Northern Province and the 2017 Appropriation Bill

npmap4The Northern Province Council (NPC) could play an important role in developing  Sri Lanka, even though its population and economy remains small. Like all other provinces NPC has a budget and most of the funds come from the ministries of the central government and state institutions. NPC decide how that amount is expended and the amount not spent goes back to the Treasury of the Central Government. The performance of NPC has been below par, for each year there would be a list of projects that are funded through this budget, but because the challenge before them is enormous as the region was a war torn region with many people affected badly during the war and with them yet to return to normal life. This has in many ways forced NPC to deviate from the said traditional development approach the way all the other provincial councils perform. Perhaps NPC should not attempt to be a provider who depends on the budget; instead should move on to use the budget to facilitate other stakeholders to bring in many times more capital than the budget allows to support the real economic growth of the province.

The government has presented to Parliament its estimated expenditure for the year 2017, while it is in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka that the success of reconciliation efforts will be measured and where the foundation will be laid for a peaceful nation, as this region forms the Tamil heartland. The province has a special importance to reconcile the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil speaking populations. The appropriation bill presented to Parliament by Finance Minister has estimated the total government expenditure of over Rs 1,819 billion and is a decrease when compared with the government expenditure in 2016 of Rs. 1,941 billion. As expected the Defence allocations for 2017 remains at the top and have taken a dip from the previous year, along with allocations made to the Ministry of Education, which saw a four-fold increase in the previous year’s appropriation bill has been reduced drastically in the appropriation bill for the next year. The other big allocations include Rs. 214,223 billion for Provincial Councils and Local Government.

The 2017 allocation for NPC is expected to be less than what they had requested and in the traditional sense will not be able to undertake and complete their planned projects. Instead NPC should facilitate entrepreneurs to do the projects, with payback periods anything up to say 20 years agreed in advance. The NPC should obtain the consent of the central government and pay annual amounts for the agreed period to those who execute the projects. This will enable NPC to execute more projects with the funds they receive.