By Chandeepa Wettasinghe The country’s Finance Ministry has pledged to investigate the irregularities in the Right to Information (RTI) bill regarding the disclosure of economic information. “I heard about it. We will open that up,” Ravi Karunanayake told Mirror Business yesterday. He said that he had not been aware of the clauses and that he would have to study them prior to coming up with a comprehensive answer.
He added that the Finance Ministry would always share any information when requested. The government came into power last year promising transparent and clean governance and included the enactment of an RTI bill in its 100-day programme. Following a oneyear delay, the RTI bill was presented to parliament last week.
The bill, in addition to matters of national security and other sensitive data, frees the government of the obligation of disclosing economic data about the country. This includes exchange rates, overseas exchange transactions, regulation of banking and credit, taxation, adjustments for prices of goods and services, rent, wages and salaries and information related to overseas trade agreements. “The disclosure of such information would cause serious prejudice to the economy of Sri Lanka by disclosing prematurely decisions to change or continue government economic or financial policies,” the RTI bill states. Companies conduct business based on the availability of information and predictability and not disclosing any such information would allow the government to change policies without public consultation and criticism.
The European Union trade representatives, who were recently in Sri Lanka to discuss the matters related to GSP Plus, told the government that it should be completely open with its citizens regarding economic data and negotiations of trade agreements. Why the country’s Finance Minister was not consulted when creating such a clause also remains a mystery.