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Friday August 12th, 2022

Political stability will help Sri Lanka turn a corner, president tells WSJ

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has experienced the worst of its economic crisis and political stability will help the country turn a corner, starting with finalising negotiations for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has told The Wall Street Journal.

“I think we’ve already hit the bottom. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s how fast we can get to it,” the New York City-based business daily quoted Wickremesinghe as saying on Sunday July 31.

However, it will be some months before most Sri Lankans begin to see their economic situation noticeably improve, he had said.

President Wickremesinghe told the WSJ that he expects an IMF staff level agreement to be reached by end August, after which the country would be able to further talks with sovereign bondholders and bilateral creditors.

“We are down to the nitty-gritty,” he said. “We would have had it this month [July] if it were not for the unstable political condition.”

On a separate note, Wickremesinghe had said it was not the right time for former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country after protestors stormed his official residence on July 09, to return. Nor had Rajapaksa indicated any plans to return, Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying.

“I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,” he said. “I have no indication of him returning soon.”

Wickremesinghe also defended the legitimacy of his presidency to the WSJ. His election by parliament following Rajapaksa’s resignation has been controversial, with some opposition members and sections of Sri Lanka’s youth-led protest movement claiming that he lacks a popular mandate and that the current parliament does not reflect the will of the people.

“I came in by chance. Basically the president had resigned. The country was on fire. They were taking over the buildings,” he said. “I have been elected constitutionally… it’s up to us to perform now.”

The president noted that, once an IMF agreement was in place, Sri Lanka would have to work out debt restructuring with creditors who have differing approaches.

“It’s an issue between the different approaches to debt relief between India and Japan on one side, supported by the U.S., and China on the other side,” he said. “It’s a question of getting them to agree on one plan. It’s a question of how do you deal with the haircut? How do you deal with having new money given to pay off the old loans?”

Wickremesinghe told the WSJ that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) was confident of “finding the cash to cover enough fuel imports.”

However, even with an IMF agreement in place, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka needs to secure upwards of 3 billion US dollars from other sources next year to help pay for key imports like fuel, food and fertilizers. He is also keeping an eye on the process that unfolded in Zambiya, he added. (Colombo/Aug01/2022)

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Sri Lanka cancels visa of Scotswoman who documented anti-govt protests

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration has cancelled the visa of Kayleigh Fraser, a Scotswoman who had been documenting the country’s anti-government protests on social media.

Immigration officers had approached Fraser at her home on August 02 and confiscated her passport.

“This is what will happen if you raise your voice against state violence in Sri Lanka,” Fraser wrote on Wednesday August 10, posting a letter ordering her to leave the country by August 15.

“I am proud to have been a part of this. I am proud to have met so many of you. I have… so many social enterprises I want to work on here that I know will benefit so many,” Fraser said on Instagram.

“Deporting me is a massive, massive mistake for this country. The love I have for it and its people appears to be a threat to the current rulers. Does that sound right to you?”

Fraser posted that she was not prepared for the financial cost of flights and relocation, and that all her funds were in Sri Lankan currency, and that banks were not allowing foreign transactions.

Police spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa had told a privately owned news organisation that Fraser was sharing “negative content” about Sri Lanka via her social media.

“It is not right for a foreign national to be in our country and share such mass negative content. She is not a media personnel either, to cover the protests and GotaGoGama,” he has said.

Fraser has been vocal about state sanctioned violence against protestors.

News of Fraser’s deportation has caused a small riot on social media, with many protestors voicing out their support for the foreigner who documented and showed support next to them.

Seemingly indiscriminate arrests of protestors aided by an ongoing State of Emergency have both angered and frightened Sri Lankan protestors, and many active protestors have gone into hiding to evade arrest.

Some protestors said they were “taking a break” or “distancing themselves” due to continued harassment.

However, the authorities maintain that all arrests are in accordance with the law. The government has pointed to acts of retaliatory mob violence on May 09 and the forced occupation of government buildings by protestors on July 09.

“They are calling us terrorists for holding placards. This was such a peaceful protest, the only terrorism carried out was by the government against the people,” said an active protestor, who preferred not to be named.

Fraser wrote that Sri Lankans should not forget that they got to the streets for a system change.

“Live in such a way that your children will thank you for the world they inherit,” she said.

“It’s not over till it’s over. I have an unbelievable amount of high profile people fighting this order for me to leave.”(Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

 

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Sri Lanka to acquire 35,000MT of petrol; unloading on Aug 12

ECONOMYNEXT-  Sri Lanka to receive a cargo of 35,000 metric tonns of petrol on Thursday August 11 with unloading scheduled for Friday, Minister of Power & Energy Kanchana Wijesekara said.

Wijesekara tweeted that the ship will arrive at the Colombo port Thursday night, and that the payment for the cargo had been completed with the support of the Central Bank by Wednesday.

The minister had said earlier on Wednesday that a separate cargo of crude oil is also expected on Saturday August 13, and from August 19 onwards, locally produced fuel is expected to be released to the market from the Sapugaskanda refinery.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report, Lanka IOC, a local unit of the Indian Oil Corporation (OIC), said a vessel carrying 30,000 metric tons of fuel for LIOC is scheduled to arrive between August 10 and 15.

Related: Three shipments of fuel to arrive in Sri Lanka by mid, end July, August: Lanka IOC

Meanwhile, Wijesekara said that 5.7 million people have signed up for the QR-code facilitated National Fuel Pass.

From July 21 up to now, Wijesekara said, a total of 54.9 million litres of fuel had been sold through 1,053 CPC fuel stations while 207 LIOC stations have sold 11.26 million litres of fuel. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

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MPs nominated to Sri Lanka’s parliamentary committee on public finance

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament has appointed members to its Committee on Public Finance, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said.

According to his announcement made in parliament on Wednesday August 10, in terms of the provisions of the Standing Order 121 of Parliament, MPs Bandula Gunawardana,  Vidura Wickramanayaka,  Nalin Fernando,  Anura Priyadharshana Yapa,  Vijitha Herath,  Duminda Dissanayake,  Shehan Semasinghe,  Premitha Bandara Tennakoon and Harsha de Silva have been appointed.

Indika Anuruddha Herath,  Siripala Gamalath, Seetha Arambepola, Suren Raghavan,  M A Sumanthiran,   Kavinda Heshan Jayawardhana,  Mujibur Rahuman,  Harshana Rajakaruna,  Chaminda Wijesiri,  Isuru Dodangoda,  Anupa Pasqual and  (Prof) Ranjith Bandara also have been appointed to serve as members in the Committee on Public Finance.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled a proposed framework during his time as Prime Minister under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for sectoral oversight committees in parliament with the objective of increased bipartisan parliamentary involvement in governance and policy-making.

Wickremesinghe told parliament on July 06 that under such a system, the entire parliament irrespective of party difference will participate in governance.

On July 06, he said he had approached former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayauriya to formulate a proposal on activating the sectoral oversight committees.

Sectoral Oversight Committees shall function for the duration of Parliament and conduct its inquiries notwithstanding any adjournment or prorogation of Parliament, according to the parliament website.

The Committee of Selection shall determine the subjects and functions to be allocated to each Sectoral Oversight Committee.

The Sectoral Oversight Committees shall have the power to examine any Bill, any subsidiary legislation including Regulation, Resolution, Treaty, Report or any other matter relating to subjects and functions within their jurisdiction.

The Parliament, any Committee or a Minister may refer any matter to a Sectoral Oversight Committee having jurisdiction over the subject or function for its consideration and report. (Colombo/Aug11/2022)

 

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