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Friday June 9th, 2023

Sri Lanka analysts frown upon Wickremesinghe’s high defence budget 

Image credit: SL Army

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s budget experts raised concerns over higher defence allocation in 2023 budget and said the move gives wrong signal on rationalizing the public spending.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the finance minister presented 2023 budget in the parliament on Monday (14) which was expected to signal the policies needed to move out of the county’s economic crisis including hard reforms to satisfy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help approve an already agreed $2.9 billion loan.

Wickremesighe, who is also the defence minister, allocated 539 billion rupees for both defence and public security, while allocating 322 billion rupees for health and 232 billion for education, the budget document showed.

High defence budget comes when the country’s armed forces are not fighting any external or internal war. Wickremesinghe, however, allowed armed forces personnel, other than special categories, to retire after 18 years of service. The earlier duration for voluntary retirement was 22 years.

“The elephant in the room is defence. We are spending over 500 billion rupees to maintain the triforces and police. That’s a huge amount of money,” Sujeewa Mudalige, the Chief Executive Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers told a post-budget forum on Tuesday (15).

“It’s 13-years since the end of the conflict. I Think there needs to be a review on this. The quantum of defence doesn’t mean you are secure. If you take 10% of defence at 50 billion rupees to double Samuradhi or imagine health or education getting an additional 50 billion, what transformation will the country get?”

Since the final years of the war, Sri Lanka has always given the top priority to defence and the highest budget allocation had always been given to it because of a large number of armed and police forces, who were mainly recruited during the war.

However, the public have now started to raise questions about if high public resources allocation for the armed forces is rational as there is no war.

“The president spoke of a youth led economy. So imagine what an extra 50 billion would go to the national vocational training? In a few years our defence bill will be at a trillion rupees. We got to review this,” Mudalige said.

“We are happy with one aspect, the military retirement age being brought down to 18 years of service. But I believe it should be further reduced to 10-years because after they are 45 (years), it’s hard to train.”

No politician has antagonized military leaders since the final stage of the war and the military personnel had been highly regarded by the general public despite international probe against their alleged human rights violations in the final stage of the war.

Military since the end of the war has been in forefront in rescue service during time of disasters.

A negative perception about military has been on the rise since armed forces had been allegedly involved in attacking independent protesters in July near presidential secretariat and disperse them from the site where they protested for more than four months.

“Public sector expenditure rationalization is difficult. But my fervent request is we need to look at defence as a starting point,” he said adding that when the economy is contracting, a 64 percent revenue is a very difficult task referring to Wickremesinghe’s tax hike target.

Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) said the government should release resources from the expenditure side that is supporting unproductive activities.
“The public sector is number one, whether it’s the armed forces or general public service and reallocates those resources to sectors that drive growth as well as the poorer segments of the population,” she said. (Colombo/Nov15/2022)

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    When in distress or victims of disaster, when people in such dire situations, are to be immensely commended and admired for that humanistic sense of duty. forces never hesitate to come to the rescue of people. But to use these magnificent people for political manipulation or lawless direction, thus denying basic rights is very regrettable.

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    When in distress or victims of disaster, when people in such dire situations, are to be immensely commended and admired for that humanistic sense of duty. forces never hesitate to come to the rescue of people. But to use these magnificent people for political manipulation or lawless direction, thus denying basic rights is very regrettable.

Sri Lanka’s police, health workers mostly violate rights of LGBTQ community – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.

A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235  during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.

The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.

“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.

“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”

The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism  and lesbianism against the country’s law.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”

Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.

The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.

Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.

“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.

“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law.  Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”

“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”

While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.

“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.

“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)


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Sri Lanka rupee close at 294.50/295.50 to dollar, bond yields up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka spot US dollar closed weaker at 294.50/295.50 rupees and the bonds were up on Thursday, dealers said.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.00/292.00 rupees rupees on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 23.40/60 percent up from 23.10/40 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 26.75/27.00. percent, up from 26.25/60 percent on Wednesday.

(Colombo/ June 08/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares close higher on favorable macroeconomic prospects

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher on Thursday, as investor sentiments picked up on lowered inflation and policy rate cuts, after two consecutive losses in previous sessions due to selling interest and profit taking, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.52 percent or 45.28 points to 8,767.34, this is the highest the index has been since May 18, while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.65 percent or 16.05 points to 2,479.87.

The market was seeing gains, due to lowered policy rates and low inflation stimulating buying interest and driving the sentiment up, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

“There are gradual improvements in the market sentiment, with positive sentiments coming in from lowered policy rates and inflation,” an analyst said.

The market generated foreign inflows of 57 million rupees and received a net foreign outflow of 282 million rupees.

The market generated a revenue of 853 million rupees, this is the highest the turnover has been since June 01, while the daily turnover average was 1 billion rupees. From the total generated revenue, the banking sector contributed 120 million rupees, Diversified Banks contributed 115 million rupees and the Capital Goods Industry generated 78 million rupees.

Top gainers during trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Cargills. (Colombo/June06/2023)

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