An Echelon Media Company
Saturday May 25th, 2024

NPP govt won’t honour Sri Lanka’s ISB debt, warns Harsha de Silva

ECONOMYNEXT — The “top economist” of Sri Lanka’s leftist alliance National People’s Power (NPP) has confirmed that a future NPP government will not honour Sri Lanka’s outstanding international sovereign bond (ISB) debt, according to opposition MP Harsha de Silva.

“That a future JVP/NPP Gov will NOT honour #SriLanka USD 12b ISB debt; first insinuated by their chief econ adviser Prof Anil J at @CeylonChamber now repeated clearly by their top economist Sunil Handunhetti goes to show these guys have absolutely no idea how to run a country,” de Silva said in a tweet on Wednesday January 03.

The MP made this claim after a video went viral online showing Handunneththi, former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP and ex-chair of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), casually dismissing Sri Lanka’s obligations to its ISB holders.

“How did we get stuck in ISBs? Everyone who puts in money for ISBs do so taking the risk involved. They calculate the interest with the risk included. They have already taken the risk from the interest. If we say we’re not paying the ISB debt, they’ll say ‘it’s okay, machang’, because the risk is contained in the interest,” Handunneththi said in the video.

“ISBs are for investing in risky economies. The maturity periods and interests are calculated after a risk analysis. That’s what we have to say to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) too. ‘Give us the loan if you wish to. We will pay it back, but give us a fair amount of time to pay back. We don’t want conditions,” he added.

In his response, MP de Silva, who is the foremost voice for economic policy in the main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), said the NPP’s economic advisor Prof Anil Jayasekera had originally made a similar remark, which Handunneththi was now repeating.

This goes to show the NPP has “no idea how to run a country,” he said.

In an interview with EconomyNext in June 2023, de Silva said Sri Lanka’s next election will be a battle of ideologies.

Sri Lanka’s next election a battle of ideologies: Harsha de Silva

The leftist NPP, a loose alliance dominated by the Marxist-Leninist JVP which has been increasingly critical of the IMF programme, has gained ground in the aftermath of the 2022 crisis and, according to at least one poll, is still ahead of the SJB, the SLPP and President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s one-man United National Party (UNP). Against this backdrop, if President Wickremesinghe were to invite the SJB to come back into the UNP fold – Sri Lanka’s so called ‘grand old party’ which the SJB broke away from – or to form a grand alliance with like minded groups, would the SJB consider it?

“I think we should consider any alliance that is ideologically aligned,” answered de Silva in the June interview, adding, however, that the SJB is in complete disagreement with the president on the alleged partnership with and protection of those accused of corruption, as well as controversial pieces of legislation such as the proposed broadcast regulatory commission act, the anti-terrorism act ant the like.

“These are completely wrong. This is not the Ranil Wickremesinghe that we knew,” he said.

Meanwhile, MP Nalaka Godahewa, a key proponent of the Viyathmaga professional body that backed ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has joined forces with the SJB.

Speaking at an SJB press event, Godahewa distanced the Viyathmaga outfit from the discredited policies of Rajapaksa.

Godahewa, speaking to the media with an SJB banner behind him, claimed that Viyathmaga, a body of professionals who endorsed and campaigned for Rajapaksa in the run-up to the 2019 presidential poll, was excluded from key policy decisions.

Sri Lanka ex-president cast Viyathmaga aside, claims Godahewa


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka power outages from falling trees worsened by unfilled vacancies: CEB union

HEAVY WINDS: Heavy rains and gusting winds have brought down trees on many location in Sri Lanka.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power grid has been hit by 300,000 outages as heavy winds brought down trees, restoring supply has been delayed by unfilled vacancies of breakdown staff, a union statement said.

Despite electricity being declared an essential service, vacancies have not been filled, the CEB Engineers Union said.

“In this already challenging situation, the Acting General Manager of CEB issued a circular on May 21, 2024, abolishing several essential service positions, including the Maintenance Electrical Engineer in the Area Engineer Offices, Construction Units, and Distribution Maintenance Units,” the Union said.

“This decision, made without any scientific basis, significantly reduces our capacity to provide adequate services to the public during this emergency.

“On behalf of all the staff of CEB, we express our deep regret for the inconvenience caused to our valued customers.”

High winds had rains have brought down trees across power lines and transformers, the statement said.

In the past few day over 300,000 power outages have been reported nationwide, with some areas experiencing over 30,000 outages within an hour.

“Our limited technical staff at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are making extraordinary efforts to restore power as quickly as possible,” the union said.

“We deeply regret that due to the high volume of calls, there are times when we are unable to respond to all customer inquiries.

“We kindly ask consumers to support our restoration teams and to report any fallen live electrical wires or devices to the Electricity Board immediately without attempting to handle them.

The union said there were not enough workers to restore power quickly when such a large volume of breakdowns happens.

“We want to clarify that the additional groups mentioned by the minister have not yet been received by the CEB,” the union said.

“Despite the government’s designation of electricity as an essential service, neither the government, the minister in charge, nor the CEB board of directors have taken adequate steps to fill the relevant vacancies or retain current employees.

“We believe they should be held directly responsible for the delays in addressing the power outages due to the shortage of staff.”

Continue Reading

Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings


Continue Reading

Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.


Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

Continue Reading