By Sanath Nanayakkare
In the lead up to the highly anticipated 2021 budget, Verité Research recently announced the latest results and recommendations of their annual budget monitoring study, which tracks the government’s performance and openness on key promises made in its recent annual budgets.
According to Verité Research, in the 2018 budget speech, the Minister of Finance announced that an implementation unit would be set up under the ministry to monitor the execution of the proposals. However, in response to an RTI (Right to Information) request, the Ministry of Finance claimed that such a unit did not exist. Yet, in another response, this statement was contradicted by the same ministry.
“These weaknesses in information disclosure and implementation of budget promises suggest that the budget being implemented is inconsistent with the one declared to parliament and that the government is not fully aware of how public funds are spent”, Verité said.
“For the period January – December 2017, 8% of promises tracked by our platform from the 2017 budget speech were categorised as fulfilled. At the end of the first six months of 2018, the pace of progress was slow – only 8% of promises were progressing in line with their targets. Besides, progress on 33% of proposals is categorised as either broken, neglected or undisclosed. This means that the government is either not doing what it is saying or not saying what it is doing for budget promises worth Rs. 60,200 million. The bulk of expenditure proposals in the 2018 budget (59%) is thus categorised as lagging in terms of their implementation”.
“In 2019, the platform tracked 37 promises worth Rs. 100,875 million from the 2019 budget. According to it, there is a divergence in what is said in budget speeches and what is implemented, in both expenditure proposals and policy proposals. Their analyses found that many expenditure proposals have their allocations reduced every year. In 2019, 41% of the policy proposals tracked by the platform were not implemented”,Verité has found.
Speaking at the online briefing, Lahiri Jayasinghe, Assistant Analyst – Verité Research said that the government is going to present the budget for 2021 against a background of weak global economy and challenging domestic fiscal conditions exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and therefore an effective oversight of the budget implementation process for the Financial Year 2021 would be vital.
“The government has announced its vision for a turnaround of the public sector and elimination of waste and corruption. There’s limited fiscal space for government’s operations. In this background, we suggest that there should be a parliamentary committee or an authoritative body of the Finance Ministry to whom the oversight of the budget implementation process is entrusted in order to ensure a credible implementation process in 2021 and achieve the budget’s intended targets and goals”.
“In 2019, openness on proposals was hindered by the frequent changes to ministerial portfolios. The budget monitoring process revealed that the fragmentation of ministries had resulted in a breakdown of the lines of responsibility. Even those that were tasked with oversight of the budget were not able to provide clarity on the agencies responsible for implementing specific budget proposals”.
“In 2019, no information was available on the implementation of 32% of proposals. This is a significant deterioration from the problem of missing information in the previous year, where only 13% of the proposals fell into this category of ‘no information. For a more credible budget, we recommend the following:
1. Develop and document supporting information and analysis for each proposal prior to including it in the budget.
2. Provide timely and consistent disclosure on budget implementation on ministry websites.
3. Provide better oversight through the executive and legislature (e.g parliamentary committees and structures)
4. Reduce the fragmentation of ministerial portfolios and ensure that a clear line of accountability is maintained on the implementation of each budget proposal”, Lahiri Jayasinghe said.
Deshal de Mel, Research Director joined the session for the Q&A while the presentations were moderated by Chalani Ranwala.
An all-party government can’t fix the problem quickly, Harsha tells foreign media
* IMF bailout is not coming any time soon
* Opposition is caught between a rock and a hard place
* We have to fix the twin deficits
* Unless there is agreement across political parties, we can’t get it done
By Sanath Nanayakkare
Opposition Member of Parliament Dr. Harsha de Silva discussed the crises facing Sri Lanka with Bloomberg Market Asia recently where he said an all-party government would have legitimacy unlike the current administration and would give hope to the people of this country, but there is no guarantee that it can fix the problem quickly.
The interview he had with Bloomberg went as follows.
Q. How close is Sri Lanka to an IMF bailout?
The issue is not about an IMF bailout. It is about restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt. We have to restructure our debt with multiple parties such as official creditors, the republic of China, private creditors, international sovereign bond holders etc. So, unless we have either a debt restructuring deal or significant progress towards a restructuring deal, the IMF will not be able to release any money under an Extended Fund Facility even if there is a staff- level agreement any time soon.
Q. You are suggesting that the IMF bailout is not coming any time soon. How will that play out in the economy?
We have hired Lazard’s and Clifford Chance to help us deal with debt restructuring. They have not really started negotiating, and already one creditor- Hamilton Reserve Bank Ltd has filed a suit in a New York federal court against the government of Sri Lanka asking for its full payment of USD 250 million due on 25th July because we have a debt standstill. ‘Significant progress’ [perhaps referring to a term in the IMF end-of-mission statement regarding the outcome of the talks in Sri Lanka] is a subjective term. The IMF is not able to lend to us. So I am thinking perhaps this is going to take at least 5-6 months before any money would start to flow in.
Q. The economic crisis is turning into a political one. What is the Opposition doing right now to perhaps take the reins of power and make things better? What would you do if you were in power and what you want to be doing because the Opposition is going to be blamed for all hardships that are going to ensue from here?
Yes, we are caught between a rock and a hard place here. What the Opposition is going to do is try and get all Opposition parties together, which I hope will happen this week. The President isn’t willing to budge despite protests across the country asking him to step down. If that happens, it’s quite possible that an all-party government can take over and start running the country. There is no guarantee that an all-party government can fix the problem quickly, but at least there will be hope that there’s a government with legitimacy both internally and externally because right now there seems to be no legitimacy for this government. That’s what we are trying to do right now.
