Budget speech


Our intention was to introduce the Digital Dividends report of the World Bank and disseminate related research conducted by LIRNEasia. We made the headlines in two newspapers but the focus was the controversy around excessive taxes more than on the research. But I was happy there was at least one quotation that referred to the Systematic Review research. “Airbnb has been in Sri Lanka and they have been in discussion with the Government about collecting taxes and giving it to the Government. Now that is a model that can work, but the centralised platform where everybody will have to go to some kind of .
When we talk about taking research to policy, we say that it is better to change the way policy makers think than change policy. One of our big wins was the inclusion of sustainable dam safety measures in a USD 71 million World Bank credit to the Government of Sri Lanka. Now we read this in the 2010 first budget speech: Hon. Speaker while expanding irrigation infrastructure, we must also devote adequate resources for the maintenance of both minor and major irrigation systems to ensure their safety and improve water management in downstream development. The government has already implemented a programme to improve dam safety in all major irrigation projects and increase water reservoir capacity.
One seemingly less important budget proposal made yesterday by President Mahinda Rajapakse – many might have missed it – is the eligibility extension of the popular ‘low cost’ UPAHARA package by Mobitel to clergy and employees of co-op societies. Only public sector employees plus retirees had the privilege before. No doubt, a private company, even a one with govt hand in it, can offer special rates for a niche market, which it finds lucrative. However, when that is recognized more as govt policy, and spelled in a budget speech, inevitably eyebrows go up and questions arise. The most deserving beneficiaries of low cost teleuse are the poor – or the so called ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ (BoP).