2024 Budget faces opposition scepticism over enforceability

Tuesday, 14 November 2023 00:30 –      – 96

facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
whatsapp sharing button
viber sharing button
sharethis sharing button


  • SJB MP Harsha de Silva expresses concerns about proposed increase in loan borrowing limit
  • MP Prof. G.L. Peiris says Govt. has fallen short in providing workable solutions to problems faced by citizens 
  • SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem stresses failing to successfully restructure debt will not allow promises to be fulfilled 
  • NPP Leader Anura Dissanayake claims proposed budget will merely push country and economy back into same failed path of the past 
  • SJB and NPP MPs give President’s post-Budget tea party a miss in protest 

By Maneshka Borham

Opposition Members of Parliament shared varying opinions in response to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Budget speech for 2024 yesterday with many voicing unfavourable views on the proposals presented and questioning their enforceability.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP and economist Harsha de Silva, sharing his perspective on the budget proposal, expressed that it will not ease the challenges faced by the country’s people.

“The question before us revolves around the path we should choose. It is imperative that we reform this economy and subject it to rigorous restructuring. The bonds that constrain the country must be severed. There is an evident attempt to move in that direction, yet the question remains can it be effectively implemented?” he remarked.

The MP highlighted that questions arise due to certain measures in the budget. He said for instance, the increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 15% to 18% eliminates all exemptions previously provided such as for machinery which will have a significant adverse effect on Small and Medium Scale enterprises. He also noted that the Social Security Levy will witness a reduction in the threshold that had been in place.

Expressing concerns about the proposed increase in the loan borrowing limit, the MP raised questions about the sources from which these loans will be secured and the potential impact on interest rates.

MP Harsha de Silva pointed out that the President failed to address these issues in his budget speech and emphasised that these details will only become evident when the government begins issuing the relevant Gazette notifications.

“I sympathise with the President, but this does not ease the people’s burdens. We comprehend that the President is facing a difficult situation, and there’s no need for hypocrisy. The real concern lies in the grassroots situation. People are grappling with the challenges of daily life. Even if all the proposed measures are theoretically sound, the question remains: how can they be effectively put into action?” he inquired.

Fellow SJB MP and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Rauff Hakeem also raised concerns about the feasibility of the budget. “Debt restructuring has not been finalised, and there are still hurdles in the process. In our view, without completing this process, it is not possible to fulfil the promises made,” he said.

Speaking to the media in Parliament, Independent MP Prof. G.L. Peiris pointed out that although the Government has outlined certain benefits for the future, it has immediately raised the Value Added Tax (VAT) to 18%, resulting in a substantial increase in the cost of living.

Echoing the sentiments expressed by MP Harsha de Silva, Prof. G.L. Peiris emphasised that the 2024 budget presented by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Government does not provide any relief to the people.

He pointed out that the Government has not succeeded in lowering taxes imposed on the citizens and has also fallen short in providing workable solutions to problems such as the disconnection of electricity to more than 700,000 homes because of their inability to pay bills resulting from increased tariffs.

Meanwhile, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the proposed budget will merely push the country and economy back into the same failed path of the past.

He commented that the initial chapter of the budget amounted to an acknowledgement of the economic deterioration that, according to him, the President and the Government have inflicted upon the country over an extended period.

He noted that for over 75 years, the country’s economic approach has been primarily characterised by borrowing, printing money, and selling assets. According to him, the schemes outlined in this year’s budget largely revolve around borrowing and selling.

Dissanayake further maintained that the budget proposals effectively extend the acknowledgement of the economic crisis by Wickremesinghe after it was proposed to raise the borrowing limit by Rs. 3,400 billion.

Meanwhile, MPs of the SJB and NPP also boycotted the President’s traditional tea party after the budget presentation as a form of protest.