COLOMBO Nov 21 Sri Lankan President
Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday presented the 2012 budget to the
island nation's parliament.
Following are highlights of his speech:
"We need to reduce the import cost and increase export
revenue. When our currency has strengthened, our trading
partners' currencies have depreciated. So I propose to devalue
the currency by 3 percent with effect from today."
"We have been able to maintain the growth rate at 8 percent
in 2011, the same as 2010."
The government initially had forecast growth of 8.5 percent
in 2011, but trimmed the forecast to 8.3 percent last month.
"In the Northern region, it is reported that the growth is
23 percent, well beyond 8 percent." Last year, economic activity
in the former war zone -- which was under the control of Tamil
Tiger separatists for decades until the Sri Lankan military
defeated them in 2009 -- grew at a 14.2 rate.
NO ELECTIONS IN 2012
"I will not give any elections next year.
The Northern Provincial Council is the only remaining
provincial government that has not had elections.
Devolution of power to the provincial level in the
Tamil-dominated north is a crucial demand of Tamil parties
negotiating with the government over political concessions, with
the backing of several Western governments.
"In addition to rice, we need self-sufficiency in green
grams, peanuts, ginger, and corn in order to achieve food
security. So I propose a high cess on imports of these
"Vehicle registration charges will be revised while they
will be increased for luxury vehicles in order to increase
revenue of provincial councils." He also said tourism vehicle
import duties will be cut by 50 percent
"We have allocated 30 billion rupees ($271.8 million)for the
inter provincial road network."
"We can be the regional sports hub and that can help to
strengthen our economy. I propose 500 million rupees for
development of infrastructure complexes and all sport goods will
be tax-free in order to encourage sports."
TOURISM VISA FEES
"We have decided to impose a vise fee of $10 per person from
the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
region countries and $20 from the other regions' visitors. There
won't be any charge on children to encourage family tourism.
Tourists who spend a minimum of 48 hours also won't be charged.
This will give an additional revenue of 2 billion rupees."
Of 230 billion rupees allocated to defense, 203 billion or
88 percent will be spent on salaries, food and uniforms.
STATE SECTOR WAGE HIKE
"I propose a salary increase of a 10 percent to the state
sector employees including for the military."
"We have a very limited land extent... we will
completely stop the selling of government lands for the private
sector and have decided only to lease out on a long-term
"If any investor does not adhere to the lease
agreement, action will be taken to cancel the those lease
"Now we have identified 37,000 acres of land under the
plantation industries which are not used. These identified lands
will be handed over to identified families for a 30-year lease,
2 acres each to develop small estates with lending facilities
($1 = 110.375 Sri Lanka Rupees)
(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson