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Sunday March 26th, 2023

Proposed higher education bill will have adverse consequences – FUTA

The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) is warning that the proposed Higher Education Bill on Quality Assurance and Accreditation will have adverse consequences to the state university system.

Speaking to the media today (30) at the Unversity of Colombo Prof Dileepa Witharana said that this bill is the first step in making the Unversity Grant Commission (UGC) redundant.

Witharana added that the bill will hand over the role of quality assurance and accreditation functions of both state universities and private higher education to a commission which is highly politicised.

Witharana further said that this proposed commission is made up of 13 members, four of them are statutory including Secretary to the Higher Education Ministry, Secretary of Finance Ministry, chairman of UGC and the chairman of the National Education Commission (NEC).

Then he said “other nine members are appointed by the President from a pool of 15 members nominated by the Minister of Higher Education, and five out of these nine members work as full-time members of the commission and one of them will chair the commission,”

“It is problematic to allow these five full-time members who are political appointees to virtually run the commission,” he added.

The second problem with the bill is that it simply prescribes external quality assurance as to the main tool to assure the quality of higher education institutes, including the quality of private education institutes.

This assessment is conducted by an externally appointed committee which consists of few outside academics who will visit the higher education institutes for a short duration.

He said that the state universities have different ways to assure quality through forums such as the faculty board, senates and other statutory committees.

“Using only this mechanism will not be adequate enough to assure the quality of a higher education institute, especially it is a controversial thing to use this tool only to private universities which had started in the recent past,” the Professor said. 

The third problem with the bill is that it allows through ‘ cross mobility’ for students from the private universities to move to a state university on the basis of the Sri Lanka Qualification Framework (SLQF) which according to the belief of FUTA will also mark the end of using A/L results as the qualifying examination to recruit students to the state university sector.

“This will allow the movement between two vastly different systems, that is from an immature private higher education system which operates on a profit-seeking basis to a mature state university system positioned on a platform of social justice,” he added.

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Sri Lanka seeks to settle India ACU debt, credit lines over 5-years

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has requested India to settle payments due to the country under the Asian Clearing Union mechanism and credit lines given in 2022 over 5 years, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, an advisor the island’s government said.

Sri Lanka is negotiating with India to settle the money over a 5-year period, Coomaraswamy, a former central bank governor told an online forum hosted by the Central Bank.

“Our request from the Indians is to settle it over five years,” he said. “That I think is still in the early stages of negotiation. The same with the one billion line of credit.”

Sri Lanka’s central bank owed the ACU 2.0 billion US dollars to the Asian Clearing Union according to a year end debt statement, issued by the Finance Ministry.

Sri Lanka owned India, 1,621 million dollars according to ACU data by year end, excluding interest.

India has given a 1 billion US dollar credit line to Sri Lanka as well a credit line for petroleum.

Sri Lanka in March 2024 has paid 121 million US dollar out of a 331 million US dollar IMF tranche to settle an Indian credit line.

Indian credits were given after the country defaulted in April 2022 as budget support/import when most other bilateral lenders halted giving money. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices up 1.16-pct

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s coconut auction prices went up by 1.16 percent from a week ago at an auction on Thursday, data showed.

The average price for 1,000 nuts grew to 83,219.45 from 82,260.58 a week earlier at the weekly auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority on March 23.

The highest price was 92,500 rupees for 1,000 nuts up from the previous week’s 90,600 rupees, while the lowest was 76,500 also up from 70,000 rupees.

The auction offered 900,010 coconuts and 583,291 nuts were sold. (Colombo/Mar 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka in talks for billion dollar equivalent Indian rupee swap

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in talks with India for a billion US dollar equivalent Indian rupee central bank swap, to facilitate trade, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, ad advisor to the government said.

“The amount is still uncertain it could be up to the equivalent of a billion US dollars,” Coomaraswamy told an online forum hosted by Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The money will be used to facilate India Sri Lanka trade, he said.

India has been trying to popularize the use of Indian rupees for external trade and also encouraged Sri Lanka banks to set up Indian rupee VOSTRO accounts.

However the first step in popularizing a currency for external trade is to get domestic agents, especially exporters, to accept their own currency for trade, like in the case of the US or EU, analysts say.

India’s billion US dollar credit to Sri Lanka given during the 2022 crisis is settled in Indian rupees (transaction need).

However the Indian government itself has chosen to denominate it in US currency for debt purposes (future value).

In most South Asian nations, receivers of remittances are willing to accept domestic currencies, leading to active VOSTRO account transactions.

Sri Lanka is expected to repay a 400 million US dollar swap with the Reserve Bank of India next year under an International Monetary Fund backed program for external stability and debt re-structuring.

Central bank swap proceeds sold to banks, which are then sterilized with inflationary open market operations, can trigger forex shortages and currency crises, analysts warn.

Sri Lanka went to the International Monetary Fund after two years of inflationary monetary operations by the central bank’s issue department (money printed to suppress interest rates) triggered the biggest currency crisis in its history and external sovereign default.

Sri Lanka had gone to the IMF 16 times with similar external troubles except for the April 2003 extended fund facility under Central Bank Governor A S Jayewardene which was a purely reform-oriented program with the World Bank (PRGF/PRSP) program at a time when he was collecting reserves with deflationary monetary policy and perhaps the lowest inflation since the Bretton Woods collapsed. (Colombo/Mar26/2023)

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