Tue, 21 May 2024 Today's Paper

MP Herath inflates president’s budget

4 April 2024 10:02 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


In parliament, MP Vijitha Herath made two claims about expenditure allocations related to the president: (1) the budget line item titled president’s expenditure head (to discharge duties as the head of state) has increased to LKR 3,779 million, and (2) seven ministries headed by the president have been allocated 66.7% of the total budget expenditure.
To verify the MP’s claim, FactCheck.lk referred to the draft Budget Estimates for 2024 (which were available at the time the MP made the statement), the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the Parliament Hansard, and Gazette No. 2304/58 to determine the ministerial portfolios of the cabinet ministers. 
Claim 1: Draft budget estimates show that the budget recurrent (non-capital) component of the president’s expenditure head has increased from LKR 2,812 million (in 2023) to LKR 3,779 million for the year 2024. A majority of that increase is from increased allocations for utilities and wages. There is almost no change in the capital component of the budget. 


Claim 2:  The total expenditure in the budget is LKR 6,558.44 billion, with LKR 3,859.97 billion allocated to ministries under the president. The higher figures cited by the MP are probably derived from adding to expenditure the capital debt repayments of LKR 1,268.39 billion (which is handled by the Ministry of Finance). However, these capital repayments on debt are not classified as expenditure according to public accounting standards (see Additional Note). Therefore, the budgeted expenditure for the ministries headed by the president is 58.9% of the total expenditure in the budget, not the 66.7% figure cited by the MP. However, 40.4% of the budgeted expenditure is to pay interest on debt. Outside of that, only 18.4% of the budgeted expenditure is under the president.
The MP also made an error in referring to seven ministries being under the President. Gazette No. 2304/58 and the Parliament Hansard dated 22 November 2023 (which were available at the time the MP made the statement) show that there are 28 ministries, and that the president is the minister for only five of them.
The MP’s numbers align with the increase in the recurrent (not total) allocation of the budget line item of the president’s expenditure head. However, he makes a significant error in interpreting the proportion of expenditure that is disbursed under the ministries headed by the president, and also overstates the number of ministries under the president. 
Therefore, we classify the MP’s statement as PARTLY TRUE.
Additional note 1: This interpretation error with regard to what constitutes expenditure has been previously highlighted by FactCheck.lk in the fact check titled “AKD mis-categorises expenditure in assessing Rajapaksa budget” in December 2021.

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