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Friday June 21st, 2024

Sri Lanka Coronavirus battle stepped up with partial airport shutdown

CORONA CONTROLS: A worker sprays disinfectant to sanitize a public bus as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus at a bus station in Colombo on March 16, 2020. Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka stepped up its battle against Coronavirus (COVID19) with a partial shut-down of its airport for two weeks and most businesses and state agencies closed to prevent people moving.

Arriving passenger will not be accepted from March 18 midnight until further notice, Director Operations Airport and Aviation Services, Director Shehan Sumanasekara said.

“Cargo flight will be accommodated as usual,” he said.

Transit and departures will be operated.


Sri Lanka airport to suspend arrivals for two weeks

The government has declared a three-day holiday asking all non-essential businesses not to operate on March 17, 18 and 19 while asking some key government services and private businesses in banking, food transport, and distribution to operate.

“Do not consider these Public Holidays (government agencies),’ Director of Government Information Nalaka Kaluwewa said in a statement.

“Except for health, food supply, transport, essential services, banks, District Secretary and other divisional secretary offices, the holiday would apply to all ministries, departments, corporations and state agencies.

“The government is asking the holiday to be given to the private sector as well. Monitoring the transmission of the COVID19 virus the government may or may not extend this holiday.”

On Monday Sri Lanka’s confirmed coronavirus patients jumped by 06 to 35 patients including the first Chinese tourists. There were 203 persons under investigations at 18 hospitals as of Monday.


Sri Lanka Coronavirus count climbs to 35 on March 17

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said a soldier working with quarantined passengers had also become ill after an altercation with Italian returnees at the airport who refused to be quarantined.

Sri Lanka’s stock market would be closed on Tuesday, a spokesman for the stock market regulator said.

Sri Lanka had closed schools, universities, museums, zoos in a bid to keep people at home and stop the spread of the virus. Court hearings and exams have been postponed. Church services have been closed until the end of the month.

“The idea is to prevent the gathering of people in one place,” Information Minister Bandula Gunewardene told reporters Monday.

“Many religious leaders are also asking people to engage in religious activities at home. The senior theros of Sripada (a popular seasonal pilgrimage location) is also asking the same.”

On Monday Sri Lanka added Qatar, Bahrain, and Canada to the list of countries from which travelers would not be allowed.

Qatari, Canadian or Bahraini nationalities or any passenger who has a travel history in the last 14 days will not be permitted to land in Sri Lanka from midnight March 17 for two weeks, Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Upali Dharmadasa said in a statement.

Carriers were also asked not to board anyone with a travel history in Iran, South Korea, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Denmark would for the last 14 days.

Infections confirmed so far have been among mostly from Sri Lankans returning from infected countries, who were either working or on holiday.

Sri Lanka also asked anyone who had arrived from Europe, Italy or Iran to register with police or risk punishment under the provisions of a Quarantine Ordinance as confirmed cases went up.


Sri Lanka asks returnees from Europe, Korea to register or risk punishment

Sri Lanka bars travelers from Qatar, Bahrain and Canada to control Coronavirus

The head of Sri Lanka’s health service Anil Jasinghe asked anyone experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus to go to one of the designated state hospitals and not to stay at home, or go to private hospitals.

People who go around without getting admitted would be prosecuted he said.


Sri Lanka wants to prosecute patient who delayed testing for COVID19

Sri Lanka foreign ministry suspends consular services in Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said it was suspending regular consular services in Colombo.

Infections are spreading in new countries. Overnight a returnee from India’s Kerala region was confirmed with Coronavirus.

Sri Lanka has asked the public not to travel abroad or use the holiday to travel domestically and avoid all public gatherings.

Many countries are urging all returnees from abroad to go into 14-day self-quarantine.

Coronavirus hits older persons and those with a history of diabetes or chronic conditions, who develop a form of pneumonia, health officials have said while younger people get a fever and a cough for about a week. Children are hardly affected.

Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) asked the government to close borders, as the health service did not have ventilators in (to support intubated patients in intensive care units) to treat patients with pneumonia or severe complications.

British officials are advising older people to go into self-quarantine until the epidemic runs its course and the population develops immunity.

Several European countries have also asked all businesses to close except for those in food distribution and essential services.

Sri Lanka’s central bank said it was cutting rates and a reserve ratio releasing liquidity in the banking system from March 17, despite not having a free-floating exchange rate. On Friday the central bank injected 50 billion rupees.

Sri Lanka oppositions have called for upcoming elections in April to be halted.


Sajith demands the postponement of polls to save lives from COVID19

JVP led NPP decides to temporarily halt election campaign

Another party said it was halting campaigning. (Colombo/Mar17/2020-sb)

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Indian FM meets Sri Lanka political leaders; focuses on committed deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar met President Ranil Wickremesinghe and a range of political leaders during his visit to Sri Lanka, focusing on commitments made by Sri Lanka to India, including land and energy pipeline connectivity.

Sri Lanka has committed to renewable energy deals for the Indian Adani group, Trincomalee port development, an investment zone around the port, a bridge between the island nation’s Northern Mannar and South India’s Rameshwaram, a power grid, and an oil and gas pipeline between the two nations.

Though most of the committed projects have been discussed and some already signed, they face delays amid public protests, court cases on environmental concerns, anti-Indian sentiments triggered by high prices of renewable projects, local politicians as well as perceived Chinese influence, analysts say.

India has been pushing Sri Lanka to fast-track these deals under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Jaishankar’s visit also comes ahead of Sri Lanka’s presidential polls later this year.

Jaishankar met President Wickremesinghe in a one-on-one meeting, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry before delegation-level talks with Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Agriculture and Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, and Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera.

“Appreciated the progress made on various bilateral projects and initiatives. Under President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s guidance, we discussed the way forward for India-Sri Lanka cooperation, especially in power, energy, connectivity, port infrastructure, aviation, digital, health, food security, education, and tourism sectors,” Jaishankar said on his official Twitter platform.

He also met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and leaders of various political parties from the North, East, and the upcountry region.

“Interaction of EAM with the leadership of the Government of Sri Lanka provided an opportunity to review and accelerate progress in the multifaceted India-Sri Lanka partnership,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

One of the key focus areas of discussion was the Vision Document adopted by President Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Modi during the Sri Lankan leader’s visit to India in July 2023.

“Discussions added momentum to the ongoing projects as well as initiatives for promoting connectivity in all its dimensions, particularly in domains of energy, physical infrastructure as well as economic and people-to-people ties.”

Jaishankar also met leaders of Sri Lanka’s upcountry Tamils, who originally came from India as plantation workers. He discussed development and devolution of power with an eight-member delegation of Tamil leaders from the Northern and Eastern provinces, including Shanakiyan Rasamanikkam and M. A. Sumanthiran.

India helped Sri Lanka with financial and humanitarian aid when the island nation faced an unprecedented economic crisis amid delays by the International Monetary Fund loan to rescue Sri Lanka.

“Following Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and stabilization, forging deeper long-term economic cooperation was underlined as a priority for sustainable and equitable growth of Sri Lanka, and mutual prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said.

Though the Sri Lankan government has claimed that Jaishankar’s visit was a precursor to Indian Prime Minister’s visit, the Indian External Affairs Ministry did not mention anything about a possible Modi visit.

This visit is Jaishankar’s first bilateral visit after the formation of the new government.

The Adani wind power project in the Northern district of Mannar has seen some public protests over environmental concerns after some experts said the project has failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Critics also protest against its transparency.

President Wickremesinghe, opposition leader Premadasa, and Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka are expected to contest in the election to choose the island nation’s 8th leader.

Sri Lankan leaders have been under pressure from India in the past two decades amid increasing Chinese influence in the island nation, seen as a security threat to India, analysts say.

