Sri Lankan government focuses on reconciliation in 2018 budget allocating Rs. 12.75 billion

Sri Lanka’s budget for next year presented by the Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera has focused on the post-war reconciliation proposing a number of measures to develop the war-ravaged North and East and uplift the lives of the people in those area.

Presenting the budget in parliament on Thursday, Minister Samaraweera said if Sri Lanka is to achieve its goal of becoming an advanced economy, it is essential that we build our future plans on a strong foundation of democracy and reconciliation.

“We must ensure that the tragedies of the past we had to face as a nation, does not ever recur again,” he stressed.

The Minister said Reconciliation and national unity, based on the diversity of the island, is a must, if Sri Lanka is to achieve the vision 2025 and become a country enriched and the Government will continue its efforts with greater vigor and commitment to bring the people of all communities of the country together.

He emphasized that in order to bring peace and win the hearts of the people in the war-torn North and East, their livelihoods must be improved and the benefits of economic development must reach them.

The government in its budget for 2018 proposed a number of measures to develop the economy in the region and address the issues of the people seeking to allocate Rs. 12.75 billion to implement them.

Following are the measures proposed:

•Rs. 1.4 billion for the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), which was approved by the House, to fully commence its operations from 2018

•Rs. 750 million for the construction of 50,000 brick and mortar type houses on an initiative of the President in addition to the allocations already provided to other Ministries

•Rs. 2 billion to support programs and activities in rural irrigation development including drip irrigation, rain water harvesting, and integrated village development

•Rs. 2.75 billion to strengthen reconciliation focused livelihood development, economic empowerment and social infrastructure development including the construction of a special home for differently abled women in the North.

•Rs. 2.5 billion to for infrastructure development and housing for the Muslims in the North forcibly displaced by LTTE in the ’90s and to expedite the resettlement processes which include the rehabilitation of the Mannar town area and to continue the township development program at Silawathurai.

•Rs. 1 billion to support by way of provision of grants and the introduction of a low interest loan scheme to facilitate those indebted and to move out the debt trap through Co-operative Rural Banks and the Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies

•Rs. 1 billion to support, by way of grants, selected small industries throughout the Northern Province by empowering the vast network of Producer Cooperatives in the Province.

• Rs. 200 million to strengthen the implementation of the Official Language Policy through the National Language Development program and the National Co-existence program.

•Rs. 150 million to develop Mylitty harbor as a fishery harbor enabling mainly, the traditional dwellers of the land, affected by the war to get back to their traditional livelihoods and also to establish cool rooms and storage facilities to enable the fisherman to store their fish.

•Rs. 100 million to bear 50% of the electricity cost of the companies that will be established in the Achchuveli Industrial Zone for a period of 2 years and to upgrade the facilities

•Rs. 100 million to establish a modern economic center in Jaffna connected to the Dambulla dedicated Economic Center and to Colombo, creating an economic triangle

•Rs. 40 million to establish two food processing centers in Delft Island and Kilinochchi, specializing in Sap based produce such as Palm Juggery, Palmyra fruits and Tuber processing, respectively.

•Rs. 30 million to support and improve services of ITN’s Vasantham TV channel.

•Rs. 25 million to support the “Ammachchi” concept where women affected by the war are facilitated to engage in small trader businesses

•Rs. 25 million to assist 12,600 rehabilitated ex-combatants them to obtain NVQ certification in keeping with their skills to make them eligible for employment

•Rs. 250 million to support private entities that recruit at least 5 ex- combatants who will be provided with a salary subsidy of 50% of the salary per person subject to an upper limit of Rs 10,000 per person per month for period of 12 months.