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Saturday January 28th, 2023

Animal Welfare Organisations taking over government’s role in dealing with stray dogs

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s street dog population keeps sky-rocketing as authorities fail to set clear policies and create systems for the eradication of rabies and mitigating overpopulation through sterilization, experts said.

“The national program for sterilization of dogs from 2008 up to now, continued through contract veterinarians. They would call for tenders and they give it over to a few vets,” Champa Fernando, secretary of the Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare (KACPAW) told Economynext.

Fernando claimed that this system of sterilizing was inefficient and was corrupt.

“Sometimes the vets who are contracted to hold sterilization clinics just hold a single or two-day program and disappear without any aftercare and assistance to the community,” she said.

Sterilize; to bring down street dog population, it’s that easy

Most dog-owning families disregard vaccination and sterilization and end up dumping puppies on to the streets.

That is why the overpopulation of stray dogs in Sri Lanka has become an issue.

Animal Welfare Organizations (AWO) have taken over the government’s role in desperation.

Organizations like KACPAW, Justice for Animals etc. conducted Spay and Neuter programs even during the lockdown.

“These programs not only help animals but also the communities who bear the burden that comes with the rising number of stray dogs,” Tashiya Captain, Program Director of Justice for Animals charity organization said.

“Most of who come to our sterilization/vaccination clinics are from low-income households,” she said.

Some private sector companies have stepped in.

Abans Group, in a CSR initiative, recently funded a Spay-Neuter-Vaccinate program handled by Justice for Animals AWO to treat over 150 dogs and cats.

Justice for Animals have thus far neutered 2,353 animals and vaccinated 2,758 animals for this year.

“Ideally a Spay-Neuter-Vaccine program should be conducted once every three months and sometimes once a month in places with high stray dog numbers,” she said.

“Once the dogs are sterilized and vaccinated, people in that community are more willing to keep them as pets.”

Rabies Elimination

A WHO annual report on Sri Lanka in 2017 mentions that the country looks to eradicate rabies by the year 2020.

“Sri Lanka is moving towards measles elimination and rubella control by 2020. Disease surveillance has been strengthened with the confirmation of laboratory diagnosis of reported cases of measles and rubella. The country is also on track for eliminating rabies as a public health issue by 2020,” the 2017 annual report of the World Health Organisation for Sri Lanka stated.

Fernando said that if carried out conscientiously, rabies could be eradicated within a span of three years.

“They are spending huge amounts of money on an eradicable disease continuously over so many years,” she said.

“How long are we going to do this?”

Sri Lanka has failed to eliminate rabies owing to inconsistent policies and the situation has more or less stagnated to a point where nobody even knows if the program is still carried out, Fernando said.

Rabies vaccination, on the other hand, is more affordable than vaccinations for other viruses canines could come into contact with.

“A dog is more likely to contact other highly contagious diseases like Canine Parvovirus and Distemper than Rabies,” Captain said.

“We would like to give the parvo and distemper vaccines but those vaccines are beyond our budget. We prioritise the rabies vaccine since rabies can be transmitted to humans by a dog bite.”

A brief history

Prior to the No Kill policy enacted in 2006 by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the law permitted street dogs to be rounded up and gassed to combat rabies.

This policy introduced the CNVR (Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release) method which ended the ineffective and inhumane killing of thousands of strays.

Following the policy, Sri Lanka national sterilization and rabies vaccination programs were carried out by the government through either the Department of Animal Health and Production or the Health Ministry.

In 2008 the government initiated allocating funds for country-wide spaying of female dogs only.

“The government vets belong to the Department of Animal Production and Health. And at that time there weren’t any vets who could do this because they were more involved in farm animals. Therefore, they had to be empowered,” Fernando said.

“By 2018, a concept called One Health came up and the three stakeholders involved, the local government, livestock ministry and the health ministry came to an understanding that the national sterilization program and the rabies vaccination program should come under the DAPH” she said.

“It was also decided that the prophylaxis or human-rabies control will be handled by the Health Ministry. Then the DAPH recruited more vets and the program was going well.”

Fernando said that the Public Health Veterinary Unit setup was expanded with main focal points being sterilization and vaccination.

There about 300 offices throughout the country catering to the needs of people in that area.

However, the National Dog Sterilization and Rabies Eradication programs were handed back to the Health Ministry from the DAPH during the 2017/2018 period.

Where it is now

Since the change, the two programs were supposed to be conducted through contractual vets.

Animal lovers and welfare organizations continue to do the government’s job for them in this regard as they have done in earlier years under various administrations.

To mitigate street dog overpopulation, the government relocates or removes dogs from areas which only aggravates the same problem in another area.

“Dogs should not be relocated or removed from their current territories. There are several negative repercussions associated with relocation such as territory fights and lack of food due to unfamiliarity with the area,” Captain added.

“Besides a new set of dogs will move into the vacuum created by the removal of the previous dogs.”

