead of schedule.
The budget estimates next year’s expenses at $17 billion (2.2 trillion rupees) and expects revenues of $13 billion (1.7 trillion rupees), yielding a $4 billion (521 billion rupee) deficit.
The proposals include a 25 percent reduction in electricity charges for small businesses and a 15 percent reduction for larger companies, along with water tariff cuts. Salaries and allowances for government workers would increase, and teachers, postal employees and other field workers would receive motorcycles on concessionary terms.
Rajapaksa earlier announced a reduction in fuel and cooking gas prices and asked retailers to pass on the benefit to consumers through lower prices for essential food items.
Fixed prices to farmers for crops and free rice seeds are also part of the proposals.
“It is an inward-looking, protectionist and giveaway budget,” said opposition United National Party lawmaker Eran Wickramaratne. “It’s full of promises of pensions, subsidies and concessions, clearly aimed at an election.”