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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Existing SOFA agreement signed in 1995 – Ranil

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe informed Parliament today July 10 that the agreement called the ‘SOFA’ (Status of Forces Agreement) signed with the United States dates back to 1995 and a new agreement does not exist.

Replying to questions raised by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Joint Opposition Wickremesinghe said nothing has been done that would damage the country’s sovereignty.

He said this responding to a question raised by Anura Kumara Dissanayake regarding the SOFA and the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) agreement.

Further, Wickremesinghe said that there is no agreement to be signed and it can be signed only if we can agree to it after the ongoing discussions are over.

“But only the 1995 agreement still exists and the SOFA agreement is not a defense agreement,” he added.

Thad had been signed during the administration of Chandrika Kumaratunge, he said.

The ACSA agreement was signed in 2007 when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, he pointed out.

“The US armed forces, as well as their civilian staff, have been granted diplomatic status under this agreement,” he said.

The two agreements which go hand in hand, deal with US Armed Forces access to Sri Lanka.

Documents leaked by Joint Opposition supporters purport to show that US forces will have unlimited access to Sri Lankan waters as well as roads and that they would not be prosecuted for wrongdoings in this country.

The Prime Minister said that the 2007 agreement has run out in 2017, and an extension has been granted.

The deal is being re-negotiated and some proposals were unacceptable and that he would hold discussions with the relevant ministry and the US embassy about them.

Further, he said that there is nothing in the agreements that could harm the sovereignty of our country. “There were many amendments to the ACSA agreement, We have had a discussion about it but there is nothing to hide, there is no agreement yet to be signed,” he added.

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 293.50/294.50 to dollar , bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at stronger at 293.50 /294.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Tuesday, while bond yields were unchanged, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 closed at 26.50/65 percent unchanged from Monday’s close.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka food producers on countdown; 6-months to reduce trans fat content

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan food manufacturers only have another six months to reduce the amount of trans fat in food items as the government plans to ban high trans-fat food from January 2024 onwards, an official said.

“A six-month grace period has been given to existing manufacturers, sellers and distributors whose products contain trans-fat,” an official of the Ministry of Health told EconomyNext requesting anonymity.

According to a Ministry of Health gazette issued on… a person shall not sell, offer for sale, expose or keep for sale or advertise for sale, any packaged food product containing trans-fat unless the total amount of trans-fat of such food product per 100 grams or 100 milliliters of the food product is declared on the label of such packaged food product.

However, these regulations will not be applicable for export oriented food products.

Trans-fat is a type of fat that has certain chemical properties and is usually found in processed foods such as baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and certain vegetable oils.

Eating trans-fat increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Sri Lanka for enacting a legislation on trans-fat to protect health and prevent premature deaths from coronary heart disease, a statement from the WHO said.

“Eliminating trans-fats from food supplies is a cost-effective measure with enormous health benefits,” the statement quoting Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said.

“By enacting legislation on trans-fat, Sri Lanka has once again demonstrated its resolve to protect and promote the health of its people”.

The regulations are coming into effect as Sri Lanka is struggling with food insecurity as the country recovers from its worst economic crisis.

However, an improvement in food security across all provinces has been recorded, according to an assessment by a Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) of two UN agencies. (Colombo/ May 30/2023)

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India extends under utilized $1 bln credit facility to Sri Lanka by one year 

ECONOMYNEXT – India has extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka by another year after the loan that was given to help the crisis-hit island nation to continue import of essentials was not fully utilized in the 12 month period originally agreed, officials said.

Sri Lanka faced with a looming sovereign default signed the credit facility in March 2022 for one year through March 2024. However, the full $1 billion had not been utilized yet.

The Facility has been used for urgent procurement of fuel, medicines, food items and industrial raw materials, as per the requirements and priorities of Sri Lanka.

“The initial agreement was signed in 2022 March and out of the 1000 million US dollars allocated materials were imported for $576.75 mil,” Shehan Semasinghe, State Finance Minister said in his official twitter platform.

“The agreement is extended for the remaining $423.25 mil. We will prioritize the import of essential medicines till March 2024.”

Indian High Commission in Colombo said the State Bank of India (SBI) has extended the tenure of the $1 billion Credit Facility provided to Sri Lanka in response to a request from the Government of Sri Lanka.  (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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