Mass sterilization and vaccination will only work if it is done right and consistent follow-up and aftercare practices.


Reported by Tania Madies



Comments (1)

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  1. Tamsin says:

    Dogstar Foundation are sterilising and vaccinating over 1000 dogs every month in the Gampaha district….this should be talked about!!!!

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  1. Tamsin says:

    Dogstar Foundation are sterilising and vaccinating over 1000 dogs every month in the Gampaha district….this should be talked about!!!!

Sri Lanka utility to continue power cuts, regulator says no

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has decided to continue power cuts, as the dry season hits the country despite orders to give 24 hours of power.

The utility said its Board “has decided to continue the demand management programme” and it has informed the regulator of this decision on January 27.

The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka said it had not approved the power cuts “as it violate and affect the rights of 331,000 students sitting for the Advanced Level exams.”

Sri Lanka’s CEB has high running costs due to long term scuttling of planned coal plants by activists and lastly President Maithripala Sirisena.

‘CEB’s costs went up as demand went up since the last coal plant opening and steady collapse of the currency from 131 to 182 to the US dollar due to open market operations unleashed to suppress rates and operate a flexible inflation targeting by the central bank.

Even more aggressive liquidity injections after 2020 to target an output gap then busted the currency from 182 to 360 to the US dollar.

CEB has to use extra fuel from around February to April 2022 as the dry season hits reducing hydro power.

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission has ordered the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to supply fuel and banks to give credit for extra power.

Power Minister Kanchana Wijesekera has alleged that CPC officials agreed under duress and threat of jail sentence to supply fuel.

The CEB has to cut power in case demand outstrips supply to maintain frequency at 50 Hz to avoid cascading failures, according to sector analysts. (Colombo/Jan28/2023)

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Sri Lanka president suspends parliament till Feb 08

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has suspended parliament till February 08, according to a gazette notice.

Parliament will re-convene at 1000 am on January 08.

President Wickremesinghe told party leaders that he would make a speech, officially declaring his intention to give effect to the 13th amendment to the constitution on provincial councils.

Provincial councils, a power sharing arrangement backed by India as a solution to the ethnic Tamil have not yet been given police and land powers. (Colombo/Jan28/2023)

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Sri Lanka, other defaulting nations have widely differing debt indicators: Expert

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka other recently defaulting nations have widely differing debt indicators, and some other countries survive with even higher levels of debt, a US based analyst has said.

“If you look at the ratio of debt to GDP, the size of the economy the number is very high, mostly because there has been a lot of depreciation, so the debt in dollars keeps growing relative to GDP,” Sergai Lanau, Deputy Chief Economist at Washington based Institute of International Finance said.

“This is sometimes over-emphasized… but this ratio at 120 is a lot.”

He was speaking at a forum organized by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

“Just for a reference point about 6 or 7 years ago Italy’s debt was 120 percent GDP, there was a lot of concern in the Euro area and that is a country that has the ECB. So Sri Lanka at 120 is a lot.”

Italy however is in a monetary union with Euro which is a floating exchange rate without anchor conflicts and forex shortages and basic external payment problems.

Sri Lanka is trying to bring the ratio down to 95 percent by 2032 under an International Monetary Fund backed program, according to a leaked letter from India.

“Typically for many years there was as lot of emphasis on debt ratios, when people looked at debt restructuring – or at least economists,” Lanau said.

“And that is something that always puzzled bond traders who came from the corporate sector. For them it is all about the flows and gross financing needs.

“The IMF has shifted its focus a lot financing needs over the years and it is a less of a problem now.”

Ghana has defaulted and it is trying to reduce its debt from around 90 percent to below 60 percent by 2028. It is starting at a much lower level and correcting within a shorter period to an even lower level.

Sri Lanka’s debt ratio is high but it “may or may not be a constraint”, he said.

What the … was that?

The IMF’s default workout framework is a work in progress, which has changed over the years since mass defaults hit market market countries which were denied monetary stability through intermediate regimes especially in Latin America from the early 1980s.

Until 1980, when the so-called BBC policy (now called exchange rate as the first line of defence) where countries were encouraged to bust their currencies instead of withdrawing inflationary policy, sovereign defaults were not a problem.

“During the 1970s, the risk of sovereign default was not perceived as a major concern,” the IMF itself admits.

“Most “external arrears” generated by a country were created by exchange restrictions. For example, an importer might miss a payment because the authorities were slow to release foreign exchange.

“Sovereign default had not been a problem since the Second World War.

“Therefore, the IMF’s policy framework was not equipped to confront the complications that arose in the context of the sovereign debt difficulties that emerged in the 1980s.

“In fact, it took until 1980 for the IMF’s Executive Board even to agree that a default on sovereign debt should also be covered under the external arrears policy.”

Washington based policy circles began to prescribe, inconsistent, anchor conflicting intermediate regimes with aggressive open market operations to anyone who was willing to listen after the Fed floated, in the false belief that currencies fell due to ‘overvaluation’ and not liquidity injections.

