MR accuses Government of halting development

He also accused the Government of placing the country in the throes of an unprecedented crisis due to economic mismanagement. Rajapaksa also said that Lanka Hospitals, Hilton Hotel, Waters Edge, Grand Oriental Hotel and Mobitel are profitable enterprises that contribute to the non-tax revenue of the Government should not be sold off.“I also cannot agree to the proposal to allow land to be given on long leases to foreigners without the taxes introduced by my Government. The last time the UNP government liberalised land ownership, the Galle Fort and a good part of the Southern coastline passed out of Sri Lankan hands. This kind of policy may bring in some foreign exchange in the short term, but will have serious long term implications,” he added. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says since the change of Government, there has been a palpable downturn in the economy and work on many development projects have halted.Speaking at the Abhayarama Temple in Narahenpita Rajapaksa said that not a single new development project has been initiated since January this year. “The new Government’s first fully fledged budget for the year 2016 comes in such a context. This budget seeks to make certain radical changes which raise serious concerns. Foremost among the budget proposals that I am unable to agree with is the sweeping programme of privatisation. Strategic government owned entities such as the Norochchcolai power plant, the hydro electricity plants, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, operations of the Hambantota and Colombo ports, the Katunayake and Mattala Airports the Water Supply and Drainage Board and all such bodies are to be brought under one public quoted company, the shares of which will be sold to investors on the stock market and this mega company is to operate as a profit making business. I believe that public utilities like water, electricity, transport and fuel supply should not be run as profit making businesses, but as services to the people. Charges for these services should be fixed with the wellbeing of the public in mind. Therefore I am opposed to the privatisation of these strategic government owned entities,” he said. Rajapaksa says the approach of the budget is not consistent with the ideology of the SLFP even though the SLFP is supposed to be a partner in the Government.The former President says despite an attempt to create an impression of a populist budget with reductions in the price of gas and several foodstuffs and lower income tax rates, the budget as a whole is guaranteed to drag the country backwards. (Colombo Gazette)