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ICTA to introduce high-tech contact tracing for pandemic control – Chairman de Silva

close up on Phone with app in caucasian hands

ECONOMYNEXT-Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) will launch the new Stay Safe Digital Project on Monday, November 9, to make contact tracing for pandemic control more efficient using technology.

Speaking in an interview with TV Derana, ICTA Chairman Jayantha De Silva said that once the curfew is lifted on Monday, Stay Safe will allow the authorities to identify the contacts of future COVID cases easily which will save their time and the time of the general public.

He also said that the ICTA along with the developers have worked on the project for the past 6 months to use technology to control and prevent COVID-19 in Sri Lanka.

“Since it would not be successful if we used this technology only through smartphones as only about 50% of the population uses smartphones, this project idea was introduced to us by four young people who created the Stay Safe Digital Project,” he added.

Also speaking in the interview Shanaka Perera who is a member of the project told that they looked at the all technologies used by other countries to control and prevent COVID-19 and the idea of endorsing QR method came after looking at New Zealand but depending on the smartphone penetration in the country it could not be directly implemented in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, he said that the all businesses and organisations have to register with Stay Safe through the website https://staysafe.gov.lk/ upon the registration the business or organisation will receive a poster with unique QR code and a Location code which should be displayed at the entrance of a business or the organisation.

People who are entering the business or organisation should scan the QR code by just opening the camera of the Smartphone or non-Smartphone users should SMS the Location code mentioned in the poster to 1919.

In the first instance, the individual who is using Stay Safe should scan the QR code and then enter the details such as the name, National ID number and a mobile number through a notification that will appear which will register him to the system.

Then onwards he/she will have to simply scan the QR code and show the notification containing his information to the security officer of the business or organisation before entering.

The notification which will give the details of the particular individual after the scan or after the SMS is sent will show whether he can enter the premises, whether he is a COVID patient or contact of an infected person.

After registering with the system it will also send an SMS to that particular individual whether he is a contact of future COVID cases.

Once a COVID patient is identified who is registered with the system, just by entering his National ID number to the system the Health authorities can find out the places he had visited in the past 14 days in order to identify his contacts rather than going through logbooks in businesses and organisations based on the statements given by the patient.

Further, regarding the privacy issue, he said that since all the data will be collected at the Lanka Government Cloud which is managed by the ICTA, the data is stored within the country and the notification which a particular individual receives once he/she scans the QR code or SMS the location code will display only the last four digits of his/her mobile number

“So the privacy of every individual is protected by this project,” he added. (Colombo, November 5, 2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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Sri Lanka state airport agency swimming in cash after sovereign default

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd is swimming in cash after a sovereign default halted debt repayments allowing it to post a profit of 29.7 billion rupees with 10.4 billion rupees in interest income, official data showed.

In April 2022 Sri Lanka declared a sovereign default after printing large volumes of money over more than two years to enforce rate cuts and blowing the biggest hole in the balance of payments in the history of the island’s money printing central bank.

Interest earnings of Airport and Aviation Services also shot up to 10.4 billion rupees in 2023 from 6.1 billion in 2022 and 3.3 billion rupees in 2021 before the sovereign default.

Under the terms of the default or ‘debt suspension’, state agencies like the Airport and Aviation Services, and Sri Lanka Port Authority were also not required to service loans, even if they had the cash to repay loans.

AASL’s finance income shot up in 2023 “mainly because the company has invested surplus cash saved by not servicing the foreign loans obtained by the company due to the temporary debt moratorium policy of the country,” the Finance Ministry said in a report.

Sri Lanka’s rupee and foreign currency interest rates also shot up in 2022 and 2023 as rate cuts enforced by money printing were lifted to clear anchor conflicts.

After inflationary rate cuts kill confidence in a currency triggering capital flight and parallel exchange rates, excessively high rates are needed to kill domestic credit and stabilize the currency.

Countries with such flawed operating frameworks in central banks tend to have chronic high nominal interest rates in any case.

