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Monday February 6th, 2023

Fire guts 60 houses in underserved area in Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – Residents blamed drug addicts for fire that gutted at least 60 houses in suburb area of Sri Lanka capital on Tuesday despite dozens of fire trucks were deployed to control the fire spreading, area residents and officials said.

The fire in Kajimawatta slum area with 300 mostly wooden houses is the worst disaster in the last three years, the residents said.

“There was a house where usually drug addicts use. That house has been used by several drug addicts and the fire started from this house,” a resident at Kajimawatta told EconomyNext.

Several other residents in the area also conformed that the fire was initially started at a house where drug addicts frequently met everyday.

“When I came home, it had turned into ashes. I could not find anything from my house including television,” M D Quitus, a 58 year mason said.

Residents said it was the fourth time the fire had destroyed parts of their houses in a 4 acre land where nearly 300 slum houses are built mostly without proper land ownership.

Gravel roads within the slum were filled with water after the residents broke the some of the common water supply taps to douse the fire. Some residents were trying to take their belongings out of the ash after searching for whatever left following the fire.

“Within two hours, all houses were burnt. This because all these houses are connected via wooden walls. People could not act fast because some drug addicts at the house where the fore started just left the house without doing anything,” another resident said asking not to be named.

The authorities deployed at least 12 fire trucks, they could only control the fire after 2 hours.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed the President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake to take steps to provide immediate relief to all the residents affected by the fire.

The President’s media divisions said that he had instructed presidential s secretary to intervene immediately and direct the Colombo government agent, Tri Forces Commanders, the Fire Brigade, the Health Department, the Urban Development Authority and all other relevant government agencies to look into the needs of the people who were residing in the apartment complex and provide them the required facilities immediately.

“Accordingly, all relevant departments have already taken steps to provide the maximum intervention required to douse the fire and provide all other necessary facilities promptly,” the president’s media said.

“The President has further stated that special attention should be provided to attend to the needs of mothers, women and children who are affected by this tragedy.”

Area residents, however, said they were still waiting for the government’s relief.

The slum area has been vulnerable to fire because of compacted houses in narrow area.  (Colombo/Sept28/2022

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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