Anura Kumara Dissanayake

AKD overblows RW’s yahapalanaya debt


When Ranil Wickremesinghe came to power in 2015, our debt was LKR 8.5 trillion […] In 2020, the country’s debt […] stood at LKR 15 trillion […] Approximately, Ranil’s five years put the country more in debt by LKR 6.5 trillion.

JVP Sri Lanka Facebook page | October 22, 2023



Fact Check

MP Dissanayake claimed at a public gathering that debt had increased to unprecedented levels during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as prime minister (PM) from 2015 to 2019. In support of his argument, the MP cited that between 2015 and 2020, debt had increased by LKR 6.5 trillion to LKR 15 trillion (a 76.5% increase).

To verify these claims, consulted the Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka 2022. understands, from his numbers and calculations, that he is referring to central government debt and not total public sector debt (where the increase would be a little smaller).

The MP’s main argument is that there was an unprecedented increase in debt during Wickremesinghe’s five-year tenure as PM. This is incorrect and misleading for three reasons.

First, the MP makes a mistake in the years considered and thereby gets the wrong numbers. The numbers he has used are from end-2015 to the end-2020; whereas end-2014 to end-2019 is the relevant period for when Wickremesinghe was PM. The increase in that period was LKR 5.5 trillion to a total of LKR 13 trillion.

Second, there is a distinction between ‘net new debt taken’ and the increase in the LKR value of existing foreign currency debt due to currency depreciation. What the MP presents as net new debt taken, mistakenly conflates these two things.

A publication by Verité Research shows that the increase in just the ‘net new debt taken’ from 2014 to 2019 was 42.8%. The result is about the same for central government debt as well.

The 76.5% increase claimed by the MP is incorrect because (1) it considers the incorrect years, and (2) it includes not just net new debt but the revaluation of existing debt due to rupee depreciation.

Third, even the increase in the LKR value of debt from 2014 to 2019 (calculated on corrected years), with the rupee depreciation impact conflated (as the MP does), does not support the MP’s claim. That increase was 74.1% but it is not an exceptional increase as claimed by the MP. In fact, it is one of the lowest rates of increase in the LKR value of debt in a five-year period since 1950 (see Exhibit 2).

The MP’s statement is incorrect on three counts: the period considered, the valuation of net new debt taken, and the framing of the rate of increase from 2014-2019 in the LKR value of debt as being extraordinarily high.

Therefore, we classify the MP’s statement as FALSE.

*’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, will revisit the assessment.

Additional note: The 74.1% increase in 2014-2019 represents an 11.7% annual compounded rate of increase, which is in keeping with effective interest rates in rupee terms. A research publication shows that 89.8% of that increase in the public debt from 2014-2019 is due to the interest costs on the stock of debt at the beginning of 2015. For more information on the calculations of debt increases, see:

MP Mahinda Rajapaksa Miscalculates the Increase in Debt And its Causes,

Minister Bandula Gunawardana Uses an Incorrect Calculation to Compare Debt,

Deputy UNP Leader Ruwan Wijewardene Does No Disservice to Past Debt Servicing Costs,

Exhibit 1: Central Government Debt, LKR trillions

Exhibit 2: Growth in the LKR value of debt compared to five years earlier (1955 to 2022)


Annual Reports 2022, Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Musammil, M., Arangala, M., Rajakulendran, R. P., & de Mel, N. (2022). De-mystifying the Increase in Sri Lanka’s Debt. Verité Research, 10(1), 1-4.

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