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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka Coronavirus fight joined by curfew, credit relief and border controls

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka declared curfew Wednesday in an area with a concentration of returnees from Italy, a day after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered asked banks to give credit relief to businesses hit by Coronavirus and suspended foreign arrivals from March 19.

Puttalam Hotspot

Curfew was declared in several police areas in the Puttalam and Negombo districts from 1630 hours on March 18.

Sri Lanka’s Army Chief Shavendra Silva had told reporters a day earlier were about 800 returnees from Italy in the Puttalam district who had not registered with the police.

“If they do not comply and register we may have to do something about the whole area,” he warned.

Minister Wanniarachchi said the government was not rushing to lockdown an area since it will hit the poorest most.

Authorities were also chasing down between 1,500 to 2,000 persons who were on the loose who had arrived in the country before quarantine began.

They have been asked to register with police.

But some were not in self-quarantine and were also dodging military intelligence and health officials instead of staying at home.

“Our people have no discipline,” Minister Wanniarachchi said. “When the Chinese working here were asked to be on self-quarantine they stayed inside their houses without going anywhere.”

Over 2,500 persons were in quarantine at 16 centres.

Sri Lanka was also making the Welikanda hospital a treatment centre for Coronavirus patients taking the total designated hospital around the country to 18.

Credit Relief

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered banks to give six months of credit relief to businesses that were hit by Coronavirus.

“Loan repayments to banks and financial institutions are a big burden for businesses,” President Rajapaksa said in a television address to the nation.

“I am ordering that debt should not be collected or six months and for working capital to be provided at 4 percent.”

Though the effect on the banking sector from the move is unclear Sri Lanka’s businesses are struggling with people asked to stay at home, with transport, food distribution and retail and state agencies in health is unclear, businesses except food retail benefitting from panic buying.

The president also slapped price control on dhal, a popular imported food at 65 rupees a kilogram and a tinned fish at 100 rupees. Tinned fish is a popular food among the poor but prices are artificially kept up with import duties to benefit a handful of rent seeking domestic businessmen.

President Rajapaksa called for broad co-operation to tackle the crisis.


Sri Lanka President orders 6-month debt moratorium, 4-pct working capital

President calls on citizens to cooperate to fight virus

Border Controls

Sri Lanka is closing the airport for foreign arrivals for a time but is allowing those in the country to leave.

The island’s Civil Aviation Authority said the closure will initially apply from 0400 hours on March 19,2020 till 2359 hours on March 25.

“The closure will be reviewed by the Sri Lanka Authorities,” the CAA said.

Aircraft could depart with passengers originating in Colombo, stop overs, transit passengers or tourists.

Emergency diversions, humanitarian flights, freighter operations, technical landings and inbound ferry flights without passengers, would be permitted.

International travelers going through Colombo were barred from staying for more than 6 hours at the airport.


Sri Lanka airports to suspend arrivals till March 25 – Updated

Many businesses remain closed with the government declaring a holiday for all businesses in non-essential services and many state agencies are also closed.

The immigration office is closed but foreigners who require visa renewals can either leave the country by paying fees at the airport without a penalty or wait till April 08, the agency said.

As the count went up Director General of Health Anil Jasinghe said nightclubs and casinos in Colombo may be closed.

Sri Lanka’s Coronavirus climbed to 51 with about 200 under watch in hospital.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said a soldier who had had an altercation with returnees from Italy had become ill who was working with quarantine centres had become ill.


Sri Lanka Coronavirus patient climbs to 51, mostly returnees

A new study by the US Centres for Disease Control said the new Coronvirus could survive longer in the environment than earlier thought.


Coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours: CDC-UCLA-Princeton COVID19 study

(Colombo/Mar18/2020 – Update III)

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Time right for elections, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna ready to face any poll: Basil

File photo: SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — The time has come for an election in Sri Lanka and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is ready to face any election, SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa said, dismissing claims that the party has come to fear elections in the face of growing unpopularity and increased factionalisation.

Speaking to reporters at an event held in Colombo Monday December 05 morning to mark the fourth anniversary of the party’s media centre, Rajapaksa handwaved off assertions that the SLPP has splintered in the wake of the mass protests that ousted his brother and former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“No, our party hasn’t fragmented, not the way this cake was cut,” he said, pointing to the cake that was cut to celebrate the media centre’s anniversary.

“There may be some [dissenters], but we are with the people,” said Rajapaksa.

