President Ranil Wickremesinghe invited the opposition to join hands through a new political system to provide relief to the people and free them from oppression. He made this request in parliament today (17).
Despite the difficult economic background in the country, the President emphasized that the government is working to provide relief to the people, adding that he will take steps to allocate Rs. 30-40 billion for medicines this year.
The President said that due to the prudent agricultural policies of the government, the country has seen a bountiful paddy harvest and the government has commenced a program to provide 02 million low-income families with 10 kilograms of rice per month over a period of 02 months.
Responding to allegations that the government is spending excessively on the Independence celebrations, the President pointed out that it is an investment for the future and in the 25 years leading up to the 100th anniversary of independence, several new institutions and laws will be introduced for the reform program needed by the country.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe further said,
Currently, we are working to get our economy on the right track. Now we have to get India and China to consent to this debt restructuring. We are continuing discussions in that regard and I am pleased to announce to this House that the discussions are currently successful. We won’t get the income we expect all at once. We hope to put all this together and carry out this work. Paying salaries is one of our main functions. Second is the payment of pensions. We should also provide the Samurdhi. Similarly, two more new programs will be implemented and we have to provide money for that too. Now we have been accused of not providing money for medicines. Another 100 million has to be given. There is one problem in the health sector, which is that we have to pay a bill of Rs. 50 billion for the last few years. However, despite these difficulties, we intend to allocate Rs. 30-40 billion this year for medicines.
The Health Ministry and the Treasury will somehow join hands and carry out these matters. It will take some time to order these medicines. Even we don’t like to see shortcomings at our hospitals, nor to see people dying due to the lack of medicines. Therefore, we have taken steps to allocate the necessary funds for the provision of medicines. Last year, there was a shortage of food in our country. We expected that there would be a shortage of food this year as well. But somehow we provided the required fertilizer to the farmers. Now we have a surplus of crops. We have got this paddy surplus due to a bountiful Yala season as well as the previous Maha season.
Now we have to maintain the price of paddy at Rs. 100 per kilo. We have allocated Rs. 10 billion for this purpose. Previously, only a sum of Rs. 05 billion was allocated for it. The excess harvest was sold earlier, but we will not do that. We have planned a program to provide 02 million low-income families with 10kg of rice per month during March and April. I would be happier if we could give them more. As we celebrate our 75th Independence, we will not allow our people to starve. We will invest the funds required to feed them. Some people criticize the expenditure of the government on the independence celebration. But, we need to provide such relief to the people. We will have to spend another Rs. 10 billion within the next few years for the 25-year development plan. It’s been 75 years since we gained independence achieved and we are taking measures to create several institutions by the time we reach our 100th-year independence celebration to bring about the required reforms in the country.
Accordingly, we are working to establish an institution to study and do research about the history of the country. One of the biggest accusations against us is that we have forgotten our history and accordingly we should create such an institution. We are establishing an economic and trade institution similar to those in many different countries. In addition, for the first time in our country, we are setting up an institution for women and gender. Measures will also be taken to establish a university for training the officials on Government and State Policies. We should establish an agricultural technology university if we need our agriculture to be modernized. We too have plans to establish a University on Climate Change to which foreign countries have already expressed their willingness to assist.
We too hope to establish a sports university to train this country’s athletes to international standards. We need funds for these activities. These may cost more than Rs. 10 billion. We do not spend money at once on these projects. Our 75th independence celebration does not end there. We are implementing these programs for the future. We are taking measures to pass some new laws. They are the National Commission for Women Act, the Gender Equality Act, and the Women’s Empowerment Act. When these three acts are passed, ours will become the country in South Asia that has taken the highest measures for the safety of women. We would also pass the Climate Change Act, Forest Replantation and Tree Cover Act etc. In addition, with the passage of the Living Entity Act, we would get the rightful ownership of the Mahaweli river, Sinharaja Forest, Sripada Site, Horton Plains, Knuckles and Adam’s Bridge etc.
The country would become one with the best environmental laws in the region with the passage of the laws for marine resources exploration and management and the Muthurajawela (Conservation) Act. The future generations are demanding we protect these resources for them. We are introducing the Social Justice Commission Act as well as we need to work for social justice. In addition to those programs, allocations should be made for establishing 75 urban forests this year and the National Youth Platform project programs. We will also take measures to implement a 1996 housing project for low-income earners in the Colombo district and Gampaha districts.
Despite the existing economic crisis in the country, we are working hard to provide relief to the people. On this 75th independence anniversary, I propose to the opposition to change the existing political system. Let’s work together to provide relief to the people. If we could achieve such progress with these limited resources, I urge everyone to work together for the future of the country.