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'Reconciliation and national unity' essential says Mangala detailing 2018 budget

The Sri Lankan minister of finance, Mangala Samaraweera told parliament as he detailed the government's 2018 budget yesterday, that it would include a number of measures to ensure "reconciliation and national unity". 

The 2018 budget speech includes a number of pledges including that the Office of Missing Persons would be fully operationally from 2018 with Rs 1400 million allocated towards this. 

"If Sri Lanka is to achieve its goal of becoming an advanced economy, it is essential that we build our future plans on a strong foundation of democracy and reconciliation. We must ensure that the tragedies of the past we had to face as a nation, does not ever recur again," Mr Samaraweera said. 

"Reconciliation and national unity, based on the diversity of our island, is a must, if we are to achieve our vision 2025 and become a country enriched. Therefore, the Government will continue their efforts with greater vigor and commitment to bring the people of all communities of our country together. Despite winning the war, we have yet to win the peace and in order to do so, it is essential that we win the hearts of those in the war affected areas. Their livelihoods must be improved and the benefits of economic development must reach them."

See full speech here

Key pledges are reproduced below: 

On an initiative of the President, 50,000 brick and mortar type houses will be constructed in the North and the East. This is in addition to the allocations already provided to other Ministries. [Rs 750 Mn]

The Government will support programs and activities in rural irrigation development including drip irrigation, rain water harvesting, and integrated village development. [Rs. 2,000 Mn]

We will strengthen reconciliation focused livelihood development, economic empowerment and social infrastructure development. This will also include the construction of a special home for differently abled women in the North. [Rs. 2,000 Mn]

Indebtedness in the rural sector targeted by exploitative microfinance schemes have become a serious issue. The small industries in the Northern Province have also not been able to revive due to both the lack of working capital and equity. As such, I propose the following:

The Government will support by way of provision of grants and the introduction of a low interest loan scheme to facilitate those indebted and to move out the debt trap through Co-operative Rural Banks and the Thrift and Credit Co-operatives Societies. This will be implemented on a pilot basis in the North and the North Central Province. [Rs. 1,000 Mn].

Existing small industries will be facilitated to increase production and to connect with the markets through existing subsidized credit schemes under the “Enterprise Sri Lanka” Credit Schemes.

The Government will support, by way of grants, selected small industries throughout the Northern Province by empowering the vast network of Producer Cooperatives in the Province. [Rs. 1,000 Mn]

We will also establish 2 food processing centers in Delft Island and Kilinnochchi, specializing in Sap based produce such as Palm Juggery, Palmyra fruits and Tuber processing, respectively. [Rs. 40 Mn]

The Mylitty harbor will be developed as a fishery harbor enabling mainly, the traditional dwellers of the land, affected by the war to get back to their traditional livelihoods. We will also establish cool rooms and storage facilities to enable the fisherman to store their fish. This facility will be established by the Government. [Rs. 150 Mn]

Only about 50% of the Achchuveli Industrial Zone is utilized, at present. I propose to bear 50% of the electricity cost of the companies that will be established, for a period of 2 years and to upgrade the facilities at Achchuveli. [Rs. 100 Mn]

We will establish a modern economic center in Jaffna connected to the Dambulla dedicated Economic Center and to Colombo, creating an economic triangle. [Rs. 100 Mn]

ITN’s Vasantham TV channel will be supported to improve its services. [Rs. 30 Mn]

Resources will be allocated to strengthen the implementation of the Official Language Policy through the National Language Development programme and the National Co-existence programme. [Rs. 30 Mn]

There are many war and conflict affected widows and ex- combatants that require to be reintegrated into the mainstream society by providing them with livelihood support. 

We commend the “Ammachchi” concept where women affected by the war are facilitated to engage in small trader businesses and will further support this venture. [Rs. 25 Mn]

It is also essential that the 12,600 rehabilitated ex-combatants are provided with a stable livelihood. However, many of these persons do not have any formal qualifications despite possessing many skills. We will make them eligible for employment by facilitating them to obtain NVQ certification in keeping with their skills. This will be implemented through a mobile service. This will also be made available to those in the North and the East, whose education was disrupted during the war. [Rs. 25 Mn]

As such, private entities that recruit at least 5 ex- combatants will be provided with a salary subsidy of 50% of the salary per person subject to an upper limit of Rs. 10,000 per person per month for period of 12 months. [Rs. 250 Mn]

In the early 90’s, all Muslims living in the North were forcibly evicted by the LTTE. Since then, many of them have been living as Internally Displaced People. Rs. 2,500 million will be allocated for infrastructure development and housing for these displaced persons. Funds will be allocated to expedite the resettlement processes which include the rehabilitation of the Mannar town area and to continue the township development programme at Silawathura. [Rs. 2,750 Mn]

The OMP, which was approved by this House, will commence its operations, fully from 2018. [Rs. 1,400 Mn]

The term of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) has been extended and as such, we will support its activities. [Rs. 180 Mn]