Billions of health provisions slashed in the midst of the pandemic

(By Hasarindu Rajapaksa | Translated by Akitha Wijayasinghe)

Allocations for the health sector have been slashed by Rs.2801 crore from next year’s budget compared to the previous budget.

The expenditure estimate of the Ministry of Health for the year 2021 is Rs.15,947 crore and in the last budget presented in 2019 it was Rs. 18748 crore (187, 482, 398, 000).

No budget was presented for the year 2020 and funds were allocated through two by-laws. At a time when a pandemic is spreading, there has been a lot of talk about reducing the money for the Ministry of Health at such a time. An island wide protest campaign was also launched against it.

However, Rs. 35516 crore was allocated for the Ministry of Defense and the expenditure of the Ministry of Defense in 2019 was Rs. 39306 crore. The State Ministry of Internal Defense, Home Affairs and Disaster Management has been allocated Rs.15,246 crore this year.

Also, President’s Expenditure Head for the next year will be Rs. 934 crore and the Prime Minister’s Expenditure Head for 2021 will be Rs. 105 crore. Rs. 1355 crore had been allocated for the Presidential Expenditure and 162 crore had been allocated for the Prime Minister in 2019.

Rs. 15,760 crore has been allocated for this year’s expenditure of the Ministry of Finance while the amount allocated for the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media in 2019 was Rs. 18,384 crore. The allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture for the year 2021 is only Rs. 2409 crore while it was Rs. 11,429 crore in 2019.

Also, the expenditure of the Ministry of Education this year is Rs. 12,654 crore which was Rs. 10500 crore in 2019. The Expenditure Head of the Ministry of Energy is Rs. 250 crore and the Expenditure Head of the Ministry of Power is Rs. 3100 crore. The Ministry of Public Service, Provincial Councils and Local Government has been allocated Rs. 27,172 crore this time.

Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government – Rs. 33,807 crore

State Ministry of Solar, Wind and Hydro Power Generation Project Development – Rs. 730 crore

Head of Expenditure of the State Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development and Public Health – Rs. 264 crore

State Ministry of Pharmaceuticals, Supplies and Regulation – Rs.6116 crore

Ministry of Finance, Capital, Market, Public Enterprise Innovation Reforms – Rs. 3299 crore

State Ministry of Samurdhi, Home Economy, Micro Finance, Self Employment and Business Development – Rs. 8471 crore

State Ministry of Paddy, Cereals, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chilies, Onions and Potatoes, Seed Production and High Tech Agriculture – Rs. 1867 crore

State Ministry of Fertilizer Production and Supply, Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides Regulation – Rs. 3574 crore

State Ministry of Livestock, Farm development, Dairy and Egg Associated Industries Development  – Rs. 183 crore

State Ministry of Women, Child Development, Pre-School and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services – Rs. 3045 crore

Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities and Distance Education Promotion – Rs. 206 crore

State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovation – Rs. 1305 crore

State Ministry of Dhamma Schools, Pirivenas and Bhikku Education – Rs. 472 crore

The process of approving government expenditure for the year 2021 or the budget was presented in Parliament last Tuesday (17).

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, presented the budget speech in Parliament and this year’s budget is of significant due to several events.

The first budget of the Rajapaksa government 

This is the first budget of the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the same time, this is the 75th budget presented in Sri Lanka since independence.

2020 – A year without a budget 

The year 2020 will go down in history as a year in which the country functioned without a budget passed by Parliament. Although Gotabaya Rajapaksa became President in November last year, the government did not present a budget for next year. The government had earlier stated that it had not been able to bring in a budget due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Appropriation bill and budget speech 

The Second Reading Debate on the Appropriation Bill for borrowing loans in or out of Sri Lanka for Service Expenditure for the fiscal year 2021 begins with the budget speech by the Minister of Finance. The appropriation bill for the year 2021 was published in the gazette on October 06 and was presented to Parliament on October 20 by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mahinda Rajapaksa made the second reading of the appropriation bill for the year 2021 or the budget speech in Parliament yesterday and the budget debate was commenced.

Budget Debate – Fewer days 

The budget debate, which adopts government revenue and expenditure for a year, usually takes a month, discussing the Ministries’ progress in the past year, corruption, and future plans. Also, if there are any shortcomings in the allocation of funds for the coming year, they will be rectified and the unfavorable proposals will be removed from the issues arising out of this debate.

The budget debate will be held until December 10 only as the party leaders in Parliament agreed to the government’s proposal to hold and finish the budget debate as soon as possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The second reading debate of the budget would be held from 18th to 21st after the presentation of the budget statement by the Prime Minister. The second reading vote will be held on the 21st at 5.00 pm and the Parliament is being held from the 18th to the 20th from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.

Thereafter the committee stage of the budget will be held from the 23rd to the 10th of December. Voting ends on 10th December at 5:00 p.m.

A budget at the absence of media

For the first time in history, journalists have lost the opportunity to cover the budget speech. The party leaders have decided not to allow journalists to enter parliament due to the Covid-19 situation. Five parliament reporters were reported to have contracted the virus last month, while other journalists had expressed dissatisfaction with the decision taken by parliament despite the confirmation that the other journalists have not been infected.

The Parliament also said that only diplomats and authorized officials of the Ministry of Finance had been invited to sit in Parliament, adding that seats in the Speaker’s Gallery would be arranged during the budget period, subjected to health and safety regulations, and that the Public Gallery and Media Gallery would remain closed.

After the budget announcement, Minister of Finance held a traditional tea party this time but it was limited to Members of Parliament, Ministers, Ambassadors and invitees.

Government Expenditure and Revenue 

This year’s budget proposes to allocate Rs. 2678 billion for government service expenditure for the 2021 financial year. The Appropriation Bill also proposes to borrow funds of Rs. 2900 billion within or outside Sri Lanka.

The Appropriation Bill also proposes that Rs. 2,788 billion be required for the total expenditure of the government next year for twenty-eight ministries including the President and the Prime Minister and forty state ministries.

According to the Appropriation Bill, the new government has allocated funds for state ministries seperately in addition to cabinet ministries, also for independent commissions for the next year as allocations done in previous years. It is also noteworthy that according to the Appropriation Bill 2021, more money has been allocated to some state ministries than to some cabinet ministries for next year’s expenditure.

More MPs for the ruling party 

The Samagi Jana Balawega has taken action to ban the party membership of MP Diana Gamage who voted in favor of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill. Letters signed by the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa have been sent to Diana Gamage and Aravinda Kumar informing them that these MPs will be sitting in the ruling party.

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