Nov 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera Thursday presented his first and government's third budget to the parliament.
In presenting the Budget 2018 under the theme of "Blue - Green Budget; the Launch of Enterprise Sri Lanka", the Finance Minister said the government's vision is not to give away a piece of fish, making people "Economically Handicapped & entirely Government dependent" but to give them a 'fishing rod' to make them Independent.
"It is "Blue" because we plan to integrate the full economic potential of ocean related activities in formulating the overall growth strategy. It is "Green" because we build our economy on an environmentally sustainable development strategy. The "Enterprise Sri Lanka" will reawaken the entrepreneurial spirit coming from our ancient forefathers enabling Sri Lanka to be a vibrant trading hub and encouraging all Sri Lankans to become co-owners of a country enriched," the Minister said.
The National Budget 2018 will support the achievement of envisaged medium-term targets such as per capita income of USD 5,000, one million new jobs, FDI inflows of USD 5 billion, and doubling exports to USD 20 billion.
In 2018, the government envisages a GDP growth of 5%, inflation of around 6%, and, hopes to achieve for the first time in almost 6 decades primary surplus of 1% of GDP and a Budget deficit of 4.5% of GDP.
Under the Blue-Green economy by year 2025 all Government vehicles will be either Electric or Hybrid. By year 2040 all vehicles in Sri Lanka will be powered by renewable energy. The government will also transform the public transport system by introducing 50 electric busses into the SLTB bus fleet.
"The responsibility of a Government is not to be in business but to create a level playing field and providing all citizens equal opportunities for success," Minister Samaraweera said.
"Enterprise Sri Lanka" will facilitate not only the established private sector, but also the small time businessmen and the small retailer running a "kade", self-employed three wheeler drivers, women who run small businesses and youths driving tech startups to be the engine of growth in country's economic model.
In order to encourage women entrepreneurs, "Enterprise Sri Lanka Credit Scheme" will make available credit facilities with the interest subsidy being at least 10% more for women entrepreneurs relative to others.
The government aims ensure that no entrepreneur is ever denied credit due to the lack of collateral, but is able to access financing given the viability of the project proposal. In fact, a good business idea will be given the pride of place.
A three-pronged approach - 13 years of education, World Class University Education and Market Oriented Vocational Training - will ensure that no youth will be left behind within the "Enterprise Sri Lanka" vision.
The government will allocate Rs. 2.5 billion to establish the "Employment Preparation Fund" at the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs which will finance cost of such training courses to be made available, a stipend of Rs 3,500 and a monthly allowance up to Rs. 6,000 for 6 months for youth to undergo 3-6 month training courses in a specific skill set as demanded by the private sector.
Skill development programs undertaken by the National Youth Corps will be further strengthened by allocating Rs. 2 billion.
In ensuring security in the country security forces will be properly capacitated with not only hard infrastructure but also with soft infrastructure including the ability to access information not only within the country but also collaborate with the neighbors without infringing on the privacy of Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka will increase participation in the UN Peace Keeping Forces will allocate Rs. 750 million to implement special training and development courses for Sri Lankan Soldiers to participate at the UN Peace Keeping missions.
The budget will allocate Rs. 1.025 billion to strengthen judicial infrastructure to clear the enormous backlog of cases pending in the courts on offences including financial crimes, corruption and organized crimes and to alleviate shortage of judges, staff and physical infrastructure.
The full budget speech can be downloaded from here.