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Monday April 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka