The Appropriation Bill for the 2024 fiscal year was presented in parliament today by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as Finance Minister.
Before starting the budget, the president gave a brefing on the 'Prelude to a Stable Future'.
"We can certainly create a more favourable economic environment in the near future if we gradually move forward in this difficult terrain. When we look back at the past year, it is 100 percent confirmed that we are on the right track," the president said.
"As we progressed along this path, there were certain mistakes. We have acknowledged this. We will humbly rectify those deficiencies and mistakes,' he added.
At the beginning of the budget, the salary increment for the government sector was mentioned as the key proposal. He mentioned that the revenue of the government has to be increased to increase salaries.
He mentioned the restructuring of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and said some political groups are against this process.
During the budget speech, the pensioners were given an increase in their allowance of Rs. 2,500 from April 2024. The 'Aswesuma' welfare benefit scheme was provided to over 4 million citizens; senior citizens' allowances were increased to Rs. 3,000, while Rs. 10 billion has been allocated for the development of rural roads and Rs. 2 billion to renovate bridges and roads damaged due to the adverse weather.
The 'Suraksha' students' insurance scheme is also to be reintroduced.
"The government has extensively reviewed the current drug procurement process," President Wickremesinghe said, adding that Rs. 75 million has been allocated to review the current drug procurement process, facilitate and enhance it. Dairy farmers were encouraged to further enhance production, while Rs. 1.5 billion was allocated to develop facilities for provincial and school cricket, etc.
Finally, the President requested all in Parliament to join in the work in order to rebuild the country. He also requested that, if there is a better programme than the proposed proposals, then to present them instead.
"Let's implement the most suitable programme. Let's inherit a proud title for our future generations," he concluded.
Parliament adjourned. The debate of the second reading of the Appropriation Bill will commence on Tuesday 9.30 am.
"I request all the parties of this House to join the work order to rebuild the country. If there is a better program than ours, present it to this House in detail. Let's discuss. Let's implement the most suitable program. Let's inherit a proud title for our future generations," he said.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe warned that no party will come forward to save Sri Lanka, including external creditors unless a new economic and political system is created. "A new social consensus should be established. What we have done in this budget document is to lay the foundation for it," he said.
Proposes to allocate Rs. 250 million to launch a program to ensure food security and supply essential food to consumers without shortages.
600 acres of land allocated beyond the Kothmale Reservoir to establish an International Climate Change University.
President Wickremesinghe proposed to introduce a simple policy and regulatory framework to facilitate gig economy and e-commerce transactions, including cross-border transactions, covering payment systems, fiscal revenue, and employee welfare.
The President said that the government is working to establish a climate change commission soon.
Rs. 750 million allocated for the development of Provincial Tourism Boards.
One billion rupees were allocated for the adoption of a new law regarding the tourism sector.
Rs. 8 billion allocated for research and development, technological advancement, and innovation, serving as a catalyst in promoting economic growth and supporting economic progress and social well-being.
New investment zones proposed to established centering Hambantota, Jaffna, Trincomalee, Bingiriya and Kandy.
For the first time, Sri Lanka will be giving promotion to Artificial Intelligence, which has been neglected so far," President Wickremesinghe said. Rs. 3 billion allocated to establish a National Center for Artificial Intelligence.
Rs. 200 million was allocated to bring all border management agencies into a single digital platform and facilitate trade-related regulatory documentation in a seamless and timely manner.
Steps will be taken to further modernize the customs laws, aligning the customs laws of Sri Lanka with global best practices.
A special project committee will be appointed to coordinate matters in relation to the establishment of the revenue authority.
Legislation to set up a National Productivity Commission has already been drafted and finalized. This commission is to be established by 2024 and Rs. 150 million will be allocated.
Law Reforms: 60 new laws are to be introduced while other laws will be amended to support the progress of the country, President Wickremesinghe said.
President Wickremesinghe said that the second phase of the Central Expressway, the section from Kadawatha to Mirigama, will be started jointly with China, once the foreign debt restructuring process is completed. "We hope to get the support of Japan for the construction of the section from Kurunegala to Galagedara," President Wickremesingeh said.
The President said that budget allocations are necessary to settle existing debt, and the borrowing limit needs to be increased. Accordingly, he proposes to raise the borrowing limit from Rs. 3,900 billion to Rs. 6,250 billion, an increase of Rs. 3,350 billion.
Specific guidelines for the procurement of medicines will be issued and a separate agency for the same will be established.
Rs. 700 million allocated to establish the National Janasabha Secretariat to coordinate resource allocation for development needs.
The annual turnover limit for the promotion of export industries by provincial councils will be increased to Rs. 600 million. The move will enable the provincial councils to promote export-oriented industries.
Proposals to be called from local and foreign investors to establish Station Plaza or Railway Station Towns as mixed development projects on the basis of Public Private Partnership, focusing on railway stations in metropolitan areas such as Pettah, Galle, Matara, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, and tourist destinations.
A multimodal transport center is to commence in Kandy to ease traffic congestion in the city. Rs. 1.5 billion has been allocated for this project.
Rs. 1.5 billion allocated to develop facilities for provincial and school cricket.
A Buddhist Museum to be established in Kandy for research and to attract foreign tourists, with Rs. 200 million allocated.
A new Buddhist Research Library to be established in Anuradhapura, with Rs. 30 million allocated for this project.
Maha Vihara University to be established according to a proposal by President Wickremesinghe, with Rs. 400 million allocated.
Vocational Education Institutions under the Central Government will be transferred to the Provincial Councils and Provincial Boards of Education will be established to enhance and modernize skill development.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission will be merged to establish the National Higher Education Commission.
Rs. 2,000 million to resettle displaced families of the North and East.
A comprehensive series of education reforms is to be introduced. SLIIT, Horizon Campus, and the Royal Institute to be elevated to universities.
Dairy farmers to be encouraged to further enhance production. President Wickremesinghe highlighted the recent success of the Ambewela dairy farm, which has developed towards exporting dairy products at present.
Rs. 11,250 million was allocated for district coordinating committees to recommence the decentralized budget program.
Rs. 2,500 million is allocated to develop the fisheries and agriculture sectors.
Rs. 100 million is allocated to develop medical tourism.
The government has extensively reviewed the current drug procurement process," President Wickremesinghe said. Rs. 75 million allocated to facilitate and enhance this process.
'Suraksha' student insurance scheme to be reintroduced to cover all school children in the country.
A special loan scheme to be introduced for university students, facilitating loan repayment once students are employed.
Rs. 40 million allocated to develop the laboratories and related facilities of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura.
Rs. 500 million allocated to develop the Peradeniya University.
The President hopes to triple the current number of universities over the next few years, attracting not only local but also foreign students.
Four new universities to be established.
*Seethawaka Science and Technology University
*Kurunegala Technology University under the Kotalawala Defence University
*Management and Technology University
*International Climate Change University
Rs. 10 billion allocated for the development of rural roads. Rs. 2 billion allocated to renovate bridges and roads damaged due to adverse weather.
The current system of charging rent from urban housing complexes given to low-income families will be suspended, while ownership of these housing units will be granted to occupants.
Rs. 10 billion was allocated to facilitate the development of abandoned estates and lands.
Rs. 600 million allocated to further facilitate the 'Bim Saviya' programme.
Rs. 4 billion is allocated to help citizens of the estate sector granting them land ownership and assisting housing development.
Rs. 50 billion allocated to assist Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). A special loan scheme will be introduced with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank to support SMEs.
Rs. 205 billion allocated for benefit programs targeting disabled individuals, CKDU patients, and senior citizens.
Senior citizens' allowances increased to Rs. 3,000, covering 530,000 citizens.
The 'Aswesuma' welfare benefit scheme will benefit over 4 million citizens.
Pensioners will be given an increase in their allowance of Rs.2,500 from April 2024.
State employee salaries have remained stagnant since 2015. There are 1.3 million state employees, supporting over 5 million family members. The Cost of Living Allowance has been increased from Rs. 7,800 to Rs. 17,800 from April 2024, marking an increase of Rs. 10,000.
Inflation had been reduced to 1.5 by October this year.
Sri Lanka has increased its foreign reserves to USD 3.5 billion, President Wickremesinghe said.
The President highlighted the removal of legal obstacles hindering the integration of large-scale, low-cost renewable energy into the primary electricity grid. Additionally, he noted on-going efforts to formulate rules and regulations for restructuring the inefficient CEB into a more streamlined and efficient institution.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe stresses the need to minimize state sector expenditure, especially with State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
The President said Sri Lanka has earned only Rs. 2015 billion in tax revenue in the first nine months of 2023.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe explains how the country has thus far managed to finance the gap between state revenue and expenditure, highlighting the need to meet state revenue needs amounting to Rs. 3,415 billion.
"State revenue must be increased in order to raise government employee salaries," President Wickremesinghe said.
The President mentioned that he is against the concept of increasing salaries without the means to boost state revenue.
The President expresses confidence in building a stronger economy and urges to all parties to support this endeavour.
President Wickremesinghe explains the hardships endured over the past year and the challenges he accepted when taking charge of a bankrupt nation.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as Minister of Finance commenced the presentation of the Appropriation Bill for the 2024 fiscal year.