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Friday February 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka closes all schools amid pandemic resurgence

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will close down all schools, preschools and piriven (monastic schools) in the island till April 30 starting today to contain the spread of COVID-19, Education Minister Prof G L Peiris said.

The minister told reporters today that all decisions with regard to school activities will be taken prioritising the health and safety of school children.

Sri Lanka has seen a surge in daily COVID-19 cases following the Sinhala & Tamil New Year holidays, with authorities fearing a newer, more virulent strain that is said to be affecting younger people.

“This weekend we will have a meeting with health authorities, regional education directors and school principals to decide on the course of action for next week, after May 03,” he said.

Meanwhile health authorities isolated two more Grama Niladhari divisions today, bringing total isolated areas since April 21 to 12.

Siriketha in Hingurakgoda, Polonnaruwa and Pallekumburan in Ukuwela, Matale were isolated from 6.30am today.

Other isolated Grama Niladhari divisions are Polhena, Heeralugedara, Kaluaggala in Kotadeniya, Gampaha, Aswennawaththa East in Minuwangoda, Gampaha, Pelawaththa North and East in Megahatenna, Kalutara, Pupuhar in Trincomalee, Kuliyapitiya, Thittawelgama Niraviya and Nikadalupotha in Kurunegala, Adhikarigoda in Kalutara, and Imbulagoda and Katudampe in Galle.

However, broadcast media reports showed residents in isolated areas moving to other districts and non-isolated areas following yesterday’s declaration. Footage showed no security personnel on duty to stop the residents from moving to other areas.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said 108 people were arrested yesterday for not following quarantine laws, not maintaining physical distance and not wearing facemasks.

“From October 30 till now we have arrested around 3,755, of whom 3,650 have been produced in court,” Rohana told reporters.

“Most were from the Kalutara district,” he said.

Rohana said police will continue to supervise the general public.

“When you return to the workplace after a long weekend, follow the health guidelines. We ask management of all companies to monitor all employees and ensure guidelines are followed,” he said.

“Our aim is to stop the creation of sub clusters and to minimise the spread of the virus as much as possible,” he added. (Colombo/Apr27/2021)

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Sri Lankans may need to wait for Monetary Board meeting minutes despite new Act

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans may have to wait more time to read the meeting minutes of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board, a top official said, despite a new act that has made the central bank to be more transparent and accountable for its decisions.

Many central banks including the United States’ Federal Reserve, India’s Reserve Bank, and Bank of Mexico release the minutes of their monetary policy meeting to ensure transparency.

The new Central Bank Act passed by the Parliament in line with the guidance by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) includes measures for Sri Lanka’s central bank to be more transparent and accountable.

These measures include releasing the Monetary Policy Report every six months and the first such report was released on February 15.

However, the central bank has not taken a decision to release the minutes of the Monetary Board meetings on the monetary policy.

“Going forward, one day this could happen,” Chandranath Amarasekara, Assistant Governor at the Central Bank told reporters on Wednesday (21) at a media briefing.

“Right now, we have just started working on the new Central Bank Act. We are not there yet. There is no such decision on releasing minutes yet.”

The central bank in the past printed billions of rupees to keep the market interest rates artificially low and provide cheap funding for successive governments to propel a debt-driven economy.

It’s decision, however, led Sri Lanka into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with sovereign debt default.

It also propped up the rupee currency artificially in the past to maintain a stable exchange rate at the expense of billions of US dollars. The move also contributed for the economic crisis and later the central bank was forced to allow over 60 percent depreciation in the rupee in March 2022.

However, none of the top central bank officials was held responsible for wrong decisions to hold interest rates artificially low with money printing and propping up the rupee. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Amid mass migration, Sri Lanka to recruit volunteers as English teachers

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to appoint foreign and expatriate volunteers to teach English for Sri Lanka students, the Ministry of Higher Education said, amid thousand of teachers migrating to other countries after the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Over five thousand teachers have left the country with the Education Ministry permission using the government’s circular of temporarily leaving state jobs while tens of thousands of teachers have left the country without informing the relevant authorities, Education Ministry officials say.

That had led to an acute teacher shortage in the country.

Suren Raghavan, the State Minister for Higher Education said the shortage has aggravated because most of the graduates who have an English degree become writers and join the private sector due to higher salary.

“They do not join government schools. This is a problem all over the country which is why we need to have an online system,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

Separately he said on Thursday at a press conference that he had spoken to Canadian and Australian High Commissions to get the assistance of where their English teachers who have experience in teaching English as a second language in South Asia.

He also said that there is a number of teachers in the Unite Kingdom have shown interest in teaching English and they have experience in teaching in other Asian countries such as Burma and India while the teaching would be done free of charge.

The new move also comes at a time when the country’s English literacy rate is on the decline, according to the Minister.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe announced the English-for-all initiative three months ago with plans to improve English literacy at school and university level. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Sri Lanka tea production up 1.4-pct in Jan 2024, exports up 6.8-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production was up 1.4 percent to 18.73 million kilograms in January 2024, with high growns falling and low and mid growns rising, industry data shows.

High grown tea in January 2024 was 3.56 million kilograms, down from 3.36 million, medium growns were 2.6, up from 2.5 million kilograms and low growns were 12.56 million, up from 12.32 million kilograms last year.

Exports, including re-exports were up 6.88 percent to 18.76 million kilograms, industry data published by Ceylon Tea Brokers show.

Export earnings were reported at 102 million US dollars, up from 99.5 million dollars last year. The average FOB price was 5.45 US dollars a kilo down from 5.67 dollars last year.

Tea in bulk was 8.5 million kilograms valued at 12.79 billion rupees, tea in packets was 7.8 million kilograms valued at 13.1 billion rupees and tea in bags was 1.8 million kilos, valued at 5.06 billion rupees.

The top buyer was Iraq with 2.5 million kilos, up from 2.1 million last year followed by the UAE with 1.99 kilos, up from 1.86 million last year.

Russia bought 1.98 million kilos, down from 2.0 last year, Turkey bought 1.72 million kilos, from 2.3 million last year, while Iran bought 1.32 million, up from 614 million last year. (Colombo/Feb23/2024)

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