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Monday February 6th, 2023

License for Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters: Minister to go ahead with discussions

Minister Douglas Devananda – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda expects to hold discussions with the Tamil Nadu government to allow a limited number of Indians to engage in fishing in Sri Lankan waters on a weekly basis subject to a considerably large levy, an official said.

This is in contrast to a statement by co-cabinet spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanipla this morning that no such decision has been made.

Fisheries Ministry Media Secretary Nelson Edirisinghe told EconomyNext that Devananda’s proposal envisions a license scheme for a limited number of Indian fishermen to engage in fishing using “normal methods” (as opposed to bottom trawling) on a staggered basis – meaning that fishermen that enter Sri Lanka’s territorial waters one week would not be permitted to re-enter the following week.

At the weekly cabinet press briefing today, Minister Gammanpila said no decision has been made to license fishermen from India to fish in Sri Lankan waters. He was referring to a statement attributed to Minister Devananda by The Morning that discussions were underway with the government of India in this regard. Gammanpila said no such proposal had been discussed at cabinet level.

According to Edirisinghe, Minister Devananda has only proposed the licensing scheme as an alternative solution to the diplomatic problems caused by the long-drawn issue. Under the proposal, he said, bottom trawling will be strictly prohibited.

“What the minister said is that the two major fishing problems in Sri Lanka are the illegal crossing of Indian fishermen into Sri Lankan waters and the bottom trawling. A few other similar solutions are also being discussed between the two governments [when negotiating the release of detained fishermen],” said Edirisinghe.

The alleged robbing of Sri Lankan resources by Indian fishermen has become a serious diplomatic issue between the two countries and Minister Devananda sees his proposal as one solution to address it, he added.

Fishing vessels from South India had got into the habit of straying over the Indo-Lanka maritime border during a 30 year civil war when Sri Lanka fishermen were banned from entering the Northern waters.

Last week Sri Lanka Navy arrested several Indian boats, as election fever was hotting up in South India. Fifty-four Indian nationals were taken into custody. Sri Lanka then released the fishermen, reportedly at India’s request.

Since December last year, 99 Indian fishermen have been apprehended by the Sri Lanka navy along with 11 boats. The Indian High Commission in Colombo said last Wednesday (24) called for a humanitarian approach to resolving the crisis.

“Providing immediate consular access and emergency supplies to apprehended fishermen are of prime importance. We are working with the Government of Sri Lanka for expeditiously securing consular access for these fishermen,” the Daily Mirror quoted a high commission spokesman as saying last week. The spokesman noted that bilateral mechanisms are already in place to comprehensively address all matters related to fisheries.

“It may be recalled that the fourth meeting of the Secretary-level joint working group was held on December 30 through virtual mode. Follow-up measures on the basis of discussions which took place during the meeting need to be taken forward quickly,” the website quoted the spokesman as saying.

At the working group meeting in question, Sri Lanka had called for joint patrols to end continued poaching in the northern waters of the island while India requested the release of arrested fishermen.

“The Sri Lanka delegation underlined the need to address the matter of illegal fishing in the Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen, which resulted in loss of livelihood and damage to fishing equipment of local fishermen,” Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Fisheries said on December 31 last year.

“The Indian side elaborated details in regard to the legal action taken against such practices and the initiatives to encourage South Indian fishermen to engage in deep sea fishing and alternative livelihood. The Sri Lankan delegation conveyed the need to further enhance the joint patrolling and operationalisation of the hotline between the Law Enforcement authorities of the two countries to ensure effective results,” the ministry said. (Colombo/Mar30/2021)

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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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