Monday, June 13, 2016

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Luxury cars and need for frugality to begin at the top

By Gamini Abeywardane

Supplementary estimates presented in parliament to buy expensive duty free vehicles for ministers and state ministers amidst hardships caused to people by floods and the explosion in the Army’s central armoury sparked a lot of public antipathy and generated much public discussion on the subject. Despite public criticism most parliamentarians, irrespective of their political philosophies seem to be united when it comes to their own salaries and perks.

There seem to be a point in what critics are saying. Simply, should we spend so much for the comfort of our elected representatives who have come to serve us, when people themselves are going through untold hardships? On the other hand, the argument by the parliamentarians who justify their claim for better vehicles is that given the amount of travelling and the terrains they have to pass through such vehicles are not luxuries but essential facilities for performance of their duties.

However, the question that baffles most right thinking people is whether such expensive brands of vehicles with option to change for new ones within relatively a short period are absolutely necessary when country and people are going through hard times and when its economy is not doing well. Aren’t these well maintained high quality vehicles suitable to be used for longer periods?

The matter becomes even worse when such high spending on luxury vehicles for parliamentarians is proposed soon after jacking up the tax on motor vehicle imports making it more difficult for ordinary people to purchase cars.

What is happening in our country is quite different when compared to the situation in India where politicians including the country’s President and Prime Minister are seen using homemade Indian cars. Perhaps India being a larger country their parliamentarians need to travel longer distances in order to serve their constituents. Despite all that we have seen Indian leaders using Ambassador cars made in their own country. Isn’t this quite in contrast to the extravagant lifestyles of our parliamentarians?

We really do not know whether the public criticism of the expenditure of parliamentarians will make any real impact on what is going on. However, the public attention received through the media should encourage the politicians to rethink on the need to cut down whatever the expenses that can be cut down. Unless it is done, we can never cut down the public sector expenditure or influence the public servants to spend less. The example should be set by the politicians and the leaders at the upper level.






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