Friday, 24 May 2019 06:04

SL economy linked to all communities: Mangala

The recent mob attacks on Muslim properties and businesses in certain parts of the country have led the majority Sinhalese to lose jobs and earnings, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told Parliament yesterday.

According to the Minister, Muslim-owned businesses alone bring $ 3 billion to Sri Lanka per annum. “Mobs setting fire to a pasta factory, which was owned by a local Muslim, has led 95% Sinhalese to lose employment, with the factory burned to the ground. Out of 48,000 employees in Brandix, 75% are Sinhalese. 80% of employees at Hameedia are Sinhalese, 90% of 10,000 employees in Timex Garment are Sinhalese, and 90% of 10,000 employees in Maliban Garments are Sinhalese. The list goes on,” he said.

Urging Sri Lankans to avoid getting caught in political interests which create unrest, Minister Samaraweera held the security forces were able to capture the extremists mainly due to the support the local Muslim communities extended.

“The bankrupt politicians try to create clashes with ethnicities, and brand all Muslims as extremists. They want to bring back a Black July. Based on the information received from the Muslims, we were able to apprehend those who are responsible for the attacks. Some brand me an anti-Buddhist. But I was able to allocate Rs. 2,090 million for the Buddhist temples through the Gamperaliya program during the recent past.

This happens to be the largest allocation made in the country’s history for the development of Buddhist temples and shrines. This is a country of Sri Lankans, even though the majority are Buddhists. The No-Confidence Motion is not aimed at Rishad Bathiudeen but against all Muslims,” he charged.

Minister Samaraweera also stated that the country was on the right track since 2015, despite natural perils and the constitutional crisis that had a temporary impact on the economy. “In post-war Sri Lanka, we were able to gain international recognition and bring in both economic and political stability. But unfortunately, there were floods and droughts in 2016 and 2017, followed by the failed constitutional coup in October last year, and the recent Easter Sunday attack,” he held.

“We were able to recover fast due to the firm foundation laid in 2015. The economic indicators are stable, and the foreign reserves are unchanged drastically. The IMF agreed to these facts. The 5th trench of the IMF allocation to Sri Lanka worth $ 164.1 million was received on 13 May. Up to now, the IMF has given us a total of $ 1,155 million,” he said.

“However, the tourism industry has experienced some impact on these terrorist attacks. So, we are in the process of providing relief for the tourism industry. We have delayed hoteliers’ loan repayments by one year, provided tax reliefs to purchase security equipment for tourism establishments, the VAT was reduced to 5%, a Cabinet Sub-Committee is appointed, and we are working on getting travel advisories removed. I have spoken to foreign diplomats on removing travel advisories,” he added.

(FT)

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