Greater visibility of its execution is critical to improve budget credibility

Poor management of public funds has played an indisputable role in Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Lack of visibility of execution of annual budget of the government contributes to poor management. Two studies conducted by Verité Research over the past year highlight lack of visibility to be a key factor that erodes public confidence in government budgets.

The studies revealed that:

  1. Sri Lanka ranks low on budget transparency compared to the rest of the world

As per the 2021 Open Budget Survey (OBS), Sri Lanka was ranked 93rd (out of 120 countries) globally for budget transparency. The country received a score of 30/100, which is a significant drop from its previous score of 47/100 in 2019.

  1. Progress of budget proposals worth Rs. 81.5 billion remains a secret

The Budget Promises dashboard by Verité Research tracks the progress and transparency of Sri Lanka’s national budget each year. Of the proposals tracked from the 2021 budget, no information was available to assess the implementation of budget proposals accounting for Rs. 81.5 billion.

  1. Only 6% of promises made in the 2021 budget were fulfilled

Only 6% of expenditure proposals tracked in the 2021 budget were classified as fulfilled. This means that the government fully implemented just 6% of the projects planned for 2021, neglecting key development projects related to provision of health services, water supply and children’s education.

Based on its research, Verité Research makes the following recommendations to both the current and future governments, to improve public finance management in Sri Lanka and build lost confidence:

  • Make realistic promises/policies

Devise well-formulated policies that are backed by supporting documentation on evaluation and selection criteria.

  • Ensure systems to inform the public of how their taxpayer funds are being utilized

Utilize ministry websites to disclose information in a timely, user-friendly and consistent manner.

  • Limit unnecessary bureaucracy

Limit the fragmentation of ministerial portfolios & ensure line of accountability when funds are disbursed.

  • Implement a robust system of checks and balances

Allow formal mechanisms for oversight already in place are allowed to carry out their functions unhindered. This includes parliamentary committees and the national audit office.