Mar 29, 2020

Can afford $ 5m pledge - Govt. Featured


Despite its economic woes, the Government is confident that it can afford the $ 5 million pledge it made to the Corona Emergency Fund of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation’s (SAARC).

“The Minister of Finance would not agree to pledge such an amount if we could not afford it,” said Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury S.R. Attygalle when 'The Sunday Morning' inquired as to whether the country’s economy could afford to make such a large contribution.

At the present, prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa functions as the minister of Finance in Sri Lanka.

Attygalla told 'The Sunday Morning' that the funding would have to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

“The President has the power to allocate from the Consolidated Fund and he will do so for this purpose as this is an important commitment,” he said.

Size of economy doesn't matterWhen inquired about the far smaller amount pledged by the much larger economy of Bangladesh, Cabinet Spokesman and State Minister of Investment Promotions Keheliya Rambukwella said the size of the economy did not matter when making such pledges.

“The contribution does not depend on the size of the economy or the size of the country. Each country calls themselves sovereign nations with equal status. So that is the basis on which you make whatever contribution,” he stated.

However, when asked if Sri Lanka’s struggling economy should donate $ 5 million at this time, he said: “Now that’s another thing altogether. I am sure the Finance Minister has agreed to this, so I’m sure we can afford it.”

2nd highest donationThe SAARC Corona Emergency Fund is the brainchild of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who proposed it two weeks ago, pledging $ 10 million. Sri Lanka’s pledge made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday (23) is the second highest among the seven countries that have pledged to contribute.

Bangladesh has pledged $ 1.5 million and Nepal is to contribute $ 1 million to the fund. Afghanistan too pledged $ 1 million while the Maldives and Bhutan committed $ 200,000 and $ 100,000, respectively. Pakistan is yet to make an announcement on their contribution to the fund, widely believed to be due to the hostile relationship it has with India at present over the Kashmir dispute.

Even the poorest families contributeSenior independent economist W.A. Wijewardena said that at a time of crisis such as the ongoing pandemic, countries would have to work together instead of acting alone.

“This is not money that is going to waste. It is something that will help all SAARC countries. Whether we can afford it or not, in such a situation, the world must work together. When a temple is built in a village, even the poorest family must contribute,” he said, adding that the Government must not be faulted for contributing $ 5 million.

Temples donate to fight Covid-19A week after the president pledged US$5 million to the SAARC emergency fund, the “COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund” was set up in Sri Lanka to combat the disease.

A media release by the Presidential Media Division stated that president Rajapaksa has instructed to donate Rs. 100 million from the President’s Fund for this purpose.

Yesterday (28) Asgiri and Malwathu Chapters have donated Rs. 05 million each to the fund while the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy had donated Rs.10 m.

(Excerpts : The Sunday Morning)