Reckless spending by governments and public sector created debt crisis – Prof. Lakshman Watawala


By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The entire government/ public sector ran on without accountability to their spending on various development projects, despite having a huge number of government servants, which runs into 1.5 million. That is why the country encounters a huge debt crisis that amounts to US $ 60 billion or Rs 70 trillion, Prof. Lakshman R. Watawala said.

‘The private sector’s accountability is a key area and without accountability we cannot exist. Unfortunately, we don’t see any accountability in the government/public sector. If they are accountable they will know how borrowed funds are utilized for various development projects. Due to that not only politicians but the public sector too should be responsible for this debt crisis, Prof. Watawala who is the Founder/President, Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka (CMA) said.

Watawala made these observations at a zoom forum organized by CMA Sri Lanka recently on the subject, “A Solution to Debt Crises Using Nature”.

Extracts from Watawala’s presentation:” We are planning to go to the IMF to get dollars. We can’t really imagine how we got into debt and therefore no one is ready to take responsibility for it. Therefore, our huge 1.5 million strong public sector is eating up our money, in other words tax payer’s money.

‘When Sri Lanka graduated to a developed country from a developing nation we were able to raise money from lending agencies and even from International Sovereign Bonds for different projects with liberty, sometimes with high interest rates. In the absence of a proper accountability mechanism nobody knows what happens to those funds. The respective governments never consider the repayment methods and the viability of those projects.

‘Our government departments spend colossal amounts money as if it has to be borne by society. In that sense money that was borrowed was never properly accounted for. Therefore, that money was wasted and some corrupt political and public servants robbed them.

‘In a landmark Indian Supreme Court judgment, the latter ruled that when a government imposes any taxes it should consult the Taxpayers Association on why it imposes taxes or on what and how that money is to be spent. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to have some system for the country to enable financial discipline.’

The Group Director Capital Maharaja Group Chevaan Daniel in his presentations said that Sri Lanka’s 3,000 year-old system still serves its people. Sri Lanka’s hydraulic heritage must be understood in order to be protected. Our ancient philosophy of water and soil conservation is amongst the greatest in the world. He talked on, ‘The Sea of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s Water Heritage’.

Daniel added: “While the West has woken up to the importance of sustainability of late, the Sri Lankan civilization was built on a culture of sustainability that lasted for thousands of years. A key misconception that must be righted is the fact that we often think our water heritage is limited to our irrigation systems.

‘ An irrigation system is a function of hydraulic engineers who will see water as ‘inanimate and active’ but the conservationist and farmer will see water from the perspective of it being animate and passive.

‘The famous scholar, Joseph Needham once noted that the development of a water management system in ancient Sri Lanka in its technology and organization has been unparalleled in its sophistication elsewhere in the world.’

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