Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran says the opposition can only decide on whether to support the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme after analyzing the IMF’s technical assistance reports which he says the government has now agreed to provide.

He made these remarks while speaking to reporters following a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo with the President and government officials for talks on the IMF programme.

He also said that presently they are unable to support the IMF programme owing to the lack of transparency and also because most of the economic reform measures are impacting the country’s poor and vulnerable.

The TNA spokesman said the President had invited the opposition party leaders for a discussion on the IMF programme and that however, he was the only member of the opposition present today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha, State Ministers of Finance Ranjith Siyanbalapitiya and Shehan Semasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana had participated in the discussion.

“Apparently, there will be another meeting directly with the IMF representatives, but today was only the initial discussion with the government,” he said.

Sumanthiran said he raised a number of concerns with regard to the IMF programme that is being implemented.

“Primarily the concern that I raised was that there is a lack of transparency with regard to these recommendations that the IMF has made. The lack of transparency arises in this way that there are no published technical assistance reports of the IMF. Those are the analytical basis as to why they make some of those recommendations.”

With regard to revenue increase, the parliamentarian said he raised as an example the question as to why the Withholding Tax rate was not increased to immediately raise revenue.

“But based on the fact that there is the revenue authorities are not collecting targeted taxes, the VAT rate was increased to 18% which affects all the people particularly the poor in the country and there was no adequate response to that as to why that was done,” he charged.

Similarly, a number of other issues particularly prior action that was identified, the MP said, adding that he highlighted 15 of those that have not been done at all to date and which ought to have been completed by February 2024. He said the government’s response was that in discussion with the IMF, they have received extensions of time.

But most importantly the issues are with regard to these technical assistance reports that are given by the IMF to the government, he reiterated.

“The IMF’s policy is that they can publish it only with the consent of the government and I asked the government whether they can give consent to the IMF to publish it. The President and the other ministers agreed that those reports can be given to us.”

Sumanthiran said that since he was the only member present today, the government agreed to give it to him and also to any opposition party leader who requests for it.

“It is only after receiving those technical assistance reports which hopefully will contain some analysis as to why IMF has made certain recommendations that we can then decide whether this programme can be supported or not.”

“As it is we are unable to support the IMF programme primarily for lack of transparency and also for the reason that most of these measures are impacting on the poor and vulnerable and are letting the rich and the powerful get away scot-free,” he added.   



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