The docking of a Chinese nuclear submarine in 2014 led to a dramatic government change in the 2015 presidential poll with the ousting of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who later accused India of orchestrating his defeat.

Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya in 2021 unilaterally canceled a key port terminal project given to India’s Adani group after promising Jaishankar to sign the deal.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was later forced to flee the country in 2022 after mass protests due to his economic policies. (Colombo/June 21/2024)

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Sri Lanka car permit tax losses Rs14bn in two years of partial disclosure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has lost 14.3 billion rupees in taxes from car permits given to public servants, including doctors, military officers, central bankers, finance ministry and tax officials, in 2019 and 2020 information disclosed by the finance ministry shows.

Inclusive of some 2021 tax losses when imports were banned for the rest of the year, 14.4 billion rupees of foregone revenue from a waived luxury tax is shown.

The list only shows waivers of a so-called ‘luxury tax’ imposed on larger vehicles above a certain value and size.

The list does not show other vehicles imported under car permits such as double cabs or cars below a certain size.

The list also does not seem to include tax free cars imported by politicians.

In 2019, Sri Lanka has lost 8.3 billion rupees from the luxury tax on car permits and in 2019 the loss 5.92 billion rupees.

In 2021 when car imports were stopped as the central bank started printing money to cut rates and target ‘potential output’ only 85.6 million rupees were lost.

Among the biggest tax waivers of over 10 million rupees went to some doctors and military officers. Doctors were among the biggest users of tax slashed car permits in the list.

Sri Lanka at one time did not allow cars imported by state workers to be transferred for many years.

But reportedly after Customs raided a finance company involving a fleet of vehicles, the rule was relaxed by the then President.

Among the largest tax waivers listed were given to Rolls Royce and Maclaren assigned to Melwire Rolling (Pvt) Ltd.

The 45.6 million rupee Rolls Royce was given a 42.1 million rupee tax waiver.

The 41.46 million McLaren was given a 37.9 million tax waiver.

There were also a large number of Audi A5 and Q2 vehicles listed at prices over 80 million rupee. It is not clear whether the disclosure is an error. The market value of the A5 and Q2 are much lower.

Up to end 2023, 138 cars imported under a migrant worker remittance scheme was listed to lose 436 million rupees in luxury taxes.
The total for the three years was listed at 14.86 billion rupees, involving 2,034 cars in 2019 and 1,470 cars in 2020.

It is not known how much the total tax losses or total vehicle imported through ‘car permits’ is. (Colombo/June20/2024)

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Construction of Sampur solar power plant to begin mid-July

ECONOMYNEXT – Joint energy projects between India and Sri Lanka, including the Sampur solar power plant due to begin next month, took centre stage during bilateral discussions between president Ranil Wickremesinghe and visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday.

Wickremesinghe and Jaishankar discussed initiatives aimed at enhancing energy connectivity and developing the renewable energy sector, a statement by his media division said.

“Significant attention was given to plans for an LNG supply, a proposed petroleum pipeline linking the two countries, and advancing oil and gas exploration projects. Additionally, it was announced that construction of the Sampur Solar Power Plant is set to commence in July 2024.”

The visit comes amid delays in key Indian projects including land, oil and gas pipe, and grid connectivity deals, Adani’s wind power plant deals which are facing a legal battle, and port and investment zone projects in the Eastern port district of Trincomalee.

Indian supported projects for developing Trincomalee and expanding the Kankasanthurai port, the ongoing development of Jaffna Airport and Colombo Airport, and the expediting the unique digital identity card project were discussed.

The efficiency of projects supported by the Indian government aimed at bolstering Sri Lanka’s liquid milk industry and fertilizer production, were also examined.

Sri Lankan leaders have been under pressure from India in the past two decades amid increasing Chinese influence in the island nation as the move is seen as a security threat to India, analysts say. (Colombo/Jun20/2024)

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