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SriLankan nosedives with Rs. 19.5bn loss

Colombo District UNP MP Ravi Karunayayake yesterday (Feb. 01) dared the government to come clean on the whopping Rs. 19.5 billion loss that the national carrier SriLankan Airlines has suffered for 2011 and demanded to know from the government as to why these “white elephants” had to be maintained at the tax payers’ expense.

Karunanayake said that the questions on the national carrier had been asked in Parliament but no tangible reply was coming from the government. The loss is around Rs.19.5 billion. No reply is coming from the government. There is an Aviation Minister who comes to Parliament but he is talking trivia without answering this all important question, the MP charged.

If not for this staggering loss he said the government could have brought down the price of a cylinder of LP gas by Rs. 500, milk powder by Rs. 100 and petrol by Rs. 25 a litre.

The airline recorded a loss of Rs. 6.27 billion in 2010, which was down 49 percent from the previous year.

Alleging that the airline was no more viable, he demanded that the government tables this information in Parliament. He also said that the UNP had been spot-on regarding the losses sustained by Mihin Air and claimed that the figures were accurate in terms of the Sri Lankan Airlines losses as well.

The national carrier has reported Rs. 19.5 million in losses and with over 5,000 staff members and their careers are at stake, he said.

Karunanayake also scoffed at the claims that the national carrier was flying the world, re-fleeting and also running it having acquired the Emirates stake as well, but is continuing whopping losses which is thrice the Samurdhi allocation which could have created 150,000 jobs in lieu of the wasted funds, he remarked.

He also said that the aggregated and consolidated losses for Mihin Air in its golden rendezvous have been Rs. 13 billion. Despite the government claiming that it had flown 587,000 passengers, the losses now amount to Rs. 21,000 per passenger, he said.

He also alleged that the government was claiming that it was an excellent service but it is the cronies of the state which fly around at state expense.

This is a chronic government which gives 100% tax exemptions to global hotel operators like Shangri- la but is grudging the public servants and their private sector their long overdue salary increases.

” We as the opposition have been critical of the government many times but the criticism has been constructive in the best interests of the country. We are there to protect the country and not the government and they think that we are taking the government on. We have zeroed-in on the government through the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and revealed many things,” he said.

Earlier, there was a notification in the Colombo Stock Exchange that SriLankan’s wholly owned subsidiary – Air Lanka Catering Services Ltd was to have a listing and an Initial Public Offer, but that too, was shelved.

Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne was not available for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.
 By Ravi Ladduwahetty


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