Sri Lanka’s parliament should have more oversight on debt: legislator

June 13, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s parliament should have more control over the way government debt is raised and its terms, a legislator has said amid rising volumes of commercial debt by the state. Though the constitution by its article 148 gave parliament ‘total control of public finances’ there was very little it could do regarding the way debt was raised, opposition legislator Harsha de Silva has said.

In the appropriation bill relating to the state budget there was only a single sentence relating to debt, which gave blanket powers to the state for debt to be raised either in Sri Lanka or abroad, he said.

De Silva said commercial debt was rising especially with large borrowings from China, including 874 million US dollars last year, which were misleadingly referred to as aid.

He said several billion dollars worth sovereign bonds have been sold. All such deals were decided by officials and no discussion in parliament.

“What approval has been given by parliament for them to take these decisions?” he asked. “We have to think deeply in a non-partisan way about this. This is not just for today but it is an issue that will affect us tomorrow and the day after.”

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