By S.Sivathasan –
When the poverty of the Provinces is seen in contrast to the seeming affluence of the Centre, the salient feature that emerges is that poor Provincial Councils and a not so poor Centre coexist without disharmony. The Councils do not ruffle the Centre and the latter keeps the former in good humour. Since both are of the same feather sitting together is not irksome to either. Only the ninth will be different. One relishes champagne and the other partakes of toddy with ill will to none. Knowledge of reality may cause disquiet.
To write about, does money power exist in the Provinces? the cynic would inquire. He may be called candid and realistic. Truth will emerge when the figures of 2012 are examined.
Tax revenue for the nation was Rs. 1.035 trillion. For nine Provincial Councils it was Rs, 41 billion equivalent to 3.9% of the nation’s. What does it connote? The tax base permitted for the Councils can generate only that much and no more. The centre’s 96.1% share flows from the policy of centre takes all. Do the Councils know precisely of this cavalier treatment?
Central government transfers to the Councils totaled Rs. 112 billion. Of this amount Rs. 101 billion was for personal emoluments. This payment is mandatory giving the Councils no flexibility for redeployment. Neither increase nor decrease is practicable
Central government’s total expenditure for the year was Rs.1.540 trillion. One would point out that of this amount Rs. 408 billion was for Interest Payment. True, but how much of this was on borrowings for capital works in the Provinces?
Total expenditure of the Councils was Rs. 159 billion. Of this amount, recurrent consumed Rs. 136 billion (emoluments included). The Councils have only limited flexibility for redeployment of Rs. 35 billion after salaries are paid..
Allocation for capital was Rs. 23 billion. It averages Rs. 2.5 billion which is a meager sum compared to massive expenditure incurred on a huge officialdom.
Figures may be easily remembered when they are rounded off as 100 billion and 60 billion for recurrent and capital put together. These are not astounding figures, only a paltry sum when measured by purchasing power.
Provincial Councils were established in 1988. After an existence for 25 years how much has their financial muscle grown? A comparison for two years would suffice. For 2011 it was Rs. 157 billion and for 2012 Rs. 159 billion.
National totals do not provide a good picture because of disparities among Provinces. A few variations in tax collection may be cited. In 2011 the Western Province collected Rs. 24.5 billion, North Central Province Rs. 1.9 billion and Northern Province the lowest at Rs.81 million. Grant from the central government plus revenue totaled Rs.35.5 billion for WP, Rs 13.9 billion for Sabaragamuwa and NP at the ninth place with Rs. 10.6 billion.
In contrast, allocations for Defence were: 2012 Rs.207 billion and 2013 Rs. 247 billion. The year on year increase is Rs.40 billion and capital allocation for nine Provinces is Rs. 23 billion with single digit annual incremental growth.
Without the wherewithal no Province has thought of an iconic project like a satellite city or a new Provincial capital. What a sad commentary that 200 council years have not produced a single project of note. Twenty five years have seen only a holding operation. To think large finances have to be placed in Provincial hands.
The Provincial Councils to create an impact need money in ever increasing volume. Money means power and power gives prestige. So those at the highest levels of governance have no inclination to share power let alone part with. Overweening patriotic fervor is needed to place the nation above self. The absence of it sees the Provinces emasculated and the Centre impoverished. When the Provinces grow the nation will prosper.