Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa announced a Rs. 229 billion relief package covering all segments of society to alleviate the burden on the people due to the soaring Cost of Living.
“Funds for this massive relief package have been allocated by the Budget and no levy or tax will be imposed for this purpose,” Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told a news briefing in Colombo last night.
Addressing a press briefing at the Treasury yesterday (03), he said that the Cabinet yesterday decided to grant an allowance of Rs. 5000 for state workers while pensions will also be increased by Rs. 5000.
The Minister said over 1.45 million Government servants including those employed in statutory bodies will benefit by this move.
“The Government pensioners will also receive a monthly allowance of Rs. 5,000 for a period of one year and more than 600,000 pensioners will benefit by this move. The Government has allocated Rs. 87 billion additionally for this measure. Disabled soldiers numbering 42,655 will also be given this allowance,” he said.
Minister Rajapaksa disclosed that Samurdhi beneficiaries presently receiving an allowance of Rs. 3,500 per month will also be given an additional allowance of Rs. 1,000 from this month, adding that other Samurdhi beneficiaries will also receive this additional allowance proportionately,” he said.
The Finance Minister also recalled that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has proposed to grant compensation for the farmers if their harvest decreases.
This Government granted a certified price of Rs. 50 per kilo of paddy for the farmers when it came to power.
Farmers will now be given Rs. 25 additionally for each kilo of paddy purchased by the Government. Accordingly, the Government guarantees Rs. 75 per kilo of paddy for farmers.
“We expect that the harvest may go down by 20 – 30 per cent. We will ensure a price of Rs. 75 per kilo of paddy as a relief to the farmers.”
However, the Finance Minister said rice prices in the market will not see any hike as it is given by the Government to the farmers as a subsidy.
He said that each estate sector employee’s family registered with the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) will be provided with 15 Kgs of wheat flour per month at a concessionary price of Rs. 80 per kilogram. The price of one kilogram of wheat flour in the market is Rs.120.
The Finance Minister also said it has been decided to grant Rs.5,000 for cultivations in home gardens of less than 20 perches each and Rs. 10,000 for home gardens of not more than one acre each. The total amount allocated for this project is Rs.31 billion, the Finance Minister noted.
The Finance Minister also announced that all essential food items and medicinal drugs will be exempted from all taxes levied at present. However, he said this will be implemented in a manner that will cause no harm to the local producers.
Race to be the first!
Shortly before the Cabinet meeting was to be concluded yesterday (03), Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila had sought the President's permission to excuse himself from the meeting as he had to attend a live TV show. The President had then informed Minister Gammanpila to announce the government's relief package during the live broadcast.
It is reported that Ministers Keheliya Rambukwella and Rohitha Abeygunawardena had immediately informed Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa about the President's instructions and requested him to hold a press briefing to announce the government's relief package before Minister Gammanpila. Sources said that the Finance Minister had then convened a press briefing at the Treasury to announce the relief package.