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Sunday April 14th, 2024

Sri Lanka airline eyeing flights to Korea, China, Australia, Maldives from August

ECONOMYNEXT – SriLankan Airlines is planning to fly to Korea, China, and Australia if the airport is re-opened for passengers from August as planned in the COVID-era, amid ongoing efforts to boost cargo and slash costs to survive, officials said.

SriLankan is planning to re-open the airport for tourists without mandatory quarantine but multiple PCR tests from August 01 with a revamped route network.

SriLankan used to operate 140 flights a week to India before the Coronavirus crisis hit, bringing about 30-40 percent of revenues, but the country still remains closed with cases still going up. SriLankan was also planning to re-start flights to Frankfurt and Sydney at the time.

Coronavirus Network

“We plan to resume flights from August 01, but we may not go back to the same destinations,” SriLankan Chairman Ashok Pathirage said.

“Our idea is to fly to destinations like China, which is much safer and we are also looking at new destinations like Korea, Seoul.”

Korea has Sri Lankan expatriate workers but it would be a ‘fantastic’ market for tourists, Pathirage said.

After a massive strike in 1987 (The Great Workers Struggle) in the wake of high inflation and currency deprecation which also brought reforms to Korea’s central bank, Korea turned into a Western-style liberal democracy and is now an OECD country.

SriLankan is also planning to start flights into Sydney, in addition to Melbourne which it was already flying to.

The Maldives which is expected to re-open for tourists in July is another destination SriLankan is looking at.

SriLankan has played the role of a surrogate carrier to the Indian Ocean tourist paradise in the past, routing flights through Male, the capital, or transiting through Colombo.

“We are impatiently waiting (for the airport to re-open),” Pathirage said. “Our job is flying and our staff is very keen”.

SriLankan is already operating cargo flights to Seoul and over 20 other destinations.

But passengers could also be carried where airports are permitting, Chief Executive Vipula Gunatilleke said.

Korea has contained the spread of Coronavirus to a great extent, but not to the same extent as Sri Lanka or Vietnam which completely killed the Wave I arrivals from China through quarantine and visa restrictions.

Vietnam has seen no domestic cases from April 22, with a total of 268 foreigners and domestic cases. All others are from returnees and technical specialists brought back. Domestic flights have resumed in Vietnam and there is no social distancing.

Vietnam Airlines is selling domestic tickets with no travel date to raise cash.

Gunatilleke said SriLankan had also examined the possibility of selling travel vouchers but feedback from travel agents indicated weak demand.

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SriLankan was planning to fly direct to Vietnam shortly before the Coronavirus struck, Gunatilleke said.

SriLankan Airlines is now running mostly with cargo revenues and some flights repatriating stranded Sri Lankans abroad, with revenues falling to 20 million US dollars a month from a pre-Coronavirus 80 million US dollars a month.

Freight Operations

A short-haul Airbus A320 aircraft can carry 4-5 tonnes of cargo and the larger A330 could carry 30 tonnes, he said.

With cabin loading, another 7-8 tonnes could be carried.

Seats had been removed in one older A330 to carry cargo in the cabin.

SriLankan is recovering costs on all-cargo flights, Gunatilleke said.

The airline however is trying to keep charges down as exporters also want as low rates as possible, he said.

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SriLankan Airlines outbound flights to London, Tokyo, Hong Kong

At the moment global freight rates are high due to reduced flights and shipping frequencies, but as the situation normalizes margins will reduce, he said.

If the airport re-opens for passengers as planned in August SriLankan is hoping to push up revenues to 35 to 40 million US dollars by December or about 40 percent of pre-Coronavirus revenues, Pathirage said.

Related

SriLankan Airlines to restructure US$680mn in debt, slashing costs to survive after Covid-19

By March the airline is hoping to go back to about 70 percent of pre-crisis revenues. In the year to March 2020, SriLankan lost about 130 million US dollars.

SriLankan is in talks to re-negotiate over 400 million US dollars in debt to state-run Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank, and also wants to re-structure 275 million US dollars owed to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

The airline is also cutting costs to survive the post-COVID era. (Colombo/June23/2020-sb)

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LGBTQIA+ Rights: Europe and South Asia See Similar Discriminatory Practices

ECONOMYNEXT – The rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community have been fraught with challenges and continue to be so, despite the many gains achieved in recent years.

