Former state minister of finance Eran Wickramaratne urged the government to disclose the facts of the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Noting that there should be transparency in the process of governance, he said that corruption and irregularities in the country were widespread due to the fact that the affairs were carried out in a shrewd manner.
"As the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has been stating from the beginning, a message is sent to the international market that some kind of a fiscal discipline is being implemented in the country as and when receiving financial assistance from the IMF. Through that, we can get support from other countries and bilateral and multilateral organizations. But the government should disclose to the people of this country the facts of the staff -level agreement held with the IMF. We urge the government to present them to the parliament," the SJB lawmaker said, addressing a press briefing in Colombo today (15).
He acknowldged that the government had to engage in some processes before agreeing on the loan agreement with the IMF including raising taxes as one of its conditions.
Stressing that the main opposition SJB is not opposed to this, Wickramaratne said, "In 2015, government revenue was 10% of GDP. When we handed over the country to this government in 2019, state revenue was close to 13%. As a principle, SJB admits that state revenue should be increased."
However, he observed that the conflict between this government and the IMF policies is over who should be taxed, the percentage and tax threshold, calling to increase the latter from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 200,000.
"The tax exemption threshold of Rs. 100,000 in 2019, remains the same even today, but food inflation has increased by 100% between then and now. Average inflation was over 60%. According to economics, the value of money has depreciated by about 60% relative to the rate of inflation. In short, only half of the goods purchased in 2019 can be purchased with one hundred thousand rupees in 2023. Accordingly, the purchasing power of the consumer has decreased. The salary is hardly enough to mete out the monthly expenses such as transport fees, electricity and water bills and children's education expenses of a middle-class family. The Samagi Jana Balawega will pressure the government to increase the tax free threshold from Rs. 100, 000 to 200,000 without pushing the working people to the wall," he added.