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Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Parents join teachers’ protests as health officials fear COVID-19 resurgence

ECONOMYNEXT – Parents of school students joined protests organised by Sri Lanka’s school teacher unions against unresolved salary anomaliess, media reports showed on Wednesday (03).

Parents in several districts including Colombo and Kandy protested in front of their children’s schools demanding that the government provide a quick solution to the crisis and secure the education of their children.

“The government tried to make parents go against us,” Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin told reporters at a protest on Wednesday.

“But today we are fighting together. We tell the government that we need a solution to this before the budget proposal [in November].

“Teachers are teaching while parents are fighting on behalf of teachers. We saw the Prime Minister talk about this issue but no solution has been given. Basil Rajapaksa who is the Finance Minister works like he knows everything,” said Stalin.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike for over 100 days over the issue. Though they have now returned to work, the protests continue. The government proposed to increase their salaries in a four-year strategy, but upon the rejection of that proposal, the government later proposed to give the increments in two installments. The unions rejected this, too, and continued to protest demanding that their salaries be increased in one go.

Related: Sri Lanka’s North, East see highest attendance of students, teachers: minister

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) Education services Union President Wasantha Handapangoda told reporters that the protest of teachers’ union has failed. The union is affiliated with the ruling party.

“No more than 10 to 15 parents have joined it. They hid their faces behind the poster when they saw me,” Hanadapangoda said.

“It is sad to say the unions have sent a message through students to ask parents come and protest saying this is a fight to secure the free education in Sri Lanka.”

Health officials commenting on the protests and strikes organised by several unions said mass gatherings can lead up to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the country again.

“We have seen an unexpected increase in some areas. No matter how much the organisers assure us that guidelines will be followed at these events, the spread of the virus cannot be controlled when people gather in large numbers,” Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath told reporters on Wednesday.

“We won’t see the results of these activities now, but in a few weeks’ time. By then we won’t be able to pinpoint to a certain gathering and say the outbreak was specifically due to this gathering,” he said.

Chairman of Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Upul Rohana in an interview given to the privately owned Derana network said the rights of unions can only be won if they’re alive.

“We need to be alive first to win our rights. After me, my family members, my parents die due to this pandemic, there is no point in winning these rights. That is the reality,” Rohana said.

“This is what we saw in December 2020 as well. We remember how we behaved during that period.

“We see an increase of patients from the ground level. That is why we say there is a possibility of a problematic situation by end December this year if we don’t take measures and follow health guidelines,” he said. (Colombo/Nov03/2021)

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Sri Lanka eyes SOE law by May 2024 for better governance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to pass a Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act improve governance of state-owned enterprise by May 2024 as part of an anti-corruption efforts following an International Monetary Fund assessment.

Sri Lanka’s state enterprises have been used by politicians to give ‘jobs of the boys’, appropriate vehicles for personal use, fill board of directors and key positions with henchmen and relatives, according to critics.

Meanwhile macro-economists working for the state also used them to give off-budget subsides or made energy utilities in particular borrow through supplier’s credits and state banks after forex shortages are triggered through inflationary rate cuts.

The government has taken billons of dollars of loans given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation from state banks.

There have also been high profile procurement scandals connected to SOEs.

An SOE Reform Policy was approved by Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in May 2023.

The Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act has now been drafted.

A holding company to own the SOEs will be incorporated and an Advisory Committee and Board of Directors will be appointed after the PCB law is approved, the statement said. (Colombo/Mar01/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 308.80/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 308.80/90 to the US dollar Friday, from 309.50/70 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.65/75 percent up from 10.50/70 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.90/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.15/35 percent down from 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent up from 12.30/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/45 percent down from 12.35/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.00 percent from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Mar1/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up 0.37-pct, Expo to de-list

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up 0.37 percent on Friday, and SG Holdings, the parent company of Expolanka Holdings Plc, said it was taking the company private.

Expolanka is the largest listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

“Expolanka Holdings PLC has, at the Board Meeting held on 1st March 2024, considered a request from its principal shareholder and resolved to initiate the de-listing of the Company’s shares from the Official List of the Colombo Stock Exchange subject to obtaining necessary shareholder approval and regulatory approvals,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

As per arrangements with SG Holdings Global Pte Ltd, the Company’s majority shareholder, it will purchase its shares from shareholders who may wish to divest their shareholding in the Company at a purchase price of Rs 185.00 per share. The share closed up at 150.50.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.37 percent, or 39.47 points, at 10,691; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.64 percent, or 19.59 points, at 3,037.

Turnover stayed above the 1 billion mark for the sixth consecutive day, registering 1.4 billion.

Crossings in Melstarcorp Plc (135mn) up at 89.50, Hatton National Bank Plc (64mn) up at 158.00, Hemas Holdings Plc (53mn) up at 75.00 and Central Finance Company Plc (26mn) up at 103.50, added significantly to the day’s turnover.

“The upward trend is continuing, with more retail buying also coming in, the number of trades was more than 10,000 today,” a market participant said. “Investors are looking for undervalued stocks and buying in quantities.” (Colombo/Mar1/2024).

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