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Friday February 23rd, 2024

India will hold Sri Lanka to its commitments on reconciliation

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

ECONOMYNEXT – India has “conveyed that Sri Lanka should uphold the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution,” Delhi’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has told the Sunday Virakesari.

In an exclusive interview with Virakesari Political Correspondent R Ram, Jaishankar also emphasized that the “process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13th Amendment needs to be carried forward.”

The Indian EAM also said that Delhi would hold Sri Lanka to its commitments and said that he recalled: “that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had expressed confidence during the Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020 that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation.”

“I reiterated that India is strongly committed to a united and stable Sri Lanka, which also addresses the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity,” he added.

The full transcript of the interview is below:

Ram: Does India propose to implement any new development plans for the North, East and upcountry over and above what has been already undertaken?

Jaishankar: India remains a committed development partner of Sri Lanka. Our unique Indian Housing Project, constructing 50,000 houses for Sri Lankan families from the North, East and Upcountry is well appreciated in the island. Moreover, iconic projects like Jaffna Cultural Center in the North and Dickoya Hospital in Hatton were completed using Indian grants. Northern Railway lines were constructed using Indian Lines of credit. Kankesanthurai port, Palaly airport are under renovation using Indian funds. An additional 10,000 houses under Indian Housing Programme would be built in the plantation region in the next 4 years.

Drawing heavily from our past project experience of mass housing or ambulance services, heritage conservation or education, we would continue to build community and human assets all over Sri Lanka to promote the post-Covid regional economic recovery.

With this in mind, I have had productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on the future plan of action for our development partnership. We hope to continue our holistic discussions further as per the domestic priorities. We intend to focus in the areas of education, skill development, vocational training, health and agriculture in North, East and Upcountry.

Ram: How does India see the new reflections of Sri Lanka on the Indo-Lanka Accord and creation of Provincial Government? Will India continue to pursue implement the 13th Amendment?

Jaishankar: India’s position on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka has been consistent. In my meetings, I reiterated that India is strongly committed to a united and stable Sri Lanka, which also addresses the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity. The process of reconciliation with the implementation of the 13th Amendment needs to be carried forward. I conveyed that Sri Lanka should uphold the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution. You would recall that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had expressed confidence during the Virtual Bilateral Summit on 26 September 2020 that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation.

Ram: Why do you think Sri Lankan government is delaying handing over of ECT to India? Why is ECT important for India?

Jaishankar: The benefits of having India as a partner in ECT are obvious as nearly 2/3rds of Colombo Port’s trans-shipment business is with India.

We have engaged with the Sri Lankan government to take this project forward and would be happy to see ECT’s development through investment from India and Japan, as preferred by the current Sri Lankan Government.

I would also like to clarify that there is no question of transfer of ownership of the terminal which will continue to be with Sri Lanka.

Apart from addressing the urgent need for capacity expansion at the Colombo Port and generating employment locally, India’s participation in the ECT will further strengthen shipping and economic ties between the two countries.

This project can serve as a good signal for attracting greater investments from India and the world which is much needed for Sri Lanka’s recovery.

We firmly believe that this project will help in enhancing Sri Lanka’s attractiveness as a connectivity and energy hub for the region and we can play a very positive role in this regard. (Colombo, January 12, 2021)

Edited by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lankans may need to wait for Monetary Board meeting minutes despite new Act

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans may have to wait more time to read the meeting minutes of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board, a top official said, despite a new act that has made the central bank to be more transparent and accountable for its decisions.

Many central banks including the United States’ Federal Reserve, India’s Reserve Bank, and Bank of Mexico release the minutes of their monetary policy meeting to ensure transparency.

The new Central Bank Act passed by the Parliament in line with the guidance by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) includes measures for Sri Lanka’s central bank to be more transparent and accountable.

These measures include releasing the Monetary Policy Report every six months and the first such report was released on February 15.

However, the central bank has not taken a decision to release the minutes of the Monetary Board meetings on the monetary policy.

“Going forward, one day this could happen,” Chandranath Amarasekara, Assistant Governor at the Central Bank told reporters on Wednesday (21) at a media briefing.

“Right now, we have just started working on the new Central Bank Act. We are not there yet. There is no such decision on releasing minutes yet.”

The central bank in the past printed billions of rupees to keep the market interest rates artificially low and provide cheap funding for successive governments to propel a debt-driven economy.

It’s decision, however, led Sri Lanka into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with sovereign debt default.

It also propped up the rupee currency artificially in the past to maintain a stable exchange rate at the expense of billions of US dollars. The move also contributed for the economic crisis and later the central bank was forced to allow over 60 percent depreciation in the rupee in March 2022.

However, none of the top central bank officials was held responsible for wrong decisions to hold interest rates artificially low with money printing and propping up the rupee. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Amid mass migration, Sri Lanka to recruit volunteers as English teachers

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to appoint foreign and expatriate volunteers to teach English for Sri Lanka students, the Ministry of Higher Education said, amid thousand of teachers migrating to other countries after the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Over five thousand teachers have left the country with the Education Ministry permission using the government’s circular of temporarily leaving state jobs while tens of thousands of teachers have left the country without informing the relevant authorities, Education Ministry officials say.

That had led to an acute teacher shortage in the country.

Suren Raghavan, the State Minister for Higher Education said the shortage has aggravated because most of the graduates who have an English degree become writers and join the private sector due to higher salary.

“They do not join government schools. This is a problem all over the country which is why we need to have an online system,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

Separately he said on Thursday at a press conference that he had spoken to Canadian and Australian High Commissions to get the assistance of where their English teachers who have experience in teaching English as a second language in South Asia.

He also said that there is a number of teachers in the Unite Kingdom have shown interest in teaching English and they have experience in teaching in other Asian countries such as Burma and India while the teaching would be done free of charge.

The new move also comes at a time when the country’s English literacy rate is on the decline, according to the Minister.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe announced the English-for-all initiative three months ago with plans to improve English literacy at school and university level. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Sri Lanka tea production up 1.4-pct in Jan 2024, exports up 6.8-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production was up 1.4 percent to 18.73 million kilograms in January 2024, with high growns falling and low and mid growns rising, industry data shows.

High grown tea in January 2024 was 3.56 million kilograms, down from 3.36 million, medium growns were 2.6, up from 2.5 million kilograms and low growns were 12.56 million, up from 12.32 million kilograms last year.

Exports, including re-exports were up 6.88 percent to 18.76 million kilograms, industry data published by Ceylon Tea Brokers show.

Export earnings were reported at 102 million US dollars, up from 99.5 million dollars last year. The average FOB price was 5.45 US dollars a kilo down from 5.67 dollars last year.

Tea in bulk was 8.5 million kilograms valued at 12.79 billion rupees, tea in packets was 7.8 million kilograms valued at 13.1 billion rupees and tea in bags was 1.8 million kilos, valued at 5.06 billion rupees.

The top buyer was Iraq with 2.5 million kilos, up from 2.1 million last year followed by the UAE with 1.99 kilos, up from 1.86 million last year.

Russia bought 1.98 million kilos, down from 2.0 last year, Turkey bought 1.72 million kilos, from 2.3 million last year, while Iran bought 1.32 million, up from 614 million last year. (Colombo/Feb23/2024)

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