Progressive Women’s Collective questions 2022 budget

The Progressive Women’s Collective (PWC) believes that it is important to discuss the impact of the 2022 budget on the people which is due to be presented on the 12th of November in Parliament. In particular, at a time when the country is facing the worst economic crisis in its history, the PWC states that they intend to analyse which groups will benefit from the proposals and plans presented in this budget.

In a media statement released today (07), the PWC has questioned the Government’s decisions for the 2022 budget during a conference held at the group’s headquarters.

“The cost of living has risen to an unbearable level due to the high prices of consumer goods, including food, which is currently the most difficult issue faced by the majority of the people in Sri Lanka. Women are more likely to suffer the adverse effects of this condition. Women in particular have a greater responsibility in the family to provide for the education and care of children, as well as the needs and care of adults. Gas, sugar, milk powder, rice and grain as well as all other daily necessities and services have increased more rapidly than last year. This is mainly due to the high taxes imposed on goods, restriction of imports due to shrinking dollar reserves as well as weaknesses in the production and distribution systems. We expect the budget to include measures to cushion the blow of high cost of living, especially on vulnerable groups,” the statement read.

The statement also touched upon the cost incurred by the health sector within the last year during the pandemic.

“In Sri Lanka, where the Covid death rate is high, the government has spent Rs. 170 billion rupees during 2020 and 2021 (up to June) for the health sector. Global as well as our own experiences indicate that the Covid pandemic is far from over and that improving the human and physical health infrastructure to cope with the pandemic is critical. Yet, we note a 4% reduction in allocations for health in 2022 compared to 2021”, the statement mentioned.

In respect of employment within the country, the PWC raised concerns stating that the Government had failed to allocate relief funds for those laid off work.

“In the case of workers, job losses as well as wage cuts with the pandemic were particularly experienced, especially in the apparel, plantation, immigration and informal sectors. Considering this situation, the government failed to provide relief from the last budget and there is no formal program for ensuring job security, especially in the private sector. The crisis in the job market is particularly affecting women adversely, as more women are employed in these sectors. In a context where social security in general has collapsed, it is women who have to bear the brunt of this burden,” read the statement.

Additionally, a topic of concern was Education in the country, and the PCW said that budgets have been cut for the Ministry of Education.

“Education is also in a deep crisis. Access and right to education is limited due to the severe difficulties
faced by rural schools, especially in online teaching. Also, for nearly two decades, the government has
failed to provide the reasonable wage increases demanded by teachers and principals. The allocation for the Ministry of Education for the year 2022 has been reduced by 1%, and the allocation for the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-School and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services has been reduced by 25% compared to the previous year. At the same time, allocations to Pirivenas, for educational reforms and other areas of education, such as universities and vocational training, have also been reduced,” it read.

Meanwhile, the PCW noted that a 21% increase in budgets for the Ministry of Defense had been allocated during a period when a war is not even active in the country.

“It should be noted that a 21% increase has been made for the Ministry of Defense as compared to the previous year. At a time where there is no war, why allocations to the ministry of Defense keep increasing is of concern. We call for closer scrutiny and accountability of defense spending at this time where all other sectors are subjected to budget cuts,” the statement mentioned.

In concluding, the PWC statement mentioned that the allocations made in the 2022 budget does not seem to bring any relief to people, but instead intensify the crisis in all the areas aforementioned, and the care economy – which is essential for the wellbeing of people has been severely curtailed.

“This will only mean more burdens on the lives of women,” it said.

The PWC invited people to join and follow their social media handles to discuss issues pertaining to the 2022 budget debates, stating that they will provide analysis, discussions and forums to understand the budget from a gendered perspective.