WPC goes ahead with Budget sessions

Western Provincial Council (WPC) Chief Minister and Finance, Planning and Local Government Minister Isuru Devapriya presents the Financial Statement for 2019 yesterday. Pictures by Gayan Pushpika

Western Provincial Council (WPC) Chief Minister and Finance, Planning and Local Government Minister Isuru Devapriya presented the Financial Statement for 2019 at the WPC yesterday despite Central Government funds from the 2019 Budget being currently on hold.

This year, he said, was a significant year for the Council with the highest allocation of money allocated for development. This is notable given that next year the Council is set to face the Provincial Council elections.

The total estimated expenditure for 2019 is Rs 81,280 million, a 13 percent increase from last year. Of that Rs. 68,460 million (84.23 percent) is estimated to be recurrent expenditure and Rs. 12,820 million (15.77), capital expenditure.

The debate on the Financial Statement is expected to be taken up on December 4,5,6,7, 10 and 11.

Presenting the fifth Financial Statement of the Sixth Provincial Council and the fourth presented by him, Devapriya noted that this year was of special importance to him, as he stood speaking in the chambers of the newly constructed Western Provincial Council building. “In previous years, the Ministers rented out a meeting hall at Wijerama Mawatha. I believe that members take honest delight in the fact that opportunity has been created for future Finance Ministers to present their budgets in a very dignified manner.”

Whilst it is customary to have the Provincial Budget after the National Budget, this year, however, the Chief Minister noted that they had to prepare the Budget on the data relevant to Central Government grants obtained after discussions with the Finance Commission. “We hope that there will not be any change in those numbers,” he said.

Devapriya in his speech also remarked that when allocating provisions under the Provincial Specific Grants, largely problematic situations existed between the Central Government and the Provincial Council. The allocation of the capital required for subjects, which directly devolves to the Provincial Council and then to line ministries was a hindrance, he said, as they did not have the mechanism to implement projects.

Thus re-allocating these funds again to the Provincial Government after a lapse of half a year made the money unusable and the project non-implementable. “The Finance Commission and the Treasury should take action with regard to this.”

The highest recurrent expenditure for the WPC this year and next would be in the Health Sector where there has been a 101 percent growth in the amount allocated for Health Sector employees for Overtime and Holiday pay − they make up 98 percent of the Overtime and Holiday pay for all provincial government sector staff. In 2018, Rs. 2,575 million was allocated in the Budget and in addition, a supplementary Rs. 715 million was further requested to meet payments. In 2019, Rs. 5,186 million has been allocated for this purpose.

In addition, Rs. 3,500 million would be allocated for the ‘Nearest School is the Best School’ project and they planned to establish 110 ‘smart classrooms’ with 10 in each zone.

Similar to previous years, in 2019 too, the Education Department received the highest allocation of Rs. 25, 078,653 million, followed by the Health Services Department at Rs. 16,003,253 million and the Chief Secretary’s Office at Rs. 15, 298, 355 million.

In contrast, the Probation and Child Care Services Department has only received Rs. 223,882 million, grouped among the departments with lower allocations.

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