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Thursday August 18th, 2022

Ranil is staying put; postpones decision to quit

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was expected to resign after he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today has not done so and has deferred the decision to quit to a series of meetings scheduled for tomorrow and the day after.

The new President and the Prime Minister met at the Presidential Secretariat and discussed “the way ahead for the government and Parliament,” a senior official in the Prime Minster’s office told RepublicNext.

After the heavy electoral defeat at the Presidential elections on Saturday, Wickremesinghe was expected to offer his resignation to President Rajapaksa today at their first formal meeting after the President’s inauguration.

There is a growing clamour among the United National Party Members of Parliament that the government should resign and sit in the Opposition allowing President Rajapaksa to appoint an interim government which will function until General Elections are held in four months time.

Two days ago after the defeat at the Presidential poll Cabinet Ministers who met with the PM had urged him to quit and give up government. Yesterday at a stormy Parliamentary Group meeting a number of MPs had insisted that they should resign and not allow the President to dissolve the House until he legally can on March 1, 2020.

A number of Ministers have already submitted their resignations and non-Cabinet Minister Dr Harsha de Silva is the latest to do so today.

Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara told reporters in Colombo this morning, that the UNP will gain a political advantage only if they allow the Rajapaksa camp to take over and attempt to implement their presidential election manifesto in the run-up to an election.

Bandara is not alone in expressing anger and frustration at Wickremesinghe who appears to be dragging his feet.

Wickremesinghe met UNP “seniors” today and is expected to talk to the leaders of the United National Front tomorrow. It is not clear who they were.

Meanwhile, leaders of political parties in Parliament will also meet tomorrow to decide the future course of action the House should take in the light of the Presidential Election which the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna won comfortably.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has asked the party leaders to choose between three options they can take:

First, whether the Parliament would be dissolved according to the Constitution on March 1, 2020 and the poll held sometime in April.

Second whether Parliament should by a two-thirds majority resolve to dissolve the House earlier than March 1st.

And thirdly for the Prime Minister and the government to resign voluntarily and pave the way for the President to appoint an interim government.

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Sri Lanka stocks end steady after CB held policy rates steady; turnover slumps to over 2-wk low

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka stocks closed steady on Thursday (18) with turnover slumping to more than two-week low after the central bank held the key policy rates steady, dealers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged up 0.04% or 3.22 points to 8,910.57. On Tuesday, it fell from its highest
close since March 30.

“We saw the market stabilizing after slipping for the last two days on profit taking,” a top analyst said.

“But overall there was continued buying interest on the energy sector and in addition, we saw buying coming into the plantation-related stocks and their holding companies.”

There had been selling pressure on the banking sector, he said.

At the monthly policy review meeting held today, the central banks kept the rates unchanged.

Market analysts said investors have been looking for profit taking after the index gained nearly 2,000 points in the 12 consecutive sessions through Monday.

Investors, however, have been shifting from top liquid shares to energy and plantation sectors now, analysts said.

The market generated 2.72 billion rupees in turnover, its lowest since August 3 and less than this year’s average daily turnover of 3.13 billion rupees. This is also the lowest turnover in last nine sessions.

Sri Lanka has already declared sovereign debt default on April 12 this year and failed to pay its first sovereign debt in May amid a deepening economic crisis which later turned into a political crisis and led to a change in the president, cabinet, and government.

The more liquid S&P SL20 index ended 0.52% or 15.33 points up at 2,962.33.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst fuel and economic crisis in its post-independence era and the economy is
expected to contract 7 percent this year.

The main ASPI gained 15.2 percent in August so far after gaining 5.3 percent in July. It lost 9.3 percent in
June, 23 percent in April, and 14.5 percent in March.

The market index has lost 27.1 percent so far this year after being one of the world’s best stock markets
with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

Net foreign inflow was 83 million rupees on Thursday, but the total net foreign outflow so far this year is 1.09 billion rupees.

Investors are also concerned over the steep fall of the rupee from 203 to 370 levels so far in 2022.

LOLC pushed the index up, closing 3.4 percent firmer at 589.3 rupees a share.

Sri Lanka Telecom closed 24.9 percent up at 42.2 rupees a share, and Dipped Products slipped 5.5
percent to 44.3 rupees. (Colombo/Aug17/2022)

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Sri Lanka rupee, yields in govt securities slightly changed

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions weakened on Thursday (18) and yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly while in T-bill edged down in dull trade after the central bank kept key monetary policy rates steady, dealers said.

On Thursday, before the market opened, the central bank held its key policy rates steady at 15.50 percent, while data showed market interest rates are close to twice the rate of them while private credit and imports falling as a consequence.

The central bank is injecting 740 billion rupees of overnight money to banks at 15.50 percent, which were originally injected mostly after reserves were sold for imports (or debt repayments) to artificially keep down rates (sterilized interventions), effectively engaging in monetary financing of imports.

The injections (sterilizing outflows) prevent the credit system from adjusting to the outflows and encourage unsustainable credit without deposits, which is the core problem with soft-pegged central banks, triggering a high rate and an economic slowdown later.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.90/28.00 percent, slightly up from 27.75/90 percent on Wednesday.

The three-months bill closed at 28.30/29.25 percent, down from 29.25/30 percent on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions weakened by one cent to 360.97 rupees against the US dollar on Thursday from 360.96 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 367.97 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 18/2022)

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Japan grants medical equipment worth 500-mn yen to Sri Lanka govt hospital

ECONOMYNEXT –  The  Japanese government has granted medical equipment worth 500 million Japanese yen to the Sri Jayawardenepura government hospital to improve the hospital’s treatment facilities under Japan’s Non-Project Grant Aid Programme.

A statement by the Department of External Resources said the grant was given in response to a request by Sri Lanka’s government.

Under the 500 million Japanese yen (approximately 1,265 million rupees) grant assistance, angio-CT machine, other radiology equipment, ophthalmic instruments, surgical instrument sets (stainless steel with satin finish), 15 dental units with accessories, liver transplant instrument sets, and a cardiac catheterization laboratory will be provided, a statement said on Thursday August 18.

Sri Lanka due to its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history is currently facing shortages of essential medicine, non-essential and lifesaving medicines pressuring the health sector to only attend to emergency cases to preserve available limited medicine stocks.

On Thursday at the policy rate announcement media briefing by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the strict measures taken in the recent past, Sri Lanka is currently managing the limited forex income coming into the country to purchase essential goods such as fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka has received various grants from several countries including China and India which gave a 200 million US dollar credit line to purchase medicine from India.

In June, Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella said there is no shortage of vital medicines in the country and all medicines will be restocked by August 2022. However, shortages of medicine aer still being reported in various hospitals islandwide.

“This improvement at the hospital will facilitate the enhancement of the quality of the care provided especially to the patients with non-communicable diseases while enabling high quality medical professional training to medical undergraduates and postgraduates from the National School of Nursing at the aculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura,” the External Resources Department statement said.

“This project will eventually assist the development of human resources of the health sector in Sri Lanka,” it said. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)

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