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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Payments to Zuberi made under instructions from govt: Cabraal

ECONOMYNEXT- Payments to Imaad Zuberi, a controversial US lobbyist, was made in 2014 following written instructions from the government, ex-Central Bank Chief Nivard Cabraal said in a statement following allegations made by an opposition politician.

Zuberi was charged and sentenced in the US for tax evasion, illegal lobbying and campaign contributions.

The full statement is reproduced below:

As the banker to the government, the payments made the Central Bank on behalf of the government in 2014 have been made on the official written instructions of the government, and not on the wishes of a single person. Such payments included those made to the said Imaad Zuberi and his organizations that were engaged by the Government in respect of communication programmes in the USA.

In that regard, it must be stated that all payments on behalf of the Government had been made based on the official written instructions and approval of the relevant government authorities. Further, the respective payment protocols and procedures had been followed by the Central Bank in the normal course of business when making these payments. Therefore, it can be confirmed that there has been no procedural or other violation by the Central Bank in making the payments totaling USD 6.5 million to Zuberi and his organizations, on behalf of the government.

Nevertheless, as it is now observed, there are certain groups of politically motivated persons who had been alleging that these payments have been made by me personally in a fraudulent manner, thereby causing a loss to the country.

In that regard, it must be stated that these same groups had these transactions investigated in detail for 5 years from 2015 to 2019, and after doing so, it had not been possible to point out any lapses or violations of any law on my part. As a result, no action was instituted against me by any law enforcement authority during that period of 5 years.

Nevertheless, these politically motivated groups have once again begun to hurl false allegations against me in order to tarnish my reputation and provoke public hatred upon me. While vehemently denying those allegations, I must state that I will respond to these despicable actions through the legal process and also institute action against the perpetrators of these falsehoods at the appropriate time in order to hold them accountable for their abusive actions.

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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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