Aug 31, Colombo: President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa today emphasized that the cost of living will be reduced by implementing the decisions taken from a permanent policy point, without going back on the steps taken.
Noting that the prices of several consumer goods, including turmeric, have risen due to decisions taken to uplift local agriculture and the farming community, the President pointed out that if turmeric and other commodities are imported to control or bring down prices, the desired objective will never be achieved.
President Rajapaksa said that despite the short-term difficulties, steps taken to strengthen the rural economy and uplift the farming community will not be reversed.
The President made this observation at the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Cost of Living held at the Presidential Secretariat this afternoon (31).
The impact of rising prices of several essential commodities on the economy of the urban middle class was discussed at length during the meeting.
In order to earn a stable and adequate income for rural farming community which is about 40 percent of the population, it is necessary to establish the confidence that there is a high price for their produce and a stable market in the country, the President noted.
Without doing so, the rural masses could not be encouraged to engage in agriculture, the President said pointing out the difficulty of removing the import restrictions imposed.
The President said that in order to control the foreign exchange rate and get rid of the high debt burden, imports should be restricted. He pointed out that countries such as India and the United States have also imposed restrictions on imports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 100,000 employment program implemented for poverty alleviation is expected to strengthen the economy of low income earners. They should be included in the nutrition program of Samurdhi recipients. Home gardening and providing chickens for eggs can improve their nutrition and living standards
President Rajapaksa emphasized the need for a formal program to address the problems faced by the urban middle class in the face of rising commodity prices. With the COVID epidemic, the government took steps to provide farmers’ produce directly to consumers at a subsidized price. The President added that by following this process, farmers and consumers could be protected from exploitation by middlemen.
The President pointed out that the strengthening of the economy of the rural masses and relieving the urban population from the high cost of living should take place in parallel.
Attention was focused on taking steps to distribute the farmers’ produce directly to the consumer with the assistance of the Sathosa (CWE), co-operatives, agrarian service centers and the security forces.
The Cost of Living Sub-Committee also discussed the formulation of a system for purchasing farmers' produce by adapting the economic centers throughout the country in a systematic manner.
The President instructed the officials to inform him about the market situation once a week.
Basil Rajapaksa, Head of the Presidential Task Force on Economic Revitalization, said that steps should be taken to identify the amount of food required by an individual nationally and district wise, and to promote home gardening management and poultry management by the Divisional Secretariats.
The officials pointed out that cowpea, undu (black gram), groundnut, sesame, kurakkan and onion cultivations have been successful and therefore, no need to import them in the future.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ministers Bandula Gunawardena, Ramesh Pathirana, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and State Ministers Arundika Fernando, Sashindra Rajapaksa, Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Secretary to the President Dr. PB Jayasundera and other Ministry Secretaries and officials were present at the discussion.