In his maiden televised address to the nation as prime minister on May 16, 2022, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the prime minister at the time, presented the previously approved budget estimates and the revisions it required.
FactCheck.lk decided to check the numbers as claimed by the president. Exhibit 1 shows the president has quoted an incorrect figure for the budgeted expenditure estimates. The approved budget estimates released in December 2021 state the total expenditure (excluding debt repayment) as LKR 3.9 trillion whereas the president claims a figure of LKR 3.3 trillion.
The president also claims that government expenditure will increase by almost LKR 0.7 trillion due to interest and other additional expenditure. However, this increase in expenditure would increase the government’s expenditure to LKR 4.6 trillion and not LKR 4 trillion as stated in that address. The government budget deficit in this instance will increase to LKR 3 trillion (not LKR 2.4 trillion as claimed by the president).
The president has under-reported the expenditure estimates approved in the budget in December 2021, and therefore, under-reported the total deficit that will result from his proposals for additional expenditure.
Therefore, we classify President Wickremesinghe’s statement as FALSE.
*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.
Exhibit 1: Estimated government fiscal balances for the year 2022
Sources: MoF approved budget estimates for 2021 and President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s maiden address as the PM in May 2022
Subsequent to this address, a supplementary estimate of almost LKR 0.7 trillion was approved by the parliament on 8 June 2022 (see https://www.parliament.lk/en/news-en/view/2595?category=6 ). The total expenditure was also revised to LKR 4.6 trillion in the interim budget for 2022 tabled in parliament in August 2022. This revision is in line with FactCheck.lk’s estimate for government expenditure stated above.
Ministry of Finance approved budget estimates for 2021
The Appropriation (Amendment) Bill tabled in parliament in August 2022, available at http://documents.gov.lk/files/bill/2022/7/220-2022_E.pdf [last accessed: August 10, 2022]