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Budget 2022 allocates millions on roads, but neglects women: Eran Wickramaratne

a year ago

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Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne said that although 52% of the population in our country comprises women, their labour force participation is a mere 35%. He said it is thus imperative that favourable conditions need to be created to increase their contribution, but that the Budget has not addressed this issue. “Today, more than 50% of the graduates from our universities are women. At the same time, women are the ones who mostly get through competitive exams for higher posts in the civil service, administrative service, and the teaching service. Under an SJB Government, we will provide a maternity leave cost subsidy to the private sector to increase women’s labour force participation,” he said. Speaking at a press conference held at the Opposition Leader’s office last Sunday (21), Wickramaratne alleged that the 2022 Budget did not provide anything significant for women, reiterating concerns over how the Government had abolished the Cabinet-level Women’s Ministry established for the first time by the United National Party (UNP) Government after 1977. “Even at a critical time such as now, with the drop in overall domestic production, disruption of agricultural production, and lack of foreign investment due to the economic mismanagement of the Government, it is women who are engaged in sectors that bring in the most foreign exchange to the country,” he emphasised. Noting that 80% of employees in the export-oriented garment industry comprises women, he stated: “Women also dominate the tea industry, and the majority of our expatriate workers are women. These industries and remittances are the largest foreign exchange contributors.” He further said that poor economic management by this Government has increased the burden of women as housewives as well, adding that inflation, which is calculated annually, needs to be computed monthly due to the skyrocketing prices of vegetables and other essential goods. Wickramaratne also pointed out that people have been waiting in long queues for gas, kerosene, petrol, milk powder, and other food items. “There is a developing shortage of goods even if you have the money to purchase. But the Government has been boasting since 2020 that the country is moving towards a ‘manufacturing economy’,” he said. Further, he reiterated that women’s rights and representation would require new laws, making it mandatory to allocate 25% of the representation in the provincial council and Parliament for women, just as in the case of local government representation. Highlighting that Budget 2022 proposes to take over Rs. 8.5 billion out of the Rs. 11 billion held by the Central Bank from Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. on the alleged involvement in the Bond Scam, Wickramaratne warned that the Government should follow a judicial process on the Bond Scam, fulfilling their campaign promise. Responding to a question from a journalist, Wickramaratne said that the previous Government had pursued many corruption-related cases, whereas more recently, the present Government gets the Attorney General to withdraw their cases and free suspects from appearing in courts. Referring to the country’s future development by attracting investment, he charged that investor confidence has eroded due to the absence of rule of law, violation of human rights, and undisciplined fiscal management. “With or without the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the right policies need to be followed. As the global investor community has lost confidence in the present Government, they will need IMF endorsement,” Wickramaratne concluded.

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