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Last updated: 19 February, 2012 - Published 15:07 GMT
 
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Unions say fuel subsidy 'ineffective'
 
Tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka (file photo)
Minister says more than 90% of estate workers currently have electricity at their homes
A leading plantations union affiliated to the ruling coalition has rejected a subsidy offered by the government for estate workers in the wake of fuel price increase.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Muthu Sivalingam told BBC Sandeshaya that more than 90% of estate workers currently have electricity at their homes.

Therefore, he said, the government will offer a subsidy to nearly 10% of the population for domestic kerosene lamps in the estate sector.

"Nobody in the estate sector currently uses kerosene for cooking, so there is no need for subsidy for cooking," he said.

However, OA Ramiah, of Red Flag union, said the issues faced by estate workers will not be resolved through subsidies.

Cost of living

"What is always happening is the fuel price is increased and then the government announces some subsidy but that is usually not implemented," he told BBC Sinhala service.

 Nobody in the estate sector currently uses kerosene for cooking, so there is no need for subsidy for cooking
 
Deputy Economic Development Minister Muthu Sivalingam

As there are no co-operative outlets in the plantation sector, he said, it is questionable how the government offers these subsidies.

He added that many households are unable to use firewood as fuel, due to restrictions on felling.

"This is not an issue about kerosene. This is an issue about ever increasing cost of living," added Mr Ramiah.

Rejecting Minister Sivalingam's claim that over 90% of the households have electricity supply in the estate sector, the trade union leader pointed out that even the price for the electricity has also been recently increased.

"It has been claimed during the war that it is difficult to increase the wages because of the war. Now the prices are going up even after the war. So what has really gone wrong is the government's economic policy."

 
 
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