Q. So you like to see a government of national unity but the thing is; you will not get that for the time being. So what do you think should be at the top of the economic agenda to get things going? For instance; inflation is running at almost hyper-inflation level while there’s no fuel. It sounds like a terrible situation.
Yes, this is totally unprecedented. You know until recently Sri Lanka was an upper middle income country and today we have suddenly crashed to the bottom. For us, this is unbelievable. But in a way it was expected because over a long period of time economic reforms were postponed and postponed and postponed, and we were living beyond our means. The real breakdown happened when the President cut taxes and now we are running a massive hole in our fiscal budget and also a big hole in our current account and our Balance of Payments (BOP). We have to fix this. Without fixing these two things there is no way out. So the parliament will have to agree on undertaking large fiscal consolidation measures such as increasing taxes, rationalising subsidies/expenses and so on. So unless there is agreement across political parties, we can’t get it done and there is going to be a very difficult time negotiating the debt. Unless our debt is negotiated, we are not able to get money from the IMF. We are waiting for friendly countries and neighbours to help us but it won’t take us far.
Q. How is the Opposition assessing the proposed constitutional changes? Is it willing to vote for these reforms in parliament?
We are extremely disappointed. The President said on May 11 that he would take the country back to 19th Amendment which meant that powers he grabbed from parliament in 2020 would be restored to parliament. That’s what the people wanted because he himself admitted in public that he has not been successful in managing the country. People wanted that power to be restored to parliament and to democratise the country, but the President is not going to do that in the proposed 22nd Amendment. So we are disappointed. We want the new amendment to go through, but not this way. It should be done in the way it was pledged.
PM’s rising debt ratio statement hits share market; CSE drops by over 1 per cent
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The CSE dropped by over 1 per cent within the first hour of trading yesterday in the wake of selling pressure from local and foreign investors stemming from the country’s prevailing political and social uncertainties. The pall of gloom over the market was compounded by a statement in parliament by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that Sri Lanka’s debt has shot up to 140 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka is making progress towards a 4- year Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund. “With the IMF we hope to reduce it (debt) to 95 per cent of GDP by 2032, Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lanka’s government debt which was Rs17,580 billion by end 2021 rose to Rs21,969 billion in March 2022, he added.
Stock analysts said that Sri Lanka’s economic uncertainties are bound to be compounded by a potential global economic recession that would likely affect the US and Europe.
Amid those developments both indices showed a downward trend. The All- Share Price Index went down by 120.9 points and S and P SL20 declined by 55.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 916 million, without any crossings.
In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 330 million (four million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 121 million (740,000 shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 54.7 million (142,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 47.3 million (6.8 million shares traded), HNB Rs 36.6 million (459,000 shares traded), Elpitiya Plantations Rs 26.2 million (334,000 shares traded) and LOLC Finance Rs 23.3 million (3.7 million shares traded). During the day 52.5 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 share transactions.
Yesterday the Central Bank announced the US dollar rate. Its buying rate was Rs 355.95 and the selling rate Rs 367.29.
A guidance peg announced by the Central Bank for interbank transactions was steady at Rs 359.79 against the US dollar unchanged from a day earlier. On July 04, the guidance peg rate dropped 24 cents to Rs 359.79 against the US dollar.
Sri Lanka commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at rates between Rs 366.79 and Rs 370.00 for small transactions yesterday, unchanged from the previous day.
SLT-MOBITEL debuts ‘Traverse’ – Sri Lanka’s first Virtual City
A vibrant marketplace for the digital economy
Recognising the strategic value of leveraging disruptive technologies and harnessing service offerings from a diverse supplier base, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider debuted ‘Traverse’, Sri Lanka’s first Virtual City at the ‘Wyawasaya-2022’ Trade and Educational Exhibition held recently.
Fashioned as a city of the future, Traverse will function integrating physical and digital experiences, operating in the metaverse with matchless potential for global and borderless collaboration.
‘Traverse’ aims to provide remarkable opportunities for growth and a platform for innovation while helping Sri Lankan businesses to increase their relevance and value in the fast-expanding digital economy.
The rapid evolution of emerging and exciting technologies such as virtual reality, virtual marketplaces, digital assets and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs is providing an effective platform to deliver unique consumer experiences and drive local economic growth.
‘Traverse’ will include a shopping complex, Banks, Virtual exhibition Centre, Film Hall, Gaming zone, Government e-counters, Art gallery, etc. Business owners can purchase or rent business assets from the categories available in the virtual marketspace based on their requirements.
Adding greater value for the local business community, the Virtual City will help businesses unlock strategic partnerships and boost profitability through untapped revenue streams. Moreover, local businesses will be able to reach global audiences through cost-effective, scalable, and measurable techniques that require low investment and reduced maintenance costs. An added advantage of the Virtual City is creating a global marketplace for Sri Lankan products and services.
Recognised as a true differentiator steering digital transformation, SLT-MOBITEL is driving the country’s first experience of a virtual city by creating a crowded environment. Benefits include long-lasting exposure to an expansive market, facilitating real-time conversation using webinars and live chats, easy access on all platforms, flexibility to promote offerings together with access to trending analytics.
Unveiling the Virtual City, highlights SLT-MOBITEL’s role as an agile, innovative and digital-first provider of services, creating a dynamic roadmap with disruptive technologies driving the country’s first virtual marketplace forward.
SLT-MOBITEL invites stakeholders to collaborate and partner in this unique virtual space. For more details on ‘Traverse’ contact the hotline on 0112 389 389, WhatsApp 070 500 4000 or email: email@example.com / Web: https://traverse.lk
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