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Seek IMF assistance to pay debts – Ranil Wickremesinghe

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UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that 89% of the 2022 budgetary allocations have been set aside for just 10 Ministries.

Speaking during the debate on the second reading of the 2022 Budget in Parliament yesterday, the former Prime Minister said Budget allocations have not been proportionate to the current requirement.

“In fact, if you take the budget allocations as a whole, 74% of the allocations are made to only three ministries. The Finance Ministry, the Defence Ministry and the Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry,” he noted.

“This budget has been brought under the shadow of the COVID pandemic.Had the government taken proper measures to mitigate the impact of COVID the country would not have to face this current situation.”

He expressed hope that the government would hold discussions with the entire parliament in dealing with the COVID situation next year. However, Wickremesinghe said that while Rs. 301 billion has been allocated for the health sector for this year, only Rs. 234 billion has been allocated through the budget for next year (2022). He pointed out that even for 2020 the government had allocated Rs. 255 billion for the health sector.

“When allocations are reduced in this manner, how can the country face the Covid situation or any other health crisis if it arises?”

Therefore, he called on the Finance Minister to clarify this issue.Wickremesinghe said the government cannot disregard the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on the country next year as well.

He also pointed out that while the expenditure head of the health ministry has been reduced, the allocations for the Defence Ministry has been increased. “For this year the allocation for the Defence Ministry is Rs. 402 billion, while Rs. 421 billion has been allocated for next year. That is around Rs. 19 billion increase from this year. Further, the Health Minister granted the Army Rs. 12 billion of their allocation this year for COVID related measures. However, this money was not returned to the Health Ministry and money has been allocated to Defence to pay the dues for the Akuregoda military facility.”

He also noted the country’s foreign currency reserves are at US$ 2 billion, out of which US$ 300 million is in gold. “Therefore, only $ 1.7 billion is left in our reserves. With such a small amount, you cannot run the country. The next issue is the debt repayment. We need to pay around 5 to 6 billion dollars over the next few years. But, how do we pay this? We don’t have the money.” Therefore, he suggested to the government to discuss the current issues of the country with the IMF and device a way forward.

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