Taking cue from India, Sri Lanka asks ministers to curtail foreign trips (Lead)

June 17th, 2008 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, June 17 (IANS) Perhaps taking a cue from neighbouring India, Sri Lanka Tuesday asked its ministers to curtail foreign trips and slashed the monthly monetary allocations to all the ministries by 50 percent as part of an austerity drive brought on by rising fuel costs and inflation. According to a statement from the government information department, Media Minister Laxman Yapa Abeyawardena said the “monthly monetary allocations to all ministries will be reduced by 50 percent as an austerity drive but the budgetary allocations for the year 2008 will remain intact”.

“All ministers have been asked to limit foreign travel in order to save foreign exchange. The government has also decided to stop renting expensive building complexes (to house ministries),” Abeyawardena has been quoted as saying in the statement.

Sri Lanka’s ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has altogether 102 ministers, non-cabinet ministers and deputy ministers for 57 ministries, with many of them holding more than one ministerial portfolio.

Due to the current security situation in the country, almost all the government ministers have been provided with a fleet of security vehicles.

Abeyawardena said this decision was prompted by “the economic constraints experienced by the country” with the soaring fuel prices in the world market and with the increase in food prices. In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged his ministers earlier this month to cut down on foreign trips and do some belt-tightening to offset pressure on the economy caused by runaway inflation set off by surging oil prices and global food shortages.

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