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President expected to  lay-out the government’s plan to recover from the current crisis today in Parliament

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing Parliament/File Photo

ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will ceremonially declare the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka open this afternoon where he is expected to lay out his plan to pull the country out of its economic issues exacerbated by the global Covid pandemic.

He will arrive in Parliament at 2:40 pm and address the House at 3:00 pm.

The President has been strengthened by his party receiving an unprecedented two-thirds majority in a Parliament elected through Proportional representation.

Top of mind for the President appears to be changes to the Constitution which the government says will be tabled in Parliament mid-September. A Cabinet sub-committee to draft the new law was appointed yesterday.

The changes are expected to bring more executive power back to the Presidency.

With a looming crisis where job losses will be high is what has to be addressed quickly.

Sri Lanka’s economy which is closely tied to a globalized world has had a triple whammy with main foreign earners, tourism, remittances from migrant workers and apparel exports all hit by the pandemic.

Many of the migrant workers have lost their jobs and around 50,000 want to return. The cash they sent home has dried up and will be mostly unemployed when they return.

Small and Medium Industries which employ a large number of workers are also struggling and many have had to lay-off workers as the economy is yet to get off the ground.

Two-hundred and twenty-three Members of Parliament will meet in the House in the morning where the swearing-in of the MPs will take place. Thereafter the election of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, Leader of the Opposition and other parliamentary positions will take place.

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The government will announce who the Leader of the House and the Chief Government Whip will be, and the Opposition will announce who their appointments.

As there won’t be enough space for the government MPs to all sit on their side of the House some will have to be allocated seats in the Opposition side.

Two seats will remain vacant as the United National Party and the Our People’s Power Party are yet to nominate their National List MPs.

The UNP which was stunned by its biggest defeat in history is yet to get around to choosing one among themselves to be in Parliament.

The Buddhist Monks-led OPPP has been squabbling ever since the result to nominate a member and the Elections Commission has sought the Attorney General’s opinion to sort out the issue. (Colombo, August 20, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana