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Thursday August 18th, 2022

Sri Lanka consumers warned on impending ‘electric shock’ after coal plant scrapping

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power consumers, who are already paying high prices will have to shell out even more in the future, after a cheap coal plant which was about to be built was scrapped, engineers at state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has warned.

CEB is now generating coal power at about 4.36 rupees a unit, and the next cheapest source of thermal power from residual oil costs about 17.80 rupees a unit, CEB Engineers Union said, making a gap of about 13.44 rupees.

In August 2016 Sri Lanka is generated about 48 percent of total energy or 566 million units of electricity (GigaWatthours) from coal creating a potential saving of about 7,600 billion rupees a month on a conservative estimate.

Coal Bonanza

At 20 rupees a unit, the ‘savings’ from Norchocholai plants is about 8.8 billion rupees a month or about 295 million rupees a unit in running costs.

CEB Engineers Union chief Athula Wanniarachchi told reporters that with the coal plant scrapped and replaced with more expensive fuels, prices will eventually have to go up.

Sri Lanka was able to reduce power tariffs, and also avoid power cuts mostly due to the Norochcholai coal plant, engineers said.

Global fuel prices are also lower with a stronger US dollar.

"If the CEB makes losses, the costs will eventually have to be recovered from the public with taxes on food or value added tax," Wanniarachchi said.

Sri Lanka’s power consumption, which was in low single digits for the past two years, has picked up with an economic recovery in 2015 and is also growing at over 8 percent in 2016, leading to power shortages by 2018.

A planned coal plant to be built in Sampur around 2020 was suddenly halted by the new administration, in a sad repeat of the cycle seen earlier, which led to high power costs, power cuts, and economic collapses in the past, power sector analysts have pointed out.

Same Game

The start of the Sampur plant was also delayed locations were shifted and CEB officials were battling with India’ National Thermal Power Corporation to build a more efficient plant with a better heat rate to save money.

The coal plants was about to be internationally tendered this year, when a decision to change to LNG was announced and an environmental organization also went to court against the plant at the same time.

CEB has proposed coal plants since the early 1990s but they were delayed due to opposition from Catholic and Buddhist clergy and environmentalists.

Environmentalists oppose both coal plants and renewable large hydro plants which generate cheap power, engineers pointed out.

However there was little or no opposition to diesel plants or to the now proposed liquefied natural gas. LNG is ‘cleaner’ than coal.

If politicians did not block a Japanese funded plant in Norochcholai, a much more environmentally friendly plant could have been built, engineers said.

Power analysts have estimated that a delay in a coal plant from 1996 to 2006 would have cost the CEB and taxpayers about 900 billion rupees extra money, not counting the cost of economic downturns.

"Who is accountable for this?" asked Wanniarachchi. "All those who opposed the plant was nowhere to be seen when the power crisis occurred."


CEB engineers said they did not oppose LNG, but they wanted planned coal plants to go ahead. A proposed 1,200 MW Japanese funded plant in Trincomalee would be modern much cleaner plant.

LNG was more suited to the Western province where existing diesel plants could also be converted.

Engineers also warned that LNG prices, which have been unusually low following the ‘Great Recession’ may also start to move up and resume its historical trend of following oil prices.

The average selling price of electricity was brought down in Sri Lanka to 15.95 rupees a unit in 2015 from 18.50 in 2014 and the CEB also stopped making losses, mostly due to the coal plant. Falling oil prices also helped.

Last month, Singapore, which uses LNG for base load, raised retail prices by 9 percent to 19.27 Singapore cents or about 20.60 Sri Lanka rupees a unit for households.

"For the period from 1 Jul to 30 Sep 2016, electricity tariffs will increase by an average of 9.2% or 1.59 cents per kWh compared to the previous quarter," Singapore power told consumers.

"The increase is largely due to the cost of natural gas for electricity generation, which rose by 26.0 percent compared to second quarter 2016. This was partly offset by lower non-fuel costs."



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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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Sri Lanka immigration on the hunt for Scotswoman who documented protests

Kayleigh Fraser via @kayzfraser Instagram

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department is attempting to track down Kayleigh Fraser, the Scotswoman who documented the country’s anti government protests.

Fraser was ordered to leave the island on or before Monday August 15 after officials cancelled her visa. She and her lawyer had filed a writ petition against her deportation with the Supreme Court, which was dismissed on the grounds that she was not being deported deported, only had her visa cancelled.

“The learned State Council submits that the impugned document ‘X4’ is not a deportation order as claimed by the petitioner and she confirmed that no deportation order has been made up to date by the authorities against the petitioner,” a court document shared by Fraser said.

Immigration officials stated that the police and SSD were on the lookout for Fraser.

“Her visa was cancelled on August 15, so we are looking to put her in a detention camp until she can get a ticket to leave the country,” the official told EconomyNext, confirming that Fraser was not getting deported but that her visa was cancelled.

“Legally we cannot give her a grace period, but on a humanitarian basis, we can give her the time to get a ticket,” the official said.

Fraser had used her social media to share pictures and videos of the anti-government protests in front of the Presidential Secretariat, and has been vocal against state sanctioned violence against protestors.

“Given what I have witnessed here in Colombo – the chemical weapons attacks on protestors, the government instructing the military to beat and torture protestors, the arbitrary arrests and blackmailing of prominent faces from the protests, intimidation tactics and threats etc – I should not be surprised at what has happened today,” she said, speaking to the Daily Record, a Scottish tabloid.

There were no reports of chemical weapons being used against any protestors in Sri Lanka, and it is unclear whether Fraser was erroneously referring to tear gas which was used to disperse crowds.

Fraser also called out media channels who she claimed had attempted to misrepresent peaceful protests as violent.

“It became very clear to me early on that this was not being reported. There was no international coverage on what was happening, and the media here were very much trying to say that it was violent, but that is the absolute opposite of what I saw,” she said over social media.

“What I saw was a beautiful union [of people] coming together in absolute unity. It was a beautiful movement and I’ve never seen anything like that in my life and that kept me coming back.”

However, Sri Lanka’s authorities maintain that the arrests so far have been legal and that violence did occur on the part of some protestors, though activists and some civil society groups disagree. On May 09, after supporters of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa launched an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors in Colombo, a wave of retaliatory mob-violence erupted across the country which saw the residences of some parliamentarians torched to the ground. One government MP was killed.

Authorities say many of the arrests so far have been of protestors who had violated court orders or had illegally occupied government buildings.

Fraser continues to post on her social media. (Colombo/Aug18/2022)


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