PM reveals: SriLankan debt, a staggering USD 740 M

■ USD 400 m taken from state banks

■ Parliament kept in the dark

■ Waste in the past ran into trillions of rupees

The debt burden of SriLankan Airlines stood at a whopping USD 740 million as at last week, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

The Prime Minister made this comment highlighting the extent of financial mismanagement during the previous administration.

He was speaking at the National Awards Ceremony organised by the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) to recognise the State Institutions with a high level of performance, held at the Parliament Complex yesterday.

One among the senior public officials in the gathering reacted to the PM’s remark on SriLankan Airlines with a vernacular exclamation of surprise.

The Premier overhearing it said his first reaction to the staggering amount of SriLankan Airlines’ debt was also the same.

“Our Treasury Secretary too expressed his shock. Out of the total debt of SriLankan Airlines, USD 400 million has been taken from two state banks and by issuing bonds,” the Prime Minister said.

“There has been no financial control in the country during the previous reign.

“Parliament completely overlooked the ‘accounts’ over the last decade or so. Parliament was in the dark over state revenue and expenditure. In 2013, the revenue was not enough even to pay the debt. Payments three times more than the actual value had been paid for some projects. Now we have restored financial control of Parliament. The Budget Office will be set up shortly after the new building is occupied. We promote efficiency, productivity and value for money in state institutions next two years,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister also expressed his determination to pay off the massive debt accumulated on SriLankan Airlines and the Ports without passing it on to the next generation.

“Let us deal with our sins without leaving them for another generation,” the Premier commented.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the Finance Ministry assured him that a mechanism would be in place from January next year to take follow up action with regard to the COPA reports.

“The waste of money over the past years runs into trillions of rupees. Had we utilized this money in a prudent manner, the living standards of our people could have been much better today,” the Speaker added.

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