White elephants have driven national debt higher

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The infrastructural projects save a few had become white elephants and caused an increase in the national debt, Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe yesterday told the media.

He said the Norochcholai Lakvijaya Power Station and the Expressways were economically feasible but their profits were offset by the huge losses incurred by other projects.

"Lakvijaya Power Station accounts for almost 50% of the total power supply and the expressways help the government rake in about Rs. 7 billion. There is no issue with drawing loans to build infrastructure projects. However, most other projects launched during the last decade are white elephants and if a proper feasibility study had been conducted, it would have been obvious that these projects were not feasible."

Citing the Kelaniya Railway Crossing Flyover and projects such as the Sooriyawewa International Cricket Stadium as examples, Wijesinghe said that such projects had been a burden on the state coffers.

"Another serious problem in the past was the prevalence of unsolicited bids, which leave room for corruption. When we carry out projects through unsolicited proposals, the contractor does everything. At the end of the day we don’t know what is going on and the ultimate product is not beneficial to the country," he said.

The Auditor General said some of the debt that needed to be paid for those infrastructure projects had not even been included the accounts were presented for auditing.

"These include Rs. 487 billion worth of undervaluing of treasury bonds issued before 2016," he said.

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