By Sandun Jayawardana
Over the years, Sri Lankans have got used to expecting price reductions, salary increases, and more state-sector jobs in government budgets.
This, however, was before the country was plunged into a crippling economic crisis.
As such, Budget 2023 presented in Parliament on Monday, had to jettison proposals that went down “the popular route,” President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe explained.
As far as speeches went, President Wickremesinghe’s Budget speech was one of the shorter ones in recent memory, clocking in at just under one hour and twenty minutes. He even skimmed through some proposals, noting that the document containing the full speech, which would be available to all, had the necessary explanations. As the speech went on, the President’s desk became so cluttered with papers that one wondered whether he could figure out what he had read and what still needed reading.
Budget 2023 was presented under the theme “Sri Lanka: Towards a New Beginning,” and the President used his speech to repeatedly stress the need to start a new journey with proposals that were different from traditional Budget proposals.
Instead of a relief-oriented budget, Budget 2023 is more focused on laying a new foundation for the Sri Lankan economy, he explained.
As nearly 500 school students and youth representatives watched from the gallery, Mr Wickremesinghe said the government’s proposals were aimed at creating a new economy for young people, who were the country’s “real natural resources.”
He was also optimistic about the future, claiming that if the country is able to build on the foundation created through the Budget, the people will be able to enjoy a comfortable economic environment by the end of 2023. “The benefits of that economy will flow throughout the country,” Mr Wickremesinghe added.