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Why should not the 225 MPs be sued for fiscal management violations?



The final vote in Parliament on Budget 2024 is scheduled for 13 December evening after 19 days of debate at Committee Stage. It was endorsed with a majority vote of 45 with 122 voting for the Budget at its second reading. How many of these 224 MPs leaving out the Speaker has ever questioned the legality of the Budget?

To date, none in Parliament, including the JVP that vows to establish a clean and corruption free economy and claims it is they alone who could clean this nauseatingly corrupt and bankrupt economy to establish a vibrant economy, has ever questioned how this Government could present a Budget violating the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act, No. 3 of 2003. (,_No._3_OF_2003.pdf) Section 03(a) of this Act very clearly states, “reduction of government debt to prudent levels, by ensuring that the budget deficit at the end of the year 2006, shall not exceed five per centum of the estimated gross domestic product and to ensure that such levels be maintained thereafter.”

Budget 2024 in violation of Fiscal Management Responsibility Act

It is the responsibility of Parliament to oppose a Budget wholesale if and when a Government presents one in Parliament which exceeds the deficit limit of 5%, violating Section 03 of the Fiscal Management Responsibility Act (FMRA). Or demand the Government amend its income and expenditure proposals pragmatically and prudently to fall in line with sub-section 03(c) which states, “adoption of policies relating to spending which do not increase government debt to excessive levels” that according to this Act is 5%  the most and also sub-section 3(d) that states, “adoption of policies relating to spending and taxing, as are consistent with a reasonable degree of stability and predictability in the level of tax rates in the future.” They provide legal guidelines for budgeting by a government. 

Totally ignoring the FMRA this Parliament voted on the second reading of the 2024 Budget presented by President Wickremesinghe as Finance Minister that estimates a deficit of 9.1% that is over 4% above the maximum 5% in law. They continue debating the same illegal Budget at Committee Stage and would vote on 13 December possibly approving it despite the 9.1% deficit estimated.

This Parliament elected to office in August 2020 has always been voting on illegal Budgets. It voted on the 2021 Budget with a deficit of 12.2% and the 2022 Budget with a deficit of 10.2%. The 2023 Budget estimated a deficit of 7.9%, revised in August to be 8.5%. The 2024 Budget with a deficit of 9.1% is the fourth illegal Budget that this Parliament would deliberate upon and vote on.

Apart from the budget deficit the FMRA has another restriction on State liabilities that every Parliament including this, kept circumventing with amendments adopted. Sub-section 3(f) initially laid down that “….at the end of the financial year commencing on January 1, 2013, the total liabilities of the Government (including external debt at the current exchange rates) do not exceed sixty per centum of the estimated gross domestic products for that financial year.” To avoid this restriction, both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe Governments amended the Act in 2013, 2016 and 2021 June, to raise the limits higher and compliances delayed. Now the 60% limit on total government liabilities is 80 p% and compliance time limit has been pushed to 2030 from 2020.

Transparency and accountability of governance  

The FMRA No.03 of 2003 is not merely about laying down restrictions, and limits on fiscal management. It is also about demanding transparency, accountability and public awareness on public finance management. Sub-section 4(2) of this Act lays down that the Finance Minister should, “…. every year on the day fixed for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill in Parliament, cause the Statement of the Government to be released to the public and to also be laid before Parliament.” The “Statement of the Government” is the “fiscal strategy of the Government (that) shall be set out in a Fiscal Strategy Statement” (Sub-section 4.1)

Reason to have a “Statement” the Act says is to “…. increase public awareness of the Government’s fiscal policy and to establish standards for evaluating the Government’s conduct of its Fiscal strategy.” (Section 5) The Act under Section 5 provides for what the contents of this Statement should be. It also calls for a “Budget Economic and Fiscal Position Report” to be tabled in Parliament. 

Most importantly, the Act calls for a Mid-year Fiscal Position Report from the government; the Minister “shall cause to be released to the public” every year “06 months from the date of passing the Appropriation Bill.” (Section 10.1) It says the objective is to “enable the public to evaluate the Government’s fiscal performance as against the fiscal strategy as set out in its current Statement.” (Section 11)

Well, I could go on quoting positive and constructive provisions in this Act aimed at holding a Government responsible to the People through Parliament though the Parliament has repeatedly amended the Act to circumvent on its responsibility towards the people. These “Fiscal Strategy Statements, Budget Economic and Fiscal Position Reports and Mid-year Fiscal Position Reports” required to be placed in the public domain are all provisions that expand democratic space with a focus on people’s engagement in monitoring the Government’s performance. They are therefore about transparency and accountability of governance. 

We are well aware, no Opposition in all post 2006 Parliaments, ever paid any attention to the FMRA regarding budget deficits and government liabilities. No Opposition party had ever protested saying they would boycott Parliament if the FMRA is not adhered to. Even the TNA leadership that on occasions raised objections to a heavily increased defence budget after the conclusion of the war, had ever said the Budget exceeding the 5% deficit limit is illegal and should be withdrawn. 

Having allowed governments to abscond from their responsibility on transparency and accountability, all Opposition parties silently conniving on violating the FMRA have denied the public the right to engage in discussing Fiscal Strategy Statements, and Mid-year Fiscal Position Reports of governments. It is therefore, not at all surprising we are in a boiling cauldron of an economic tragedy having allowed illegal budgets without any public questioning for well over a decade and a half. 

Does it mean, the conscious and concerned public should demand a parliamentary election to change course? Elections are no part of a functional democracy in Sri Lanka or for that matter in any part of South Asia. Elections in this devalued democracy are only procedural. Governments have been changed before on a protest vote to get rid of the incumbent rule and that has nothing to do with electing a government capable of developing the country. Changing governments have not changed this political culture to allow governments and Opposition parties to be held accountable to people. No political party has ever engaged in social dialogue for socio-economic development while in Opposition, to prove they have a program for national development, if voted to power.

All political parties hang their political future on elections with petty issues the ordinary voter is after. This is quite evident in how political parties finalise district nominations. In all districts in both North and South, all mainstream political parties cater to “caste affiliations” and ethno-religious presence in the district. Sadly, that is a criterion for the “preference vote” even among the Sinhala and Tamil urban middleclass professionals. This Sri Lankan voter is not going to be any different at the next elections. Therefore, claims for efficient and clean governments are mere slogans. We do not have any political party with democratic traditions. Nor do we have a political party that had not been in a post 1994 Government and have not been responsible in electing governments they now denounce as corrupt and inefficient.

Where do we therefore begin in cleaning up this corrupt and primitive political culture? My proposition is that those who still wish to have a decent and a civilised parliament elected, should immediately challenge this present Parliament for their neglect in enforcing the provisions of the FMRA; should hold all 225 MPs responsible for denying the public the right to engage in fiscal management of the government as provided for by the FMRA and for participating in adopting an illegal Appropriation Bill for 2024. They should declare that all in this Parliament who vote on the 2024 Appropriation Bill without demanding the Finance Minister to adhere to the FMRA sub-section 3(a) and to present the Government’s Fiscal Strategy Statement in detail according to sub-section 4(1), would be named and shamed for corruption and fraud, and sued in Courts for violating the rights of the voter in engaging in fiscal management as provided for in the FMRA. That as a social campaign would provide for a new beginning in changing social perceptions in creating a more conscious and a responsible voter.

– Kusal Perera



Why elections for Presidency all political parties have promised to abolish?




President Ranil Wickremesinghe is reported to have told the cabinet of ministers, priority has to be given to the IMF program to ensure economic stability and elections will have to be postponed till the IMF program is concluded. One newspaper report had it, the President had in fact informed the Election Commission too about postponing elections.

Postponing elections being a far cry, there is now a new debate mainly in Colombo circles, whether Basil’s request for a parliamentary election should precede the constitutionally scheduled Presidential election, or not. President Wickremesinghe is said to have told Basil then, it would be the Presidential election that would be held according to Constitutional provisions, but, if MPs need a parliamentary election sooner, they should have a resolution adopted in Parliament to that effect. This only needs a simple majority. With Mahinda Rajapaksa also endorsing the proposal for a parliamentary election first, Basil no doubt has the political clout to get the SLPP to move a motion in Parliament for a parliamentary election and have it passed. Yet they know, with no presidential candidate of their own, their future electoral politics will be a compromise with Wickremesinghe and they have to maintain space for a consensual path.

The main Opposition in Parliament, the SJB, has no intention in supporting Basil’s proposal for a parliamentary election before the presidential election, they have said. They are clear they want the Presidential election first. The JVP/NPP leadership is seriously in for a Presidential election. They are campaigning for the Presidential election with Anura Kumara as the candidate whom they believe has already won the election. All in all, Colombo seem to want a Presidential election for a “complete change” carrying the same rhetoric the “aragalaya” left as political chaos.

Sri Lanka does need a “change”
Fact remains, Sri Lanka does need a “change”. Not just a “complete change” but a huge change with a wholly new Constitution including the overhaul of the entire State apparatus and politics of governance right down to Local Government bodies. That change is not possible with an election for the Executive Presidency. That needs a new parliament, the legislative body for legislating the total change the people need. A change that begins with the abolition of the “Executive” Presidency, and transferring “executive power” back to Parliament.

Abolition of the “Executive” Presidency is a promise, a pledge given to people by all political parties at different elections during the past 30 years. It was the JVP that first demanded the abolition of the executive presidency at the October Presidential elections in 1994. After a bloody ruthless insurgency that was wiped out with equal brutality by State forces in late 1989, scattered remnants of the JVP regrouped and came to open politics at the 1994 August parliamentary elections contesting all districts except Jaffna, Vanni and Batticaloa in collaboration with Ariya Bulegoda’s Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPF). They polled a mere 01.1 percent though the new leadership it was said, expected a total poll of 5% plus in few districts to be above the cut-off mark. JVP had only Nihal Galappaththi elected as their MP from Hambantota district, who was nominated as their presidential candidate at the 1994 October Presidential election.

After the parliamentary elections they realised, they would not poll even the 01.1% at a presidential election and thus made a compromise with the People’s Alliance (PA) presidential candidate Chandrika Kumaratunge (CBK) who was tipped to win the Presidential election. Negotiated through Minister Mangala Samaraweera, a very close personal ally of CBK, the JVP request of abolishing the Executive Presidency within six months from swearing in as president was conceded in writing and the JVP withdrew their candidate in support of CBK.  

Interestingly, then “The Hindu” correspondent in Colombo met former President Jayewardene, the architect of the Executive Presidency and asked him “Sir, you said this executive presidency is so powerful, it cannot only change the gender. PA candidate Chandrika has promised to abolish it. What have you to say on that?” After his usual haughty laugh, Jayewardene had told him “Meet me after it is abolished. I will then tell you”.

No political leader would abolish such power

Jayewardene was certain no political leader would abolish such power in presidency with legal immunity, they are eager to sit with. Since 1994 October, in almost all elections political leaders tried to outmanoeuvre each other by promising total abolition, immediate abolition and even using the election to have the mandate to abolish the executive presidency calling it the sole reason for all evils in the country including mega corruption. We thus had all political parties that usually gain representation in Parliament agreeing to abolish the dangerously authoritative presidency, but none serious about it once elected. The JVP backed presidential candidates from Mahinda Rajapaksa in November 2005 to Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015, guaranteed the presidency would be abolished as the first most important task when elected. It was in fact the JVP who were vociferous about abolishing the presidency in those election campaigns.

What is politically a clear fraud now with JVP is, driving a heavily funded campaign to have their JVP/NPP candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) elected to that same ruthlessly dictatorial executive presidency they condemned and wanted abolished over the past 30 years as the sole reason for mega corruption. They now remain stony silent on abolishing of the presidency. What is more disgracefully hollow is the political narrative they ride on, claiming they would “use the power the People would vest with them in electing AKD as president to create a society with dignity and equality to all”.

Sri Lanka is certainly at crossroads

Sri Lanka is certainly at crossroads and helplessly so. None in mainstream politics would lead this country on a right path to freedom, democracy and an inclusive society with socio-economic and cultural development. These political leaderships simply have no valid “development program” to back their criticism of the past and the present and their request for political power at the next “presidential” election. A larger crisis therefore is the timidity of the educated urban polity that has access to new information, new knowledge and new social discourses beyond geographical boundaries. They need to accept they have a social responsibility in intervening to create a realistic valid social dialogue and to pressure Governments to stay course. Almost a total lack of their independent intervention in social dialogue has allowed political parties with their own sectarian agendas, possibly with laundered black money to manipulate media, especially social media to dominate social thinking in urban circles. What this country immediately needs therefore is an alternative, realistic intervention in deciding how a new and an effective change could be achieved. First it is about creating a social lobby that would independently engage and address the people. Next is about establishing a Government that would be held responsible for the change needed. Thereafter it is about holding that Government responsible for the change and in implementing reforms necessary at every step of the way, without going into the usual selfish life and waking up yet again when elections are called for.

It is therefore not about electing a president once again to the post that had been condemned, had been socially accepted as dictatorial and therefore promised to be abolished, transferring executive power back to Parliament. It is not the president who could abolish the presidency. It is not the president who could legislate reforms necessary. It is not the president who could allocate public funds for social necessities. All that needs a government in parliament with an active social lobby to hold the elected government responsible to the people. Thus, we at crossroads need a new political phenomenon with people deciding on elections, the next Government and most importantly holding that Government responsible in delivery, with the more advantaged urban polity leading the way. Well, they have to accept their social responsibility is far heavier than what they would like to accept. 

– Kusal Perera

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2024 Boao Forum: Accelerating net-zero transition in Asia




The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference is held in Qionghai, China's Hainan Province, March 26, 2024. /CFP

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference is being held in Boao, China’s southern province of Hainan from March 26 to 29. Its focus will be “Asia and the World: Common Challenges, Shared Responsibilities.” BFA Secretary General Li Baodong said this year’s BFA Annual Forum will focus on how the international community can work together to address challenges in the areas of four major topics: the global economy, social development, international cooperation and scientific and technological innovation.

National leaders, governmental officials, heads of international organizations, businesspeople, experts in various fields and the press will be invited from at least the 29 member countries of the BFA, which consists of most Asian countries.  

The first BFA meeting was held in Boao in February 2001. Now, it is a unique opportunity for Asian countries to review and discuss common problems and develop common action plans and policies.

On March 18, a launching ceremony was held in Boao for the “Boao Nearly Zero Carbon Demonstration Zone” by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Hainan provincial government. 

The project aims to showcase China’s green and low-carbon technologies and practices to the world in a demonstration zone focusing on “almost zero” emissions technologies, such as photovoltaics, wind energy collectors, energy storage systems, and an organic waste treatment project.

Located within this demonstration zone are the renovated BFA International Conference Center, a press center and a hotel all of which showcase low-carbon energy technologies. These renovations and demonstrations at the BFA conference facilities should establish the context for many of the sessions in this year’s BFA Forum. They should also set a shining example of the potential innovative technologies for a low-carbon world.

This year’s preliminary conference agenda for the four days of meetings includes numerous general discussions concerning the common issues and current trends facing the BFA member countries. In terms of the net-zero transformation of Asia’s energy systems towards zero-carbon power, there are also a number of sessions.  

According to the International Energy Agency’s forecast, Asia will consume half of the world’s electricity by 2025, and as early as 2021, Asia’s carbon emissions accounted for half of the global emissions. Thus, Asia plays a key role in the transition to a low-carbon world. These BFA sessions will examine these potential transformations in Asia to grow the economy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions.

The transformation of low-carbon technologies will be highlighted in a number of  technology innovation sessions, including “Accelerating Transition towards Zero-Carbon Power” on March 26, “Sustainability Disclosure, the New Normal” on March 27, “Green Development: Inspiring a Shared Future for Urban and Rural Communities” on March 28, and so on.

Clearly, the innovative energy transformation will be a significant part of the BFA final press conference, any resulting recommendations and actions, and any resulting reports. Accelerating the net-zero transformation of Asia’s power system is of great significance to the global response to climate change and the realization of green development worldwide.

BFA will help lead national governments, intergovernmental organizations as well as the private sector in Asia as they work together to promote the energy revolution and strengthen cooperation in all aspects of this very important transformation.  

  • – Robert B. Weisenmiller
  • (
  • Robert B. Weisenmiller, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a research affiliate at the California-China Climate Institute, University of California, Berkeley, and a former chair of the California Energy Commission. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN

(This story, originally published by CGTN has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Backlash builds against Sri Lanka’s $3 Billion clean energy push 




Utility scale wind, solar and battery projects draw CEB’s ire as they march to take away their vested interests.

The government has ignited a green energy investment spree that’s expected to reach as high as $ 3 billion over the next 3 years. The road to bringing this money in the economy, though, is increasingly hitting speed bumps from the likes of the so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials. 

Country’s ambitious vision aims to make the nation’s electric grid greener with 70% of the electricity demand to be met through renewable energy by 2030. 

Companies have already announced plans for committing $25 billion investment up to 2030 in the renewable energy sector in the Country, according to the Board of Investment. 

With potential Private investments over the next 3-4 years through FDI could include $3 billion in utility scale wind, solar and battery storage projects – Sun Power leading with $1.5 billion, followed by Adani Green with $900 million, by Orbital energy with $200 million, by WindForce PLC with $150 million and balance by a consortium of private developers. However, the opposition to projects has mounted for myriad reasons. 

Increasingly, the few so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials, who have strangled the Country’s power sector by delaying the approval process, seems to be more concerned that the rapidly expanding utility scale size of wind, solar and battery projects will irreparably alter their powers and thus their vested interests in earning a share out of the pie. 

Despite this backlash, many projects will eventually get built, say developers and analysts, but they could take longer and cost more than expected. 

At the government level, there is ample support for speeding up the implementation of the projects, but its only CEB who is pushing back on their own self-motivated agenda, not know at large.

– Harendra Kuruppu

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