Nor are those handful of rights universally applied, a recent discussion which looked at the European and South Asian perspectives on same-sex rights and unions revealed. Most developed nations have introduced protections for those identifying as LGBTQIA+, and a view from a distant lens paints a picture of tolerance. Yet, a closer look at the European arena throws up the many gaps that are evident in the application of the law.

In the so-called conservative South Asian nations, changes to legislation are slow to be implemented. That may come as a surprise, for, contrary to popular belief, same-sex relationships were culturally acceptable in the South Asian region and is not a Western concept points out Ruhaan Joshi, a Public Policy Practitioner from India.

Society’s view on same-sex relationships dimmed with the imposition of Western values and the criminalisation of such relationships with the advent of colonial rule.

While the LGBTQIA+ communities in South Asian countries currently battle to have same-sex relationships decriminalised and their unions legally accepted, the irony is that countries that first made such relationships punishable by law have moved on to be more welcoming, though some discriminatory practices continue.

Joshi was part of a discussion themed ‘On Being Queer and LGBTQIA+ in South Asia and Europe, held in Germany on April 9 this year. The discussion which included the release of two papers which examined the rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community in Europe and South Asia, respectively, was organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Joining Joshi in the discussion were lawyer and parliamentarian Premnath C Dolawatte from Sri Lanka, Milosz Hodun, President, Projekt Polska Foundation, Poland, Michael Kauch, a Member of the European Parliament and RENEW Europe Group and Inaya Zarakhel, a Dutch-Pakistani actress and an activist on Queer Rights, who moderated the discussion. The two papers were presented by Hodun and Joshi, respectively.

In his opening remarks, Kauch pointed out that while the view of the liberals is that the rights recognized in one member nation of the EU must be accepted by all member countries, that is not the ground reality, the issue of Rainbow families being a case in point.

In the context of the European Union, though the Court of Justice has ruled on the freedom of movement of those in same-sex partnerships and their families, the ruling is not universally applied by member nations.

In Italy, and some European nations, surrogacy which helps childless couples to become parents is illegal. In other situations where same-sex parents are of different nationalities a child in that union faces restriction of movement or the possibility of being stateless if one parent hails from a country where such parental rights are not recognised.

Hodun meanwhile stated that in Poland transgender persons must first sue their parents for the gender assigned to them at birth, to have their gender marker changed on documents.

Some countries such as Russia and Azerbaijan resort to State-sponsored homophobia, and in many instances politicians and political parties promote such biases to boost their voter base it was pointed out. Even where laws are in place for the protection of LGBTQIA+ rights, there is no political will to implement them.

In Europe where migrants arrive in droves seeking asylum, and are frowned upon by many of those countries, LGBTQIA+ members face even more discrimination Hodun says, both by other refugees and governments, where most often the state ignores the situation despite the guidelines issued by the UN and the European Court of Justice. Hate speech and hate crimes too are on the rise he adds stating that at least 80 per cent go unreported.

Increasingly the LGBTQIA+ community has experienced a diminishing of their safe spaces as right-wing and populist governments are elected across the globe. Taking a dig at feminism, meanwhile, Kauch states that though feminists uphold a woman’s right to opt for an abortion, they take a different approach on the topic of surrogacy.

Dolawatte who waded into unchartered waters when he presented a Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise same-sex relationships through an amendment to section 365 of the Penal Code and the repealing of section 365A in its totality, is hopeful that the Bill will pass its third reading. It’s been an uphill battle he says, referring to the case filed in the Supreme Court against the Bill. The court ruled in his favour.

He had little or no support from his own party members, but says the President of the country, and younger party members are with him on this issue. Apart from making Sri Lanka a safe space, it would encourage foreign nationals identifying as LGBTQIA+ to visit without fear, and thus boost tourism he opines.

