Sri Lanka President Wickremesinghe rules out another salary hike for government employees this year

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Colombo, Jul 7 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the government sector employees will not be given another salary increase this year, cautioning that further pay hikes without proper planning could cripple the government ahead of presidential and general elections.

The 75-year-old, widely expected to seek re-election for the office of president, acknowledged the strain on the economy, stating that previous programmes providing increased benefits and allowances had depleted excess funds, the News First portal reported on Sunday.

Wickremesinghe highlighted the Sri Lankan Rs 10,000 salary increase and additional benefits implemented under the "Aswasuma" programme.

He emphasised the need for fiscal responsibility, cautioning that further salary increases without proper planning could cripple the government, the report said.

Wickremesinghe, who has been serving the balance term of the ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa since mid-July 2022, stressed the need to prioritise national stability ahead of the upcoming elections.

The president announced the formation of a committee tasked with reviewing salary adjustments. Their recommendations will be incorporated into the 2025 budget, paving the way for potential salary increases next year, the report said.

Wickremesinghe said that his administration's approach will ultimately benefit the people and reiterated the importance of focusing on the upcoming elections, suggesting that other parties may not prioritise economic stability as effectively.

The next presidential election is to take place between mid-September and mid-October.

Wickremesinghe, who was prime minister when Rajapaksa was ousted through public agitation on the streets which lasted months, successfully steered the country through the economic crisis which was blamed on the rule by the Rajapaksa family.

Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister, ended queues for essentials, shortages, and long hours of power cuts and obtained a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the process for which was started during the last days of Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka which secured USD 2.9 billion over a four-year programme from the IMF was helped until then by the generous Indian assistance worth USD 4 billion.

Wickremesinghe intends to contest as an independent candidate backed by all political parties who are bent on maintaining the economic reforms programme set in by him.

The other two main opposition leaders Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake from the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party have already announced their candidacy. PTI GSP NSA GSP

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