Crucial meeting discusses and approves Budget 2012 plans, new Tourism Authority, acceleration of eSri Lanka drive and regional development
Cabinet at its meeting this week appears to have spent greater deal of time discussing and making key decisions on future development including Budget 2012 and high growth sectors such as tourism, ICT and industrialisation.
The meeting chaired President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also Minister of Finance and Planning had approved the broad framework of Budget 2012 based on the Government’s medium term expenditure programme spanning until 2014.
Approval was granted for the General Treasury to proceed with the preparatory work of budget 2012 focusing on broader parametres such as achieving an economic growth of at least 8%, inflation range of 6 to 7%; reduction of Budget Deficit to 6.2% of GDP from an estimated 6.8% in 2011, as well as total debt target to be reduced to 75% from the current 80% of GDP.
Cabinet also decided that in line with the current economic policy, public investment should be maintained at least at 6% of the GDP.
On a proposal made by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Cabinet approved the establishment of a Tourism Authority and to prepare a Bill for this purpose to be presented in Parliament.
Official sources said salient features of the Bill would be development of Sri Lanka as a quality tourist and travel destination and gateway to the South Asian Region; encourage private sector in the promotion of tourism industry and training activities; promotion of Sri Lanka as world class venue for international, regional and domestic conventions, meetings and exhibitions or (MICE tourism); and promote and improve services and facilities provided for tourists.
Under the World Bank funded eSri Lanka initiative the Cabinet also approved the setting up a Government-owned institution called Lanka Government Information Infrastructure Ltd., to take ownership for the management and operation of the eGovernment intranet. Allocation of Rs. 742 million was approved by the Cabinet for the purpose on a proposal made by President Rajapaksa who has been championing ICT even from the time he was Prime Minister.
The eGovernment network’s phase one was funded by Import Bank of Korea loan worth $ 15 million and Samsung Networks has completed connecting 325 Government organisations and providing them with Basic Computer Equipment, Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN) etc.
On a proposal made by Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Cabinet approved the Trincomalee Industrial Estate’s Stage II.
Under Stage I of the project, land in extent of 25 acres was developed with the necessary infrastructure required for the industries including 6 model factory buildings. Fourteen industrialists were selected to cover the entire developed area under stage I, by the Regional Industrial Service Committee of the Eastern Province.
Under stage 11 of the project, a proper garbage disposal system, waste water treatment facilities, roadways and other common amenities will be done at a cost of Rs. 256 million.
Cabinet also approved the setting up of wind energy parks in Mannar, as proposed by Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka. This will be subject to carrying out of an environmental impact assessment.
Sources said Mannar and the adjoining coastal areas have been identified as suitable for setting up of this first dedicated Wind Energy Park.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank have agreed to provide technical assistance for the purpose and the ADB has already committed funds through its loan package for 2012 to meet the infrastructure cost of the Wind Farm including the construction of 220 KV Grid Substation at Mannar and transmission line to Mannar via Vavuniya or Anuradhapura.