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The Budget is the more popular name for what Parliamentarians refer to as the Appropriation Bill. In the annual calendar of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the Annual Budget Presentation and ensuing debate takes precedence over most, if not all, legislation, motions and resolutions which Parliament debates in any given year. Like any other Bill presented in Parliament, the Budget Bill also goes through the first, second and third reading stages and only it becomes a law when it is passed.
The Budget is not an average Finance Bill, although it follows the same procedures of any Bill. It is a tradition that the Minister of Finance will use this opportunity to announce to the country, and in fact to the world, the Government's economic policy, its performance in the past years, and new directions it is proposing to take. Hence, it is important to all taxpayers, commercial enterprises, investors, and to people who are relying on state welfare.
Parliament's Powers over the Public Finance
The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka - Chapter XVII, forms the foundation of Parliament's powers over all public finances.
This article states that any Public Authority or Local Authority, which is considering the imposition of any tax, rate or other levy, will do so only under the authority of a law passed by Parliament. All Public Finances will be under the total control of Parliament.
Funds of the Republic which are not already allocated for a particular purpose will be credited to the Consolidated Fund. Taxes, Imposts, Rates, Duties, and all other revenues and receipts paid to the State, if they are not already directed to any particular activity, will accrue to the Consolidated Fund. Parliament may decide the purposes for which funds may be drawn from the Consolidated Fund. It will generally include the payment of interest on the public debt, sinking fund payments, and expenses in relation to the Consolidated Fund.
The Government may withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund once Parliament passes a resolution or a law, granting a specific sum of money for a specified public service to be spent in a particular financial year. Once the Parliament authorizes, the warrant under his signature Minister of Finance alone has to be issued, for the withdrawal of the specified amounts to be effected.
Paragraphs (3) and (4) of Article 150 provides for two exceptions to this general practice.
- This applies to a situation in which Parliament has been dissolved before it has allocated funds through the budget. Then, the President is empowered to authorise expenditure for the maintenance of Public Services for a period of 3 months from the date on which the new Parliament is scheduled to meet.
- In the case of the President dissolving Parliament and calls for an election when monies for the purpose has not been already allocated by Parliament, then the President may authorise the release of funds from the Consolidated Fund after having consulted the Commissioner of Elections.