Countries like Sri Lanka where there is no doctrinal foundation in sound money and no knowledge of classical monetary theory, were easy prey, critics say.

East Asia and Japan rejected such regimes. Malaysia is a prime example which despite not having a legal hard peg, fixed itself, repaid debt ahead of time, when tin and other commodity prices collapsed in the wake of Volcker tightening, while Latin America defaulted.

Elephant in the room

A country with a soft pegged central bank (flexible exchange rate or intermediate regime) will see debt rocket each time it suppresses interest rates to target a policy rate and triggers a currency crisis.

Once a currency crisis hits, on one had the domestic currency value of external debt which is denominated in dollars protecting sovereign bond holders, goes up.

Interest rates of domestic debt also have to go up to stop the money printing and halt forex shortages which can widen the overall deficit in the short term.

The currency collapse also kills purchasing power and the real economy slows or contracts.

Once the credibility of the exchange rate has been lost, due to excess money injected the country loses the ability to settle both imports and debt repayment by exchanging domestic money for dollars.

The reserves (savings of past years) are used for current imports and debt repayments more money is injected to sterilize the interventions to maintain the policy rate, reserves collected over several years are run down in a few months.

Falling reserves, a depreciating currency then trigger rating downgrades (usually due to so-called exchange rate of as the first line of defence which saw downgrades in 2018 and 2020 in Sri Lanka) and sovereign bond as yields soar, and market access is lost, triggering a default.

As reserves dwindle further due to holding the policy rate with new money, more downgrades follow.

Countries with flexible exchange rates/flexible inflation targeting with market access can default at virtually any level of debt, critics say.

Market Access

Sri Lanka’s debt to GDP ratio shot up over 100 percent and lost almost all its reserves following a currency crisis in 2000/2001.

But at the time (or in earlier soft-peg crises in 1988/89 and earlier) the country did not have market access and bullet repayment debt.

In Sri Lanka bonds are big part of the country’s debt.

“Once you have lost market access there is virtually no level of gross financing needs that is sustainable,” Lanau said.

Analysts say the once market access has been lost, and the IMF declares that debt is unsustainable, which blocks the World Bank and ADB from giving loans, default is almost certain.

Argentina which has the archetypal soft-pegged Latin America central bank, which sterilizes interventions, strikes zeros off the peso at intervals and get into forex trouble.

“The country got into an IMF program in mid-2018, it was a very optimistic set of IMF targets, policy adjustments,” Lanau said.

“And this IMF program did not work and the situation got critical in August 2019 at which point Argentina defaulted.”

In March 2020 the IMF had presented a debt sustainability analysis where it was expected to to get its debt to 40 percent of GDP by 2030 and foreign exchange debt service to 3 percent of GDP, Lanau said, compared to 4.5 percent for Sri Lanka to make debt sustainable.

Ecuador which had a successful pre-emptive debt re-structuring, had debt levels of around 60 percent when it went talked to bond holders.

It was an ‘easy re-structuring, Lanau said.

It was a “lot about a bunch of maturities coming due in very few years as opposed to a very high debt ratio or a situation that was very unsustainable economically.”

Ecuador however is a dollarized country where its central bank effectively died in the 1990s after the sucre collapsed to 25,000 to the US dollar.

The Central Bank of Ecuador is no longer capable of creating forex shortages or driving the people to starvation and external debt is effectively in domestic currency.

Ecuador’s gross financing needs are now down to around mid single digits, while Sri Lanka’s has shot up to around 30 percent of GDP following the currency collapse.

Ecuador central bank was set up by Edwin Kemmerer, a US money doctor, with a gold peg (no obstinate policy rate) but was corrupted in 1947 by Robert Triffin, a US Keynesian who set up Argentina style central banks in several Latin America countries that frequently defaulted from the 1980s.

Sri Lanka’s central bank was also set up in 1950 by a US money doctor with broadly similar sterilizing powers.

Sri Lanka also started to depreciate the currency from around 1980 without withdrawing inflationary policy (an earlier re-incarnation of first line of defence strategy) triggering strikes, social unrest but no sovereign default due to lack of market access.

Sovereign defaults were mostly absent during the Bretton Woods era even in Latin America when countries maintained their pegs more or less with complementary monetary policy and the IMF also supported external anchors.

However after 1980 when the US tightened policy under Chairman Paul Volcker there were widespread defaults in pegged Latin American countries which did not hike rates in tandem or sterilized interventions (resisted the BOP) trying to operate independent monetary policy.

Now there are a number of market access countries in Africa and Asia with reserve collecting central bank which are trying to operate flexible inflation targeting, another monetary policy which are in conflict with the balance of payments which are ripe for serial currency crises and default.

Clean floating central bank do not use foreign reserves for imports nor collects them. (Colombo/Dec27/2022)

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