Days after Sri Lanka's president Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a statement citing that the island was “gradually” emerging from its worst economic crisis in generations, the cabinet of ministers has decided that the government is in a position to allocate Rs. 10 Billion for presidential and general elections this year.
It was announced during the Cabinet briefing in Colombo today that the Cabinet of Ministers has decided the allocation from Sri Lanka’s 2024 budget will have to be “managed for covering the expenditure of the Presidential and general election” this year.
They also announced that the much anticipated provincial polls will have to draw funds from the 2025 budget due to the government's “limited financial position”. The cabinet noted that after conducting the polls next year, the relevant and applicable election laws should be introduced subject to amendments by parliament.”
In a post shared on social media to mark Sri Lanka's Independence Day on February 4, the Sri Lankan president said although the country encountered the "indignity of being labelled a financially bankrupt country", it has "effectively navigated these challenges". Despite Wickremaisnghe’s positive portrayal, data released by the Central Bank paints a bleak picture, with ordinary Sri Lankans struggling with the rising cost of living, the impact of the tax hikes, and elevated food costs.
According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the country’s key inflation rose to 6.4% in January. Food prices rose to 3.3% in January from 0.3 in December 2023. Prices for non-food items rose to 7.9% in January from 5.8% year-on-year in December 2023. The steep increase in prices of essentials has been felt by Sri Lankans who are being pushed down the poverty line.
Testament to this is the recent announcement by the government to increase the number of beneficiaries of the Aswesuma Welfare Fund. The fund dispenses an allowance ranging from Rs.5000 to Rs.7500 a month to a single family depending on their eligibility and need. It was decided to revise the number of recipients of Aswesuma from 1.4 million to 2.4 million. A further 800,000 families who have been identified as vulnerable groups due to the economic crisis are to also be included from January 2024.