Ajith Nivard Cabraal

Former State Minister Cabraal misrepresents Covid-19 expenditure

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The Government has spent more than Rs. 700 billion on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and providing relief to people and that it is exactly half of the overall income of this country last year which was Rs. 1,380 billion…Rs. 50 billion had been spent on low-income earning families receiving Samurdhi allowances, Rs. 90 billion on providing medicines free of charge, Rs. 40 billion on behalf of disabled war heroes, Rs. 250 billion for pensions, Rs. 35 billion for fertiliser subsidies as well as Rs. 70 billion on various types of relief for state institutions running at a loss.

Daily News | August 30, 2021

false

False

Fact Check

The former state minister’s statement provides a breakdown of social and related expenditures by government, and as reported attributes LKR 700 billion to the costs of control and relief activities due to Covid-19. (Headline in the Daily News: Rs 700 bn spent on Covid control). 

To check this claim on the amount attributable to Covid-19 expenditure, FactCheck.lk consulted data from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) Annual Reports.  

The former state minister’s breakdown of social and related government expenditure aligns closely with 2020 expenditure for the respective categories (see Exhibit 1). However, according to the MoF, only an amount of LKR 171 billion (LKR 118 billion in 2020 and LKR 53 billion from January to June 2021) can be attributed to Covid-19 related expenditure. The remaining LKR 529 billion quoted by the former state minister amounts to normal government expenditure, which in real terms is similar to government expenditure in 2019, prior to Covid-19.  

Despite the expenditure figures provided being approximately correct, the statement as reported is incorrect, by a very large margin, in attributing LKR 700 billion in expenditure to activities that arose due to Covid-19. The official accounts of the MoF places this expenditure at only LKR 171 billion. 

Therefore, we classify the reported claim of the former state minister as FALSE. 

Additional note: PublicFinance.lk, a platform run by Verité Research, provides a snapshot of Sri Lanka’s Expenditure on COVID-19 and how it compares to regional countries. See more details at https://publicfinance.lk/en/topics/Sri-Lanka%E2%80%99s-Expenditure-on-COVID-19-Response-is-Much-Lower-Than-its-Regional-Peers-1630477922. 

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



Sources

Ministry of Finance, Annual Report 2020, available at http://oldportal.treasury.gov.lk/documents/10181/12870/AnnualReport-2020/6b2a56e6-80ff-41d6-aec9-76b479f86fb9 [last accessed 15 September 2021]  

Ministry of Finance, Mid – Year Fiscal Position Report – 2021, available at https://www.treasury.gov.lk/api/file/70d070ac-53be-474b-bad4-d3437991176d [last accessed 15 September 2021]  

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