AASL’s rupee revenues went up to 48.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 32.2 billion rupees in 2022 as passenger movements increased to 7.5 million from 5.5 million with a recovery in tourism and local traffic.

Sri Lanka’s currency crisis hit in 2022 just as the island was recovering from Coronavirus pandemic triggering fuel shortages and power cuts as money printing triggered forex shortages.

From 2022 March the rupee collapsed from 200 to 370 levels an attempt to float the rupee was failed by a surrender rule (a type of buy-side pegging which pushes the exchange rate down).

In 2023, after hiking rates to kill credit, the surrender rule was removed, leading to a currency appreciation.

The airport agency also made an exchange gain of 6.1 billion rupees in 2023 against an exchange loss of 10.5 billion rupees in 2022 the rupee appreciated. (Colombo/June16/2024)

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Sri Lanka car import relaxing roadmap given to IMF: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has submitted a roadmap on relaxing vehicle imports to the International Monetary Fund, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siymabalapitiya said as the country recovers from the worst currency crises in the history of its central bank.

The import relaxation will allow vehicles for public transport, goods transport, then motor cycles and cars use by private individuals and after that, luxury cars, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

Luxury cars however attract the highest taxes for each dollar spent on imports.

Economic analysts have characterized vehicle import controls as a ‘cascading policy error’ that follows inflationary rate cuts, which then deprive taxes to the state and triggers more money printing and more forex shortages, requiring even higher corrective interest rates and a contraction of economic activities to save the rupee.

According to the latest IMF report car import controls may have led to revenue losses of 0.7 to 0.9 percent of GDP.

Sri Lanka started controlling imports few years after a central bank was set up in 1950 and also tightened exchange controls progressively, so that macroeconomists using post-1920 spurious monetary doctrines taught at Anglophone universities could print money through various mechanisms to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka is working with the IMF as a guide on many issues and the roadmap was submitted to the agency on June 14, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

The IMF in an economic report released last week the plan was expected to be submitted by June 15.

Whatever the IMF’s faults, which some wags have called ‘progressive Saltwaterism’, the agency does not advocate import controls as solution to balance of payments problems, despite a Mercantilist fixation with the current account deficit in countries with reserve collecting central banks, analysts say.

Import controls have the same effect as import substation on the balance of payments, which is none, classical economists have pointed out and is now mainly a problem associated with macro economists and economic bureaucrats of so-called basket case countries.

Any pressure on the currency or missed reserves targets in the IMF program has come in the past only if the central bank printed money to suppress rates as credit growth picked up from car imports.

Sri Lanka had 3,000 items under import controls when rates were suppressed with printed money from 2020 to 2022 but eventually ended up with the worst currency crisis triggered by macro economists in the history of the country and eventual external default.

A committee made up of the Department of Trade and Fiscal Policy of the Finance Ministry, the Department of Registration of Motor Vehicles, the Central Bank and two associations representing vehicle imports were appointed to come up with the roadmap, he said. (Colombo/June15/2024)

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Chitrasiri Committee presents draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket

ECONOMYNEXT – A draft constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket, the governing body for cricket in the island, prepared by a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge K T Chitrasiri, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe today (15).

The Sri Lanka team were ignominiously knocked out of the Men’s T20 World Cup tournament this week, sparking renewed criticism of the team and the governing body.

Last November, a cabinet sub-committee was appointed to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide recommendations after consecutive losses became a hot topic in parliament.

After parliament decided to remove the administrators of the sport, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board suspended Sri Lanka Cricket’s membership.

Based on the sub-committee’s recommendations in its report, the Cabinet then appointed an expert committee to draft a new constitution for Sri Lanka Cricket.

The committee headed by judge K T Chitrasiri includes President’s Counsel Harsha Amarasekara, Attorney-at-Law Dr Aritha Wickramanayake and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce Duminda Hulangamuwa.

Deputy Solicitor General Manohara Jayasinghe, and Shamila Krishanthi, Assistant Draftsman representing the Legal Draftsman’s Department, and Loshini Peiris, Additional Secretary to the President were also on the committee. (Colombo/Jun14/2024)

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