March 5, 2019 / 10:27 AM / 5 months ago

Sri Lanka boosts spending in budget targetting voters before polls

COLOMBO, March 5 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Tuesday presented a 2019 budget that raises spending while setting an ambitious goal to reduce the country’s large fiscal deficit.

The budget says the deficit will be 4.4 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 5.3 percent in 2018.

The government aims to increase spending 13 percent in 2019, during which elections must be held.

Budget documents show the government plans to borrow 450 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($2.51 billion) through foreign commercial borrowing.

The government, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has faced criticism for higher taxes, and tight monetary and fiscal policies that have crimped growth and led to a sharp fall in the Sri Lankan rupee.

Sri Lanka is struggling to repay its foreign loans, with a record $5.9 billion due this year, including $2.6 billion in the first three months. ($1 = 179.00 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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