Reposted from Lanka Business Online
A Sri Lankan citizen and former top business executive, has called for greater transparency in disclosing budget numbers including present values of future liabilities and an overall public deficit figure.
Chandra Jayaratne, a former head of Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said better disclosures should be made by the finance ministry under the country’s fiscal responsibility law.“It is essential that the Fiscal Gap disclosures relate separately to the Central Government as well the independent government entities with substantial impact on the consolidated fiscal position of the nation,” Jayaratne said, in a letter to several professional associations.
“These key institutions with significant local and foreign debt include, the Electricity Board, Petroleum Corporation, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Urban Development Authority, Air Lanka /Mihin Lanka Consolidated and Air Ports and Aviation Services Authority.”
Jayaratne also copied the letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also finance minister and key officials and asked professional bodies, to request more transparency when they give suggestions for next year’s budget.
In 2011 several state institutions ran large losses of around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, making nonsense of a claim that the ‘budget deficit’ was kept to 6.9 percent of GDP and plunging the country into a credit driven balance of payments crisis.
The so-called overall public sector deficit including ‘non-financial public sector enterprises’ (excluding banks) is published in many countries including Malaysia, and is essential where state speculation of tax money in business is large.However in many East Asian countries, state enterprises run surpluses.
Analysts say a new twist has now come to Sri Lanka’s budget process with some agencies classified as ‘authorities’ which earlier on got funds via the budget is now directly borrowing under Treasury guarantees.
Sri Lanka’s Road Development Authority has been authorized to borrow 500 million US dollars from domestic commercial banks under Treasury guarantees. Whether this is included under capital expenditure in the state budget is not clear.
The Urban Development Authority has also borrowed through debentures with a Treasury guarantee.
In early 2012 at least 55 billion rupees of Treasury bonds were given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to settle debt with other entities. It is not clear whether the debt is part of the 2011 deficit, 2012 deficit or it is dropped out of deficit calculations altogether.
Meanwhile Jayaratne said in the United States questions are being raised about the budget transparency and the impact of heavy government borrowing and spending.
He said Sri Lanka should calculate and publish the present value of projected debt repayments and revenues.
Sri Lanka also has a large unfunded public sector pension liability.
In the US, the Congressional Budget Office, makes independent projections about fiscal matters provided data for policy and lawmaking to congress.
In the US, laws are brought and passed by Congress and the Senate though the President has veto power.
In Sri Lanka even a private members bill does not see the light of day and all laws are brought by only by the ruling administration.
Critics say lack of public activism in promoting economic freedoms and civil liberties has allowed elected ruling class to rob many liberties of citizens.
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