As Joshi states society has come a long way from when LGBTQIA+ were made fun of and were subject to violence to the positive portrayal in movies. Such movies are also well-received by society. Transgender identity has a distinct recognition in South Asian religious beliefs. Hijra, Khwaja Sara or Kinnar are some names given to transgender folk and they have, since ancient times been an accepted group in society. On the one hand, there’s Afghanistan and the Maldives which make no allowances for the LGBTQIA+ community, while Nepal became the first South Asian nation in 2023, to register a same-sex marriage, Joshi states. In most South Asian nations, the courts have ruled in favour of relaxing the rules against this community, and, like in Europe, it is the governments that drag their feet.

For governments to change their stance, society must take the lead in fighting for the unconditional dignity of the individual, freedom of movement, and safeguarding the tenets of democracy, he says adding that it must also run parallel with the LGBTQIA+ community looking beyond themselves at issues that impact democratic values, and the societal restrictions non-LGBTIQIA+ groups face, such as opposition to inter-caste marriage and the right to adopt outside their caste systems and equal access to many other privileges.

While the panellists advocated working together across the global divide as a step towards achieving equal rights for all, Dolawatte also called for caution; too much pressure on such issues from Europe he said may not be welcome, and must be handled with care.

With right-wing and populist governments getting elected across the globe, Kauch claims the forthcoming EU elections will prove crucial in deciding how future and current governments ensure tolerance and diversity amongst their citizenry.

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Sri Lanka making new economic laws to embed structural reforms

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making new laws and also revising old legislation following a comprehensive review of past experience and lessons learned, Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana has said.

Most of these new laws focus on structural changes of the existing executive and administrative structures, Siriwardana was quoted as saying in a speech to ministry officials on April 08.

The laws related to public finance, procurement, public private partnerships, state enterprises and also a law on the offshore economy.

The following new laws are being made:

a. Public Financial Management Bill
b. Public Debt Management Bill
c. Economic Transformation Bill
d. Management of State Owned Enterprises Law
e. Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law
f. Investment Law
g. Public Procurement Bill
h. Unified Labor Law Bill
i. Food Security Bill
j. Public Asset Management Bill
k. Microfinance and Credit Regulatory Authority Bill
l. Secured Transaction Bill
m.Offshore Economic Management Bill
n. New law for facilitating proposed agricultural land lease programme
Public Service Employment Bill
o. Sri Lanka Accounting and Standard Monitoring Act

Changes are planned to the following laws

a. Amendments to Agrarian Development Act
b. Amendments to Excise Ordinance
c. Amendments to Customs Ordinance
d. Amendments to Finance Act
e. Amendments to Foreign Exchange Act. Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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After PM’s Chinese visit, US NSA talks to Sri Lanka President’s advisor on peace, security

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan held talks with Sri Lanka President’s Senior Advisor on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka focusing on regional security issues this week.

The conversation between the two comes days after Sri Lanka Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena ended an official visit to China in which he met President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Qiang in Beijing amid discussions over further investments in Sri Lanka and concerns over banning Chinese research ships.

The United States along with India is highly concerned over increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, which is located in a strategic location in the Asia.

China already owns a port and a proclaimed land next to the main Colombo port in Sri Lanka and analysts say the Beijing’s ownership of assets has raised doubts if China is planning to use Sri Lanka as a military base. China has denied this and said its relationship with Sri Lanka is only based on commercial aspects.

The discussion between Sullivan and Ratnayaka focused on a range of crucial topics aimed at bolstering bilateral relations between the two nations, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

“Central to their discussion was the unwavering U.S. commitment to supporting Sri Lanka’s security and sovereignty,” the PMD said in a statement.

“Acknowledging Sri Lanka’s ongoing endeavours, Sullivan emphasized the importance of completing the fiscal, monetary, and governance aspects of the IMF program.”

The US along with India has raised possible threats of increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, government officials have said. Both  countries see China as a security threat to the Indian Ocean region, they say.

“The conversation also delved into future prospects for collaboration between the two countries, exploring avenues for enhanced cooperation in various spheres,” the PMD said.

“Sullivan conveyed his keen interest in fostering continued engagement with Sri Lanka, underscoring the mutual objective of advancing peace and security in the region.”

“This dialogue marks a pivotal moment in U.S.-Sri Lanka relations, demonstrating a shared commitment to promoting stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.” (Colombo/April 13/2024)

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