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Monday April 15th, 2024

Fake news scares, vested interests delaying Sri Lanka govt decision making: Harsha

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government decision making gets delayed as it has to grapple with vested interests and public agitation stirred by rumor and false facts which ignore scientific evidence, a key policymaker, deputy minister Harsha De Silva said.

Agitation caused by rumour-mongering has forced the government to spend time and effort to tackle a range of issues from opposition to free trade deals, to a fake sterilization scare and fears about oil palm cultivation, he told the annual meeting of the Palm Oil Industry Association.

He recalled how he was slandered for his efforts to introduce a state-sponsored emergency ambulance service funded by India that is now widely used without any fusss.

“I was attacked mercilessly, thrown buckets of mud at and attacked personally when I started the 1990 Suva Sariya pre hospital care ambulance service,”  said de Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs.

“…vested interest, sometimes are so strong, they protest, even lifesaving services.

“So here I see a classic problem, a wicked problem as some people say; you present one set of facts and somebody else presents another set of facts. Whose facts are correct?”

De Silva referred to the mass sterilization scare where a Muslim doctor was alleged to have sterilized Sinhala-Buddhist women which turned out to be a fake story spread by the doctor’s own hospital colleagues and the police in the area.

“(The) case is irresponsible journalism,” he said.

Another recent example was the MCC (Millenium Challenge Corporation) grant by the United States where it was alleged the government was going to build a corridor from Colombo to Trincomalee.

“It was alleged that on either side of this corridor, one kilometer each, we will want to fence it, we were going to divide this nation into north of Colombo-Trincomalee highway and South of Colombo-Trincomalee highway,” de Silva said.

“The Singapore Free Trade Agreement, how much false information that spread around that,” he added.

“It was rumored that the Singapore Free Trade Agreement would bring in plane loads of Singaporeans to take our jobs. It was absolute bunkem.”

The palm oil industry in Sri Lanka has gained a lot of bad coverage due to a report published by Central Environmental Authority (CEA) which the industry officials says is baseless.

A draft study by the CEA, on which much of the opposition is based, was not signed by four of seven members of the panel which prepared it and contained several wrong conclusions, according to Asoka Nugawela, a professor in the faculty of agriculture and plantation management at the University of Wayamba.

De Silva drew conclusions from these issues saying, “It is a problem that we, as a society face. The way to go about it is evidence. Unless you are able to scientifically, and economically present the evidence.

“Take the discussion away from those who want to profit or perhaps for whatever vested interest they have to stop it and give the decision to be made on an evidence based transparent mechanism,” de Silva said.
(COLOMBO, 27 August 2019)


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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 299.00/10 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 299.00/10 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Monday, from 298.50/55 on Wednesday, dealers said, while bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed stable at 11.30/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed stable at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed at 12.10/20 percent up from 12.10/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.20/40 percent. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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