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The Budget 2022: A hopeful year ahead?

By Pujanee Galappaththi

Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa, presenting the Budget for the year 2022 in Parliament last Friday (12), announced allocations to provide relief to certain sections of the public, modernise the agriculture industry, and support micro and small businesses, among others.

In order to get a clear understanding of how well the Budget 2022 was received by the public, The Sunday Morning reached out to some individuals to get their opinions.

Seems satisfactory and reasonable

Nihal Senanayake, spare parts broker

The Budget 2022 seems satisfactory and reasonable in terms of the financial situation we are in right now. While allocating a large portion of the Budget for the development of the agriculture sector, the Government also allocated a significant amount towards providing relief packages to low-income families. This, I believe, will be a great relief to the households that are suffering because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that were consequently imposed.

Lack of faith in governing bodies executing Budget

Shyam Udayasiri, marketing manager

The Budget proposal sounds very comprehensive. It provides well for the agricultural community. This is a very important decision given the economic downfall in the country right now. There is a proposal that dictates that private property can be acquired for agriculture. This, I think, is a brilliant proposal in terms of development; to make sure abandoned lands are utilised for agriculture. Being in the agricultural field myself, I think the support proposed for such projects is interesting. However, while budgets have been very progressive in the recent past, they sound great on paper, but nothing ever happens. Therefore, I don’t really have faith in the proper execution of any of these proposals because of the lack of faith I have in the governing bodies.

Increased retirement age a concern

Pasan Manuja, architecture graduate

The budget proposals were interesting. I don’t know what to say about it except that what was most interesting to me was the amendment to the retirement age of government sector employees, which has been brought up to 65 years. Government service is highly inefficient. Lack of use of technology is the main reason for this. Implementing highly specialised systems would solve most of these efficiency issues in Sri Lanka, but the problem is always with the end user being incapable of handling those systems. I reckon a younger crowd would be better suited to handle and use these systems compared to the older generation. There’s also the problem with the older generation’s physical capabilities; for example, a lab technician or driver. Their eyesight and motor skills should be top-notch, and that isn’t the case with the elderly.

Short-sighted Budget

Priyanka Perera, paramedical officer

We have to wait and see how it goes. The proposal made about extending the retirement age was an interesting choice. Although this may help experienced minds to remain in the workforce, it might also reduce opportunities for young graduates, who, I believe, should be involved in the government sector. Furthermore, in respect of the cutbacks on ministerial amenities, while we do not know how effectively these might be implemented, I don’t think it is the best way to manage the economic crisis. Without a long-term plan, simply increasing the retail price of a cigarette by Rs. 5 would not really do anything.

Transparency in implementation is important

Sijani Amarasekara, economics teacher

While the majority of the proposals of the Budget 2022 may sound like plausible solutions to the economic bind we are in currently, the most important thing is to ensure that these proposals are executed effectively within the allocated budget. I believe a transparent breakdown of how the allocated funds will be utilised should be produced by each ministry.

For example, the Budget stated that Rs. 15 million will be allocated for each MP for the development of each area. A comprehensive plan as to how this money will be used would be great to assess the progress of this budget. Transparency is important. We do not need the stakeholders to put out a budget and sit on it until the next year comes and say we tried our best when the people are struggling to make do. To be completely honest, I do not have any confidence in the Government to manage this budget, but like any patriotic citizen, I am hopeful.

Budget doesn’t serve the people

Sunminda Gunathilake, grocery store owner in Nugegoda

The Budget doesn’t look like it is made to serve the people; rather, it serves those in the big chair. The majority of the budget felt like a joke to me. I personally have no belief that the Government will do anything good for us. I am deeply disappointed in how the Government is handling things right now. We voted for this Government hoping to get some relief, but sadly, we get cheated on by these con artists every time. It is actually the fault of the public for not making the right decision.

We must stand by the Government 

Asela Kodithuwakku, sales executive

The Budget this year seems very meticulously constructed, to try and recover from the economic downfall we are in as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the public is ready to criticise everything the Government does, we have to understand that this is a very difficult time to run a country. The Covid-19 crisis is not something we had to face alone. This is a global crisis. The economic repercussions that happened, as a result, were also inevitable. At this juncture, the only thing we can do is support the Government by being responsible citizens, and not by complaining about the imported products that we are missing as a result of the import restrictions.

Some allocations unnecessary

Dilan, MBA student

I feel like this is a targeted budget. For example, there has been a corporate tax increase of 25% for high-income corporates. This feels like a target aimed at corporates. The waiving off of company registration fees with the intention of encouraging entrepreneurs is a great initiative if there are mechanisms in place to support the development of small businesses. However, overall, I find the Budget ridiculous. I think they have budgeted for unnecessary expenditure.

Must observe how Govt. manages Budget next year

Hasanga Mahabandara, MBA student at the University of Colombo

I wouldn’t say I am completely happy with the Budget this time. While increasing taxes on cigarettes and reducing costs for registering business are good proposals, imposing a tax on accidents may have a negative impact. Do I think that the Government is meeting the expectations we as the public had from this Budget? Yes. I believe the Government is exploring ways of reducing expenditure, which is a good thing, because our economy is crumbling. For example, they have increased the government employees’ retirement age to 65. This proposal can save the gratuity payment for another five years; furthermore, they can save the pension payment and utilise the employees for another five years. While the Budget addresses several key issues we are facing right now, I believe if they introduce an interest-free loan for young entrepreneurs, it would be possible to prevent the brain drain that is happening.

I also believe the proposal to make cutbacks to ministerial amenities and the petrol allowance of MPs, and increasing the eligibility period for pensions for MPs to 10 years are good proposals. Overall, the Budget is good, although there are some inconsistencies and impractical proposals. However, it is important to observe how the Government manages this budget in the coming year.