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Tuesday December 5th, 2023

Sri Lanka 2022 interim budget proposes new targeted welfare system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new mechanism to find eligible welfare beneficiaries in Sri Lanka will see better-targeted welfare programmes and cash transfers that will be made directly to beneficiaries’ bank accounts, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

Presenting an interim budget for the remainder of the year, Wickremesinghe told parliament on Tuesday August 30 that the new mechanism, upon its completion, will also ensure that transparent laws and systems are in place.

Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis in 74  years of independence, and the public is facing immense hardships due to rising prices and shortages of a number of goods. In the midst of a crippling foreign exchange shortage, the island nation has had to default on its external debt and much needed but politically unpopular economic reforms including expenditure cuts are already under way that that will add to the people’s difficulties in the short term.

“I am well aware of the difficulties faced by many due to the ongoing crisis. That’s why I decided to cut some of the capital expenditure and find room to provide enhanced support for vulnerable communities,” President Wickremesinghe said.

He noted that, between May and July 2022, the government had spent 31 billion rupees to as a monthly allowance in urgent assistance o those affected due to loss of employment, decline in agriculture or inability to cultivate.

“I propose to continue this programme for another four months to reduce the pressure of the economic crisis [on those people],” he said.

Other welfare measures include 2,500 rupees in addition to 20,000 rupees already paid to pregnant women, and 10,000 rupees to be allocated per family to 61,000 food-insecure families in need of urgent assistance. Some 46.6 billion rupees has been allocated for these measures, according to the interim budget document.

As previously announced by Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara, direct cash transfers will be made to fisheries and plantation sector workers who are impacted by a recent hike in kerosene prices.

Meanwhile, 133 billion rupees has been allocated under a World Bank loan and approval has been obtained through the Supplementary Estimate presented prior to the interim budget reading to provide immediater elief to around 3.2 million people affected by the current economic situation.

Under this, the president said, the monthly Samurdhi allowance has been increased to an amount ranging between 5,000 and 7,500 rupees per month for approximately 1.7m illion families currently Samurdhi. Apart from this, 5,000 rupees was provided per month temporarily to around 726,000 families who were in a waiting list for expecting Samurdhi benefits.

An allowance paid for Sri Lanka’s elderly, disabled, and kidney patients has also been increased to 5,000 to 7,500 rupees, and a temporary assistance of 5,000 rupees has been allocated for people in the waiting lists for this assistance.

In addition to the above concessions provided under this project, 110 million US dollars (40 billion rupees) has been allocated for the import of urea requiredf or paddy cultivation in the 2022/2023 ‘Maha’ season, and fertilizerp rocurement is already underway, said the president.

“I believe that this will enable paddy farmers to get a good harvest in the coming season and we will thus be able to get rice at a reasonable price consumers,” he said.

“Under the same loan facility, domestic cooking gas was imported and distributed in the country during a short time duration to overcome thed domestic gas shortage that had arisen due to the currents hortage of foreign exchange. Also, we are working to meet the domestic gas requirement without shortage in the future as well. It is intended to spend about 70 million US dollars (25 billion rupees) from this loan assistance for that.” (Colombo/Aug 30/2022)

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Sri Lanka finding ways to clear 1.1mn pending cases: Justice Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is taking a series of steps to speed up 1.1 million pending court cases and encourage alternative dispute solving mechanisms, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe said.

“The delay in court cases is a serious problem,” Minister Rajapakshe told a briefing at the President’s Media Centre.

“We have already taken several steps to expedite cases.”

There were 5,680 cases in Supreme Court, 4,054 in the Court of Appeal, 6,168 in the High Court of Civil Appeal, 8,363 in the Commercial High Court, 28,000 in the High Court, 254,000 in District Courts and 791,000 in Magistrates Courts.

In 2015, only 49 percent of complaints to mediation boards were resolved. Following reforms, the ratio has been increased to 70 percent.

The value of disputes going to mediation board has been raised to one million rupees from 500,000 rupees.

To solve land problems in the post-war period, special mediation boards on property was set up in the North and the East.

Mediation boards on property will be set up in another 16 districts.

Commercial High Courts were increased to four from three.

Another Commercial High Court will be set up in the future. The consideration of cases that can go to a High Court was raised from 4 million rupees to 10 million rupees.

A commercial dispute resolution law will be introduced next January.

A small claims court has been established.

Case involving disputes below 2 million rupees can be directed to small claims court.

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Sri Lanka stocks close up as some investor interest returns

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Monday, CSE data showed.

The All Share Price Index was up 0.22 percent, or 23.33 points, at 10,743.59.

The S&P SL20 index was up 0.68 percent, or 20.60 points, at 3,067.73.

Turnover was at 708 million. The banks sector contributed 189 million, while the food, beverage and tobacco sector contributed 176 million of this.

Sri Lanka’s stock market has seen some investor interest return after last week’s news that the country had managed an agreement on a debt restructuring deal with an official creditor committee, and foreign funds for some development projects resumed.

Top positive contributors to the ASPI in the day were Sampath Bank Plc (up at 71.50), LOLC Holdings Plc (up at 379.00), and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc, (up at 90.90).

There was a net foreign outflow of 52 million.

Citrus Leisure Plc, which announced that its banquet hall and revolving restaurant at the Lotus Tower would launch on or around Dec 9, saw its share price rise to 6.20 rupees. (Colombo/Dec4/2023).

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Sri Lanka rupee closes broadly steady at 328.10/30 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 328.10/30 to the US dollar on Monday, from 328.00/10 on Friday, dealers said.

Bond yields were stable.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2025 closed at 13.70/14.00 percent from 13.70/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 closed at 13.90/14.10 percent from 13.90/14.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 closed at 14.00/14.10 percent from 14.05/10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 14.20/35 percent from 14.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 14.25/45 percent, from 14.20/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 14.05/40 percent, from 14.00/45 percent. (Colombo/Dec4/2023)

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