Political analysts, however, note that the once mighty SLPP has indeed fractured to at least four or five distinct factions. One group, according to party sources, is with President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is keen to involve younger SLPP legislators in his economic reform agenda. The second is with former Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency and was roundly defeated by Wickremesinghe at the July 19 presidential vote in parliament. The third group now sits as independent MPs in parliament, while a fourth faction are with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLPP patriarch.

There is another group that remains loyal to Basil Rajapaksa, though all but one SLPP legislator voted for the 21st amendment to the constitution that prohibited dual citizens from entering parliament. Rajapaksa, a dual citizen with US passport, recently returned to the island after a private visit to his second home.

The former finance minister, who resigned after a wave of protests that demanded his departure along with that of his presidential brother, for their alleged role in Sri Lanka’s prevailing currency crisis, the worst in decades, was in a jovial mood at the anniversary event on Monday and was seen heartily indulging reporters who were throwing loaded question after loaded question at him.

Asked about future plans of the SLPP, Rajapaksa quipped that they couldn’t be revealed to the media at this stage.

“However, time has come for an election. It’s difficult to say how it will be at present, but as a party, we’re ready to face any election,” he said.

Rajapaksa’s apparent confidence in facing an election is in direct contrast to speculation that the SLPP is banking on President Wickremesinghe’s refusal to dissolve parliament anytime soon. Opposition lawmakers have accused Wickremesinghe of providing sanctuary and promising security to the deeply unpopular party by not calling early elections.

“We have won every election we faced so far. We are thankful to the Sri Lankan people for that. If we were unable to meet their expectations 100 percent, we regret that. We will correct any shortcomings and will work to fulfill the people’s aspirations,” said Rajapaksa.

Asked if he is going to remain in active politics despite the blanket ban on dual citizens, the former minister said, again with a chuckle: “Active politics… well, I’m not in governance anymore. Governance [for me] has been banned by the 21st amendment. So no, I’m not in governance, but I am in politics,” he said.

Pressed about possibly entering parliament again, he said: “How can I?”

Nor is Rajapaksa saddened by the development, he claimed. “No, I’m happy about it,” he said.

The former two-time finance minister, noted for his clash of views with Wickremesinghe when the latter was invited by then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for a round of discussions on economic recovery, was cautiously complimentary when asked about the new president. It was the SLPP’s backing that guaranteed Wickremesinghe his lifelong ambition.

“I think that selection was the correct one. We have maintained from the start that all of us in government or opposition must be able to freely engage in politics,” he said, referring to assurances that the president has purportedly given SLPP parliamentarians that they will not face the kind of retaliatory mob violence that engulfed the nation on May 09 after alleged SLPP goons attacked peaceful anti-government protestors in Colombo.

A reporter asked if Rajapaksa believes the incumbent president is capable of taking the country on the right path to recovery?

“The first task was accomplished, by allowing us to engage in politics and to get on the streets. There are economic and other issues, and we have high hopes that they will be resolved,” he said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka proposed power tariff not to recover past losses: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – The government has not proposed a power tariff increase to recover past losses, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera in response to a statement attributed the head of the power regulator commission.

“The proposal that was presented was for an automatic cost reflective tariff mechanism to be implemented to supply uninterrupted power & to recover the current cost of power supply,” Minister Wijesekera said in message.

“Govt has not proposed to recover past loses of CEB from a tariff revision…”

The cabinet of ministers had given the nod tariff revisions twice a year to prevent large losses from building up as in the past.

The Public Utilities Commission has disputed costs protected for the power utility saying the petroleum utility was keeping large margins in selling fuel.

The government in a budget for 2022 also proposed to tax surcharge to recover losses.

The regulator also disputed power demand forecasts.

Also read; Sri Lanka regulator disputes CEB costs, demand projections for 2023

The PUCSL cannot increase tariffs to recover past losses, Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Monday (05), continuing the positive run for seven straight sessions on news over a possible debt restructuring from Paris Club, analysts said.

All Share Price Index gained by 0.69% or 60.10 points to 8,829, while the most liquid shares gained by 0.96% or 26.59 points to 2,801.

“The market was pushed up over the news of a potential 10 year debt moratorium,” analysts said.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis. 

Related – Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium in 15-year Sri Lanka debt re-structure: report

The market generated a revenue of 2.1 billion rupees.

Top gainers during 1130 hours were Expolanka, Browns Investment and LOLC.  (Colombo/Dec05/2022)


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