Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said that there was no state mechanism which could provide relief to all the people in the country. The government in its plans to provide relief to people hit by the soaring cost of living had to obtain the assistance of the private sector, he said.
Addressing a ceremony held at Gampaha to declare open a newly renovated bus station, the Prime Minister said: “Huge increases of prices of rice, coconut and vegetable have become a serious problem today. We, as a government need to find solutions for this problem. We hoped that there would be rains and the rice problem would be over in September and December. But, that did not happen and we did not get the harvest we expected. That was the main reason for the increase in rice prices in the country. On Monday and Tuesday, the President and I met officials working on the prices of essential items. There is no state mechanism which could solely provide relief to all the members of general public so we summoned the representatives of the private sector, too.
“We decided to bring down the prices of rice, lentil, potato, onions, sugar, sprats, canned fish and large number of essential food items. The relief measure would be in place till Sinhala Avurudu season. We expect the weather to be better by that time.
“When we implement such programmes, the government would have to give concessions to the companies helping us. We summoned the representatives including those of Sathosa, Cargills, John Keels, Richard Peiris, Laugfs and Ceylon Biscuits. Those companies agreed to effect price reductions. But, only 30 percent of total population buys goods from them. We had to prepare a plan to enable the people who buy goods from retail shops in remote areas to get the benefits of price reduction.
“Accordingly, for the first time in the country Sathosa and other private companies would provide the essential items at reduced prices. Cargills has already announced price reductions. Within a very short time they would distribute their goods at revised prices to outstations and retail shops. The process would be in place within the next two weeks,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.