On 06 May 2019, the Daily News reported Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera making the following claims:
- Foreign reserves were $7.6 billion, equal to four months of imports;
- The trade deficit declined to a five-year low in February;
- Sri Lanka achieved a primary balance surplus for the first time in 60 years.
The External Sector Performance Reports (ESPRs) and the 2018 Central Bank Annual Report (CBAR) provided the following information:
Claim (1): The country’s gross official reserves were $7.6 billion at the end March. This was equivalent to 4.3 months of imports (ESPR, March 2019).
Claim (2): The trade deficit narrowed to $451 million in February. This was the lowest monthly trade deficit in over five years (ESPR, February 2019).
Claim (3): Sri Lanka had a primary balance surplus in 1954, 1955, 1992, 2017 and 2018 (CBAR, 2018). Therefore, 2017 was the second time in 60 years that Sri Lanka achieved a primary balance surplus, not the first. It was the first time in 25 years, not 60 years.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera was correct on the first two claims and not correct on the third. Therefore, we classify his 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.
The minister’s overall argument is that “macroeconomic indicators showed positive trends”. Therefore, while the third claim is not factually correct, the factually correct data still supports the overall argument.
- On the first claim – CBSL March 2019 External Sector Performace Report, available at: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/cbslweb_documents/press/pr/press_20190528_External_Sector_Performance_March_2019_e.pdf
- On the second claim – CBSL February 2019 External Sector Performace Report, available at: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/cbslweb_documents/press/pr/press_20190422_External_Sector_Performance_February_2019_e.pdf
- On the third claim – CBSL 2018 Annual Report, Special Statistical Appendix, Table 6, available at: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/sites/default/files/cbslweb_documents/publications/annual_report/2018/en/15_S_Appendix.pdf