Mangala invited today to explain cost of budgetary proposals


By Saman Indrajith

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera had been invited to the Public Finance Committee today to furnish details on the cost involved in some of the budgetary proposals he made, Committee Chairman and TNA MP M A Sumanthiran said.

 Joining in the budget debate yesterday in Parliament, the MP said the cost of some budgetary proposals was not indicated by the Minister in the Budget speech.

 Sumanthiran also revealed that an examination of last five years has shown that foreign interest payments had been underestimated by 52.8 percent.

“There is underestimation of interest payments and we do not know how this happens. The ministry must have a schedule of payments that are due. The answer the officials gave us was that there was currency fluctuation because the loans were due in USD and the figures were in rupees. If the interest payment figures are false, then the entire budget figures are wrong because you underestimate the expenditure and heavily overestimate revenue. We have given several examples where revenue collection is heavily overestimated. This is a pattern that has gone on for a long time.”

  Sumanthiran stressed the need to limit the amount of expenditure borne outside the budgetary allocations to two percent or less. “The budgetary process has to be transparent. We cannot go on like this and achieve the development indices we are aiming at.”

Referring to the report of the Public Finance Committee, presented in February, with regard to the 2018 Budget presented in November 2017, the MP said there were glaring discrepancies the budgetary figures.

“For three years we have tried to work with the Finance Ministry officials and we have not had much cooperation. After we went public with this complaint they seemed to be cooperating a little. There are very serious issues in the budgetary formats. The budget estimates have no relevance to the figures the Finance Minister in the budget speech. It is in two different formats. The minister gives it in economic format while the budget estimates are in accounting format and you cannot compare the two easily. Eventually, what is adopted is something totally different and what is implemented invariably has nothing to do with either the budget estimates or what the Finance Minister presents as budget proposals or the finalized figures. This has to change for more responsible budgetary process. One particular format must be followed. We have given the officials a format to give us information and on Thursday we got some information.”