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.
HNB joins CBSL to promote ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ campaign in Kandy
HNB PLC once again joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to promote the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ campaign to raise awareness and encourage the public in the Kandy district towards a cashless payment ecosystem.
HNB, together with other financial institutions and telecommunication partners, participated in the day-long event held at the Kandy City Center. The bank raised awareness regarding its LANKAQR integrated HNB SOLO payment app while onboarding merchants during the promotional campaign.
“During the early stages of the pandemic we witnessed many of our customers and members of the public seamlessly adopt our cashless and contactless payment app HNB SOLO. With COVID and the subsequent launch of the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ campaign the number of users of these types of systems have increased exponentially.
“Given that the mutual vision of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and HNB is for a financially and technologically empowered Sri Lanka, HNB is proud to serve as an enthusiastic partner to roll out LANKAQR island-wide. The fact that we now have merchants in the cultural capital of Sri Lanka making this shift is another major milestone in this digitalization journey,” HNB Deputy General Manager – Retail and SME Banking, Sanjay Wijemanne said.
ComBank’s ATM network sets new records for cash dispensed during festive season
The automated teller machine (ATM) network of Commercial Bank of Ceylon dispensed a record Rs 8.818 billion on 9th and 10th April 2021, shattering the previous records for the highest and second highest cash disbursements for a 24-hour period, as Sri Lanka’s leading private bank facilitated the celebration of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
The disbursements of Rs 4.498 billion on April 9 and Rs 4.320 billion on the following day represented a substantial increase over the single-day values recorded in previous years.
In total, Commercial Bank dispensed Rs 41.748 billion via its ATM network between 1st and 15th April 2021 at an average of Rs 2.783 billion per day, reaffirming the indispensable role it plays in the lives of Sri Lankans, as well as the reliability and robustness of the network. On seven of these 15 days the network dispensed more than Rs 2 billion a day, and on five days disbursements exceeded Rs 3 billion a day, the Bank said.
Comprising of 890 ATMs, the network processed 2.434 million transactions over the 15 days at an average of 168,988 transactions a day, while on 9th April, the number of transactions processed totalled 233,990 at an average of 9,749 transactions per hour or 162 transactions per minute.
The first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 10 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches in Sri Lanka. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.
‘Ceylinco VIP Cyber Tharu’ to showcase Sri Lankan talent
Ceylinco General Insurance has announced an online competition with a novel concept to showcase Sri Lankan talent by providing a platform for them with the opportunity to win handsome cash prizes.
“This time, our effort is to organize an online competition that provides an opportunity for Sri Lankan people to display their talent and also to identify hidden talents whilst rewarding them. There will be five overall winners whose prize money will be over Rs. 1 million and each category winner will get Rs 100,000/-. Ten randomly picked voters too will receive handsome cash awards,” said Patrick Alwis, chairman CEO of Ceylinco General Insurance.
The guidelines and the criteria of the competition were announced recently through a dedicated website and other social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, twitter, You Tube as well as LinkedIn. Contestants can perform under five categories, namely, singing, dancing, instrumental performances, fashion modelling and funny videos / Standup comedy. Individuals over 18 years could perform under the individual category whilst the group category will have no age limit.
Under the group category either families or a group of friends could take part. Each entry will have to be specially recorded for this competition. Prior to recording the performance, they should download the image of the logo and have it displayed prominently in the background. Performances could be recorded using a smart phone or a video cam.
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