An Echelon Media Company
Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka analysts frown upon Wickremesinghe’s high defence budget 

Image credit: SL Army

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s budget experts raised concerns over higher defence allocation in 2023 budget and said the move gives wrong signal on rationalizing the public spending.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the finance minister presented 2023 budget in the parliament on Monday (14) which was expected to signal the policies needed to move out of the county’s economic crisis including hard reforms to satisfy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help approve an already agreed $2.9 billion loan.

Wickremesighe, who is also the defence minister, allocated 539 billion rupees for both defence and public security, while allocating 322 billion rupees for health and 232 billion for education, the budget document showed.

High defence budget comes when the country’s armed forces are not fighting any external or internal war. Wickremesinghe, however, allowed armed forces personnel, other than special categories, to retire after 18 years of service. The earlier duration for voluntary retirement was 22 years.

“The elephant in the room is defence. We are spending over 500 billion rupees to maintain the triforces and police. That’s a huge amount of money,” Sujeewa Mudalige, the Chief Executive Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers told a post-budget forum on Tuesday (15).

“It’s 13-years since the end of the conflict. I Think there needs to be a review on this. The quantum of defence doesn’t mean you are secure. If you take 10% of defence at 50 billion rupees to double Samuradhi or imagine health or education getting an additional 50 billion, what transformation will the country get?”

Since the final years of the war, Sri Lanka has always given the top priority to defence and the highest budget allocation had always been given to it because of a large number of armed and police forces, who were mainly recruited during the war.

However, the public have now started to raise questions about if high public resources allocation for the armed forces is rational as there is no war.

“The president spoke of a youth led economy. So imagine what an extra 50 billion would go to the national vocational training? In a few years our defence bill will be at a trillion rupees. We got to review this,” Mudalige said.

“We are happy with one aspect, the military retirement age being brought down to 18 years of service. But I believe it should be further reduced to 10-years because after they are 45 (years), it’s hard to train.”

No politician has antagonized military leaders since the final stage of the war and the military personnel had been highly regarded by the general public despite international probe against their alleged human rights violations in the final stage of the war.

Military since the end of the war has been in forefront in rescue service during time of disasters.

A negative perception about military has been on the rise since armed forces had been allegedly involved in attacking independent protesters in July near presidential secretariat and disperse them from the site where they protested for more than four months.

“Public sector expenditure rationalization is difficult. But my fervent request is we need to look at defence as a starting point,” he said adding that when the economy is contracting, a 64 percent revenue is a very difficult task referring to Wickremesinghe’s tax hike target.

Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) said the government should release resources from the expenditure side that is supporting unproductive activities.
“The public sector is number one, whether it’s the armed forces or general public service and reallocates those resources to sectors that drive growth as well as the poorer segments of the population,” she said. (Colombo/Nov15/2022)

Comments (1)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. sacre blieu says:

    When in distress or victims of disaster, when people in such dire situations, are to be immensely commended and admired for that humanistic sense of duty. forces never hesitate to come to the rescue of people. But to use these magnificent people for political manipulation or lawless direction, thus denying basic rights is very regrettable.

View all comments (1)

Comments (1)

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. sacre blieu says:

    When in distress or victims of disaster, when people in such dire situations, are to be immensely commended and admired for that humanistic sense of duty. forces never hesitate to come to the rescue of people. But to use these magnificent people for political manipulation or lawless direction, thus denying basic rights is very regrettable.

Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Monday (05), continuing the positive run for seven straight sessions on news over a possible debt restructuring from Paris Club, analysts said.

All Share Price Index gained by 0.69% or 60.10 points to 8,829, while the most liquid shares gained by 0.96% or 26.59 points to 2,801.

“The market was pushed up over the news of a potential 10 year debt moratorium,” analysts said.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis. 

Related – Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium in 15-year Sri Lanka debt re-structure: report

The market generated a revenue of 2.1 billion rupees.

Top gainers during 1130 hours were Expolanka, Browns Investment and LOLC.  (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

 

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka bond yields slightly down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bond yields were slightly down at open on Monday while t- bills were inactive, dealers said.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar, appreciated from 363.19 rupees on Friday.

“Only one bond is being quoted today, and the rest remaining unquoted” a dealer said.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 quoted at 29.30/30.00 percent down from 29.50/75 percent at Friday’s close.(Colombo/ Dec 03/2022)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka should prioritize RCEP , not small FTAs: economist

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka should make joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) a priority instead of trying to negotiate multiple smaller deals, an economist has said.

“We do not have the bandwidth in government and the technical resources to do multiple trade agreements,” Anushka Wijesinghe an economist who has been involved in trade told a business forum in Colombo.

“I think RCEP should be number one priority, rather than three or four tiny bilateral goods agreements.”

Sri Lanka is trying negotiate a free trade deal with China and expand an existing one with India.

Data show that Sri Lanka has been able to boost exports with FTAs.

Sri Lanka has high tariff protection which ultimately backfire.

Sri Lanka has protectionist business interests their profits from overpriced goods have had priority over ordinary consumers and overall economic efficiency that comes from free trade.

Sri Lanka also has monetary instability, which has worsened under flexible inflation targeting, with a series of currency crises coming in rapid successions.

Forex shortages from mis-targeted interest rates under flexible or discretionary monetary policies have discredited free trade and liberalization in general and strengthened the hands of economic nationalists, analysts say.

The country also has monetary instability, which makes life difficult not only for investors but all economic agents.

Over the past two decades Sri Lanka’s exports have not grown as much as competitors. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

Continue Reading