“How is it that the SLPA has paid into the Treasury only a fraction of the massive revenue earned in six years?”
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Two SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have in different forums lambasted the government for the rapidly deteriorating public sector finance situation. Godahewa warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructures nearly 400 loss-making public sector enterprises or at least takes concrete steps to reduce recurring losses. of professionals and entrepreneurs based in Gampaha recently.
Alleging that the failure on the part of the government to establish a multi-party government has contributed to the deterioration of the situation, Dr Godahewa stressed the urgent need to tackle what he called unbridled corruption within the framework efforts to revive the economy. The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has approached current issues with a sense of responsibility. The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers, in particular the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, despite his party having only one seat in Parliament, while even the government parliamentary group is not properly represented.
Dr Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, Ceylon Electricity Board and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would rob the country of an opportunity to recover as they remained a huge burden on taxpayers. The former senior private sector executive said the Cabinet of Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But the situation would have been different if the Cabinet of Ministers included representatives of the main opposition party Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr Godahewa said the government cannot make decisions on sensitive matters until it has control of political power.
Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage questioned the Ministry of Finance’s responsibility for the overall deterioration of public sector finances, focusing on the management of the Ports Authority of Sri Lanka ( SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Ministry of Finance conveniently failed to make the required intervention on behalf of the government, thus denying the ability to use SLPA benefits.
Professor Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General WPC Wickramaratne attended the meeting while Ports and Shipping Secretary KDS Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team. MP Vithanage and Prof Herath claimed that the Ministry of Finance should have intervened on behalf of the people. COPE examined how the SLPA has continually refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts despite making massive profits over the years. The Managing Director of Public Enterprises, who was given the post recently, struggled to explain their inability to support the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. COPE was informed of Rs 69,686 million in revenue collected from 2016 to 2021, of which only 600 million had been transferred to the Treasury.
Lawmaker Vithanage said yesterday The Island that recent reviews of various companies and the Central Bank, by COPE, as well as other oversight committees, have revealed how the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the Monetary Board have contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out that even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA was able to withhold funds required by the Treasury due to lack of intervention by the Ministry of Finance. Responding to questions, MP Vithanage said Parliament should act without further delay to ensure that the Ministry of Finance and the Monetary Council act responsibly.