In his statement, former MP Ruwan Wijewardene claimed that the allocation for the Ministry of Health in 2021 was decreased by LKR 20 billion during a health crisis, compared to 2019. To check this claim, FactCheck consulted the budget estimates and publicfinance.lk.
Budget estimates show that in 2020 and 2021, LKR 159.5 billion and LKR 159.6 billion were allocated to the Ministry of Health respectively, compared to the LKR 188.6 billion allocated in 2019.
However, the Sri Lankan Government regularly changes not only the composition of ministries but also the functions and institutions that are gazetted under each ministry. Therefore, what is grouped and budgeted under a particular ministry heading can be subject to significant changes from year to year. This makes it quite difficult, even when it is possible, to track the precise change in budget allocations for a set of activities and institutions in a subject area, because the budget allocations are provided in terms of ministry heading and not subject headings.
The Ministry of Health allocation is an example of this problem. The former MP is right that the allocation to the Ministry of Health has reduced by at least LKR 20 billion—by LKR 29.1 billion to be precise. However, following the ministry reshuffle in September 2020, a separate State Ministry for Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals was established and is budgeted separately. Previously, in 2019, those functions were also budgeted under the Ministry of Health. In 2021, the total allocated to both these ministries is LKR 220.6 billion.
Therefore, in terms of discerning the priorities for health expenditure, there is an increase of LKR 32 billion in the total allocation for at least these two ministries and their functions. The former MP is correct that the allocation to what is titled as the ‘Ministry of Health’ decreased by over LKR 20 billion. However, this cannot be used to discern the implications for health spending, due to the way the previous health allocations have now been split over different ministries.
Therefore, we classify this statement as Partly True.
*FactCheck’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck will revisit the assessment.
Exhibit 1: Budget allocation/expenditure on health (LKR mn)
- PublicFinance.lk, Budget 2021, Health Sector Allocations 2018 – 2021, available at: http://publicfinance.lk/2020/11/18/health-sector-expenditure-2018-to-2021/ [last accessed 7 January 2021]
- Ministry of Finance, Budget Estimates, 2018 – 2021, available at: https://oldportal.treasury.gov.lk/budget-estimates [last accessed 7 January 2020]