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Tuesday June 25th, 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 to sign Paris Club debt deals as fresh ISB talks to also start

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will sign agreements on restructured debt with Paris Club creditors Wednesday, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said as sources said talks with private creditors are also due to start later in the week.

The relevant senior officials and State Minister Shehan Semasinghe has already left the country to sign the agreements, Minister Gunawardana said.

Sri Lanka has held detailed negotiations with bilateral creditors ever since a sovereign default in 2022 and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has personally met leaders of friendly countries to expedite the restructuring, he said.

The finalizing of the restructure was a ‘great victory’ for Sri Lanka he said.

Details will be revealed to parliament by President Wickremesinghe and an address to the nation on Wednesday he said.

Discussion with private bondholders are also taking place separately, he said.

Face to face talks with bond holders are likely to start Thursday, sources said.

Investors in a steering committee representing key bondholders have halted trading and are in a ‘restricted’ period Bloomberg Newswires reported.

Sri Lanka is attempting to restructure 12.5 billion dollars of sovereign bonds and about 1.7 billion dollars of past due interest following the declaration of an external default in 2022.

Private investors are seeking some so-called macro-linked bonds whose final haircut is linked to dollar GDP as well as some standard or ‘plain vanilla’ bonds with an upfront haircut.

The style of bonds have not been used in sovereign restructurings before. In the latest round of talks more plain vanilla bonds may be discussed, sources aware of the thinking of some bond investors said.

The ISB holders have proposed a 28 percent haircut and a 1.8 percent consent fee. The macro-linked bonds would have principle re-stated up to 92 percent of the original depending on the evolution of gross domestic product.

Sri Lanka is restructuring debt using an IMF debt sustainability model applied to middle income countries with market access as opposed to debt sustainability model used in countries like Ghana applicable to low income countries requiring deeper haircuts on both domestic and foreign debt.

Hair cuts may also depend on the maturity of bonds and the coupon interest.

Ghana has higher levels of commercial debt having started to access capital markets from around 2007.

Ghana also has a bad central bank like Sri Lanka and has gone to the International Monetary Fund 18 times.

The country is also operating flexible inflation targeting (inflation targeting without a clean float), which critics say is the latest spurious monetary regime peddled to hapless unstable countries without a doctrinal foundation in sound money.

Having done broad domestic debt restructuring as well as continued currency volatility both interest rates and inflation remains above 20 percent.

Ghana’s central bank has a worse monetary anchor (8 percent inflation plus 2 percent) compared to 5 percent plus two in Sri Lanka and runs into currency trouble despite being an oil producer like Iran, Venezuela and neighboring Nigeria.

Nigeria has an inflation target of 6-9 percent but ends up with around 20 plus inflation and currency trouble.

Sri Lanka has undershot its inflation target since reaching monetary stability in September 2022 and has appreciated the currency, amid deflationary policy giving a strong foundation for economic activity to resume. (Colombo/June26/2024)

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Sri Lanka to seek investors for 200MW BOOT power plant

EONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has given approval to seek investors for a 200 MegaWatt independent power plant on a build-own-operate-and-transfer (BOOT) basis, a government statement said.

The internal combustion power plant will be capable of running on natural gas and is part of the Long-Term Generation Expansion of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board.

The investor will get as 20-year power purchase agreement.

Land next to the ‘Sobhadanavi’ combined cycle plant will be made available for the developer.

According to the generation plan, the 200MW IC plant is expected to come on stream by 2026.

In 2026, a 115 MW gas turbine, a CEB owned diesel plants of 68 MW and 72 MW are due to be retired. (Colombo/June25/2026)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes steady at 305.25/35 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed fairly flat at 305.25/35 to the US dollar on Tuesday, down from 305.20/30 to the US dollar on Monday, dealers said, while bond yields up.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2026 closed at 10.75/11.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.65/11.05 percent, up from 10.45/85 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2027 closed at 10.65/11.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 11.20/11.50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 12.10/15 percent, up from 12.05/17 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.12.2031 closed at 12.10/20 percent, up from 12.08/15 percent.

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