Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake
Colombo, November 10 (NIA): Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake has made an effort to woo the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern provinces through big allocations to them in the annual budget which he presented in parliament on Thursday.
Given the fact that the GDP per capita is the lowest in the Northern, Eastern and Uva Provinces, it is incumbent upon the government to make a concerted effort to correct this situation, he said, and added that he proposes to grant, for investments over US$ 3 million, a 200 percent capital allowance in the case of the Northern Province, and 100 percent capital allowance in the case of the Uva and Eastern Provinces.
To qualify, the businesses should also generate new employment for 250 people, he added.
Alternatively, a 3 or 5 year 50 percent tax holiday will be granted for such business, he said.
Taking note of the “serious” shortage of proper housing in the North and the East, “demanding urgent attention” Karunanayake said that he would expedite the construction of 50,000 houses with an allocation of LKR 5,000 million (US$ 33.8 million).
And to facilitate private businesses to expand their operations to the Northern Province, Karunanayake said that government would construct a Vertical Building for mixed development which will include office space, recreational facilities, and entertainment facilities.
“I propose to allocate LKR 1,000 (US$ 6.7 million) million for this purpose,” he said.
Turning to the Eastern province, the Finance Minister said that he proposes to allocate LKR 200 million (US$ 1.3 million) to complete a Master Plan, including the integrated township development, in Samanthurai and Kalmunai. For the improvement of drainage in the Eastern Province he would allocate Rs. 100 million (US$ 677,462).
To give a shot in the arm for the economic development of the Eastern Province he said government would set up, at a cost of LKR 300 million (US$3 million), a Dedicated Economic Center to help farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises showcase their products. This would generation employment for at least 1,000 people, the Minister said.
To upgrade infrastructure facilities in the Eastern district of Trincomalee, the government proposes to allocate Rs. 1,000 (US$ 6.7 million) million for this purpose. This project will be executed with the participation of the three armed services also ,he added.
However, the Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V.Wigneswaran, is likely to oppose Karunanayake’s plan to have big capital intensive industries with potential to employ only a few hundred people in his province. He has previously opposed and rejected such proposals on the grounds that what the poverty stricken people of the war affected North should get is help to set up SMEs which will spur the growth of entrepreneurship and provide employment for the common man.