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ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka is built on loans and not on tax revenue, and social reform should come from all sectors, Industries Minister Ramesh Pathirana said.

Minister Pathirana addressing parliament on Friday August 12 said Sri Lanka has developed significantly in academics and infrastructure, but the country has been built on loans and not by income earned through taxation.

“In 1948, only 10 percent of the households had electricity and now 99 percent of households have power while electricity capacity has increased to 4,293 MW,” said Pathirana.

“We have increased the number of schools to 10,155 from 3,091. Primary school enrolment has increased to 98 percent from 52 percent,” he said.

Immediately after Independence from the British, the minister said, Sri Lanka was on its way to being a developed nation, with Malaysia the only country ahead of Si Lanka in the region.

“As a country that is still preoccupied with caste, religion and race, we have achieved a lot in this time,” Pathirana said.

“But we did it by taking loans, not through tax income,” he said.

“We have an issue now in repaying those loans, because during [ex President] Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, we decided not to take any more loans.”

This decision has now proved an obstacle, said Pathirana, due to the pandemic.

“That responsibility should be taken by us,” he said.

Only around 1,000 people have paid more than one million in tax and only around a total of 31,000 out of 246,000 income taxpayers have paid taxes in 2021, said the minister.

In what appeared to be a hint of what to expect from the coming interim budget, Pathirana said  tax reforms can be bitter for taxpayers in the future.

“We have to go for these reforms due to the situation of the country,” he said.

He further said social reform in order to develop the country should come from all people in every sector of the country.

“Even though our number of schools have increased, it doesn’t matter if more than 1.1 million students have become three wheel drivers,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how many buildings we have built if we are not teaching these children English. It doesn’t matter if there is no technical knowledge is given.”

Pathirana said, not only politicians, but officials  implementing the decisions should also take responsibility for social development.

“We have 40,000 graduates every year. If most of them become jobless with degrees, then education officers should take the responsibility for not giving them the proper skills for the job market,” said Pathirana.

“The change should come from every person and should not just be expected from politicians,” he said. (Colombo/Aug12/2022)

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