The controversies regarding the ending of the Executive Presidency in Sri Lankan politics has become the most discussed political issue today. Several justifiable reasons are adduced stressing the urgency and importance of the issue. However the financial cost to the country in the maintenance of the Presidential Portfolio seems to be the most important among other things.
An examination of the fund allocations for the Exercise of Powers as the President of the Republic and other programmes coming exclusively under the President, according to the Appropriation Law (Acts) since 1978 (first year of executive Presidency) reveals interesting facts about the ever increasing Financial burden to the country in this regard. From 1978 to 1993 , the period covering three Presidents (J.R. Jayewardane, R. Premadasa and D.B.Wijetunga) the total allocated under Appropriation Acts by the Parliament amounts to Rs. 2,770,883,700 (Rs 2.77 billion) This sum comprises of Recurrent Eexpenditure Rs 919,644,300 and Capital Expenditure of Rs 1,851,239,400.
From 1994 to 2005, the period covering the tenure of Chandrika Kumaratunga as President, the amount so allocated totals a sum of Rs.19,177,347,000 ( Rs 19.1 billion)
This amount comprises of Recurrent Expenditure of Rs 13, 566,479,000 and Capital Expenditure of Rs 5, 610,868,000 From 2006 to 2009 under President Mahinda Rajapaksa this expenditure has gone upto a total of Rs 17,713,284,000 as follows: Recurrent Expenditure of Rs 8,071,699,000 and Capital Expenditure of Rs 9,641,585,000.
It is more interesting to see how this expenditure has swelled for the period 2010 (January to April) according to the Estimates approved by the Parliament in November under the Vote on Account. For this four months the amount is Rs. 2,330,000,000 (Rs 2.3 billion).This works out to an expenditure amount of Rs.19 million per day and Rs.700 per every second. Should the country spend so much to maintain this white elephant?? People have to decide about this heavy burden on them!
(The writer is a former Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon, former Chairman of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority and former President of the Ceylon Bank Employees Union).