Parliament | Daily News


Speaker announces days for Budget Debate

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in Parliament today that the Budget Debate for the 2021 should be corrected as 21 days including the date of presentation of the Budget Speech.

The number of days was decided at the Committee on Parliamentary Business yesterday (11).


The announcement was made by the Speaker, rectifying a press release issued by Parliament stating that the number of days allotted for the Budget Debate was 19 days.

State Minister dismisses MP Hashim’s figures

The total loans granted by the Central Bank to all banks for pawning advances stood at Rs. 210 billion and at the end of September 2020. At the end of December 2019, it had increased by 27 billion to Rs. 237 billion, according to reliable information that the Central Bank received, State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

He was participating in the Second Reading and Committee Stage Debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday.

He dismissed the figures presented by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Kabir Hashim as being inaccurate and false and questioned the source of his information. MP Kabir Hashim during his speech said that it was a clear indication of the failure of the Government where the pawning advances obtained by the people had increased to staggering Rs. 643 billion.

State Minister Cabraal said that by the end of December 2019, the credit card payments stood at Rs. 131 billion but had dropped by Rs.25 billion to Rs.126 billion. “Therefore, I urge MP Kabir Hashim to get his facts right and perhaps get some expert advice on such matters by someone like MP Harsha de Silva, who knows this subject,” he said.

The State Minister said that 2020 was a very difficult and uncertain year for the country. “For over half the year we had a minority government and during the major part of the year, we were speculating on whether or not an election could be held. The whole world was facing difficulties with the pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the year. Only by August 2020, could we formulate a clear direction and after the new Government took over, we were able to formulate a clear policy and we could delegate responsibilities, he said.

“Therefore, we have been able to move forward with a clear vision during the last three months,” he said.

He said that the Government had to face many challenges during the first three quarters of this year apart from the COVID pandemic because of the mismanagement and misdeeds of the previous government over the past five years.

“During the past five years under the previous regime, the 6.3 growth rate we maintained from 2010 to 2014 had dropped to 2.3 under the Yahapalanaya government. For the first time in 2019, the per capita income fell by $ 227 during the tenure of the previous government. Now they are trying to discredit us by claiming that the country is in a debt trap. They are waiting to see if our Government fails, but we will not let that happen,” the State Minister said.

State Minister Cabraal said that the debt burden is measured as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product and in 2005, it stood at 91 per cent. “However, our Government had reduced it to 70 per cent by 2014 and after the Yahapalanaya government took over, they increased it back to 87 per cent. This happened as they had increased the foreign debt by 49 per cent. They increased the short term loans within a short period, and now we are tasked with rectifying their mistakes. The previous government had paid Rs. 1,430 billion more than we did in debt interest within their five year tenure,” he said.

He said that the previous regime had also managed to devalue the Rupee and now the Government has to pay for their sins.

He added that the Government is committed on steering the country on a path of progress and urged all MPs to cast aside their political differences and support the passage of the Appropriation Bill in Parliament, considering it their duty towards the country.

Expenses met without convening Parliament – State Minister

The Government had to meet its running expenses through a budget that could not be approved by Parliament because the Opposition went to Court and tried to convene Parliament but Court ruled against it. Therefore, for the first time in Sri Lanka, the Government had to meet its expenses without convening Parliament, without Parliamentary approval and a budget that could not be passed by Parliament, Batik, Handloom and Local Apparel Products State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said.

He was participating the 2nd Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2020 in Parliament yesterday.

The State Minister said that the Government had to make payments for services obtained earlier. “We had bills amounting to Rs. 243 billion. Prior to dissolving Parliament, we urged the funds to be released by a Vote on Account. But they did not allow that. After all, someone has to pay these monies. MP Kiriella says we took loans, but let me point out the loans he has taken. Back then, Kiriella was in charge of Highways and we had to pay Rs. 164,259 million for highways. Then, we had to pay Rs. 20,106 million for foreign fund projects under the UDA. Now they are talking as if they know nothing of this. Then there was Rs. 72,346 million for foreign fund projects under the Water Supply Ministry,” he said.

State Minister Jayasekara said that the Opposition is now talking as if they are not aware of these debts. “It is the loans that the Opposition had taken during their tenure that we have to pay now. Why are you hiding these from the people and blaming us for being insensitive to the woes of the people? In fact, the previous government had taken some of the loans and projects without following proper tender procedures,” he charged.

He said that the only action by the previous government was to impose taxes and Rs. 1890 million was earned by taxing the people, but by 2018 that had dropped to around Rs. 1,800 billion and the country’s economy had shrunk. Vehicles were piling up at leasing companies and people were not investing in businesses as they had to pay high taxes. I am sure you could remember this stage,” the State Minister said.

Minister Jayasekara admitted that the country faces issues because of the COVID pandemic and that there are certain issues regarding the decisions made by the Government. He said that instead of simply finding fault with each other, both factions should join together and face the situation and face these issues as one nation.

COVID pandemic, economic challenges successfully managed – State Minister Alagiyawanna

Sri Lanka has successfully managed the COVID-19 pandemic and the serious economic challenges it created, State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said.

He was participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday.

“We will be participating in this 76th budget after independence. This budget is special due to several reasons. All previous budgets were presented in the previous year. But this is not something that was done deliberately by the President or the Government,” State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said.

Alagiyawanna said that at a time when the whole world is facing a major crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka as a country has successfully faced these challenges. “We have been able to reduce the gap between imports and exports by Rs. 1.5 trillion in the last few months. Bank interest rates have been brought to a single digit,” he said.

State Minister Alagiyawanna said that therefore despite some difficulties, the Government has been able to achieve victories. “We acknowledge that there is an increase in the prices of essential commodities. If we import, we can give rice for Rs. 80. But we are not doing that to strengthen our local farmer. We hope to provide a permanent solution to this matter very soon. If there is an increase in the prices of certain other commodities, it is because we are working to strengthen the local farmer and producer. Therefore, we must understand this situation clearly,” the State Minister said.

Appropriation Bill 2020 presented in violation of Constitution – MP Vijitha Herath

The National People’s Power (NPP) stated that it is against the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented by the Government to the House. The NPP MP Vijitha Herath alleged that the Bill was presented in violation of the Constitution. He was participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday. MP Herath said that the country is facing a situation where it has to service Rs. 13 trillion public debts. “As per the Appropriation Bill presented, our revenue is Rs. 1500 BN, expenditure is Rs 2854 BN and the difference is Rs. 1266 BN. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has pointed out that the Government's need for borrowing is Rs. 2830 BN. So it is very clear that the Government is going down the same path that the previous government went. This Government has not attempted to get out of this debt trap our country is in. It only criticises the previous governments on obtaining loans. It is the same old vicious cycle. Now our debts have increased from 80 per cent against our GDP. Even a country like Bangladesh, its debt amount as a percentage of the GDP is around 30 per cent -35 per cent. But we are clearly caught in a major debt trap. This budget is also a part of this debt trap,” he said.

“What did this Government do after it came to power? Our government employees are a major part in our work force. The Government suspended a number of benefits and allowances given to government employees and pensioners. More than 100,000 pensioners who had retired during the last five years, are prevented from getting their due benefits and allowances. Now the pensioners are seeking legal support against this injustice, and it is unfortunate to note that the former DG of pensions is also among the persons who request legal intervention. We were expecting that this budget would make some allocations for these pensioners, but the Government has not uttered a single word on the matter,” MP Herath said. MP Herath questioned the Government on the estate workers’ increased daily wage of Rs. 1,000. He said that the Government promised to pay it by March 2020, but even now, the daily wage is not given. “There is no mention of the daily wage payment in this Budget as well. It is very clear that the Government has misled the estate workers’ community. The Prime Minister promised to do this allocation, but he was not able to keep his word in this budget.” he added.

MP Herath questioned what happened to the Rs. 500 MN allocation by the 2019 Budget to give a monthly allowance worth Rs. 6,000 each for disappeared persons. MP Herath said that the Government has not made the allocation in the 2020 Budget and asked where those monies have been directed. 

 Government has failed in fulfilling public expectations – MP Hashim

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Kabir Hashim yesterday alleged that the Government has failed to run the country up to the expectation of the public.

MP Hashim was participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill in Parliament. MP Hashim said that in this post-independence era, Sri Lanka is witnessing for the first time two Appropriation Bills being presented to the House in one year, for 2020 and 2021. This is history in the making. It has never happened in our country before.

In 2019 November, the new President was elected, and he appointed a Cabinet as well. Even with that power, the Government failed to present a budget.

During the most trying times like the war, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) rebellion, the budget was presented. Three hundred days have gone by, what has this Government done? Now the people are saying that the President has failed contrary to the earlier claims that he was a hero.

The reasons why people claim so are very obvious,” the MP said. “We know the inadequate methods followed by the Government in the first quarter of 2020. No one can allow the Government to borrow except this House and the Prime Minister is responsible for all government spending. Who borrowed in the middle four months without an account, and how much? We did not approve it. Who approved the borrowing?” the MP asked.

TNA will boycott vote on 2020 Appropriation Bill – Sumandiran

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has decided to boycott the vote on the 2020 Appropriation Bill, TNA Parliamentarian M.A Sumanthiran said in Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the debate on the 2020 Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday.

The MP termed it as a ‘very strange Bill’.

Prior to engaging in the debate, he said that in 2010 and 2015 during the budget debates, when he spoke on the second reading and criticised the fact that the then President, today’s PM and Finance Minister held the Portfolio of Finance on the basis that a person who was not directly responsible to Parliament and that did not accord with the principles in our Constitution.

He said, however, that today the situation is different, the Prime Minister, who is accountable to Parliament is given the portfolio but that is spoilt by the fact that he is the brother of the President. “The Bill that is before us is not only a strange Bill but it is also an act to cover up various illegalities that has been perpetrated in this country,” he added.

Sumanthiran said that an Appropriation Bill must be debated and approved prior to the financial year, for which it applies. It is only then that the Executive obtains the approval of Parliament to draw from the consolidated fund, borrow and generally administer the finances of the country, he said.

Citing Article 148 of the Constitution, he said that it very clearly says that Parliament will have full control over Public Finance. No tax rate or any other levy shall be imposed by any local authority or any other public authority except by or under the authority of law passed by Parliament or of any existing law.

“So, there is no law until now that was passed for the financial year 2020 that Parliament has approved. What approved were certain resolutions under Article 150 sub-Article 2. Now those resolutions do not permit levying of taxes or borrowing by the Government. I will read Article 152 and then I will come to Article 153, which will be important to today’s debate,” the MP said.

Referring to Article 152, he said that no such warrant shall be issues unless the sum has by resolution of Parliament or Law being granted for specified public services for the financial year during with the withdrawal is so is to take place or is otherwise lawfully charged under the consolidate fund.

“So, what can a resolution under A.150 sub A.2. authorise, it can only authorise the drawing from the consolidated fund, such sums of money that are necessary for specified public services only and that too in Article 152 says for specified public services only. You cannot do any developmental work. You can pay salaries of public servants and other expenditure directly related to public services. That is all a resolution under A 152 can do. Now during this financial year, we have had two such resolutions passed. One covering Jan 1, 2020 until April 30, 2020 passed in Oct last year. And another covering the September 1, 2020 to December 31 2020. Now even those two resolutions passed by this House can only be used to pay for specified public services and not anything else,” he said.

“All of us know that this is not how finances have been handled in the country for this year. There has been a severe need to make payments, to spend to make grants to the public, who were affected in several areas given Rs. 5,000 in April and May in the whole country. None of those were public services. But all those expenditures were done, expenses were met, developmental activities were carried out. All this in violation of the very strict limitation imposed by the Provision of the Constitution that says for specific Public Service only. So, there is a blatant violation of a limitation in Constitution by this Government and what is worse, for May 1 to August 31, there was no resolution under Article 152,” the MP said.

He said that what the Finance Minister said yesterday is that twice the President acting under Article 150 sub article 3 authorised expenses.

Referring to article 153, he said that where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law, he may unless Parliament has already made provisions authorise and issue from the consolidated fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services. The President can only authorise spending for public services until the expiry of three months from the date of which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.