For the very first time in Sri Lanka, the FactCheck team at Verité Research conducted the inaugural #BudgetCheck2021. The team carried out live fact checking on claims made by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in his 2021 Budget Speech on 17 November 2020.
The team fact checked a total of eight statements from the Budget Speech. Of these, five statements were graded True, one Partly True, one Misleading, and one False. See below for the statements fact checked along with its narrative and relevant sources.
Fact Check 1: Worker Remittances
Worker remittances increased from USD 4.1 billion in 2010 to USD 7 billion in 2014. In 2019 worker remittances amounted to USD 6.5 billion, proximate to the figure quoted by the Prime Minister.
Fact Check 2: Taxes on Goods and Services
50% of total tax revenue would amount to Rs 867 billion in 2019; based on figures available to us, taxes collected on these goods & services amounted to less than Rs 500 billion, which is less than 30% of total tax revenue.
Fact Check 3: Samurdhi Payments
From 2016 to 2019, Samurdhi payments and benefits under the Farmers & Fishermen’s Pension Scheme amounted to Rs 44 billion on average each year. Payments in 2019 amounted to Rs 48 billion, which aligns with the PM's claim.
Fact Check 4: Pharmaceutical Imports
Medical and pharmaceutical imports to Sri Lanka on average from 2017 to 2019 was USD 535 million. In 2019 it amounted to USD 553 million.
Fact Check 5: Milk Powder Imports
On average from 2017 to 2019, import expenditure on milk powder amounted to Rs 49 bn per year. In 2019, milk powder import expenditure amounted to Rs 52 bn, which is close to the PM's stated figure of Rs 55 bn.
Fact Check 6: Tea Small Holders
The contribution of small holders as a share of total tea production has increased over time from 34.8% in 1983 to 75.5% in 2017.
Fact Check 7: Pipe-Borne Water
In 2019, 51.8% had access to pipe-borne water. However, 91.9% had access to safe drinking water from protected dug wells, tube wells, rainwater harvesting and other sources, in addition to the piped water supply.
Source: Ministry of Finance, Annual Report 2019
Fact Check 8: Trade Deficit
From 2015 to 2019 the trade deficit from China, India and Japan fluctuated, with an average of USD 8,115 mn. In 2019 it was USD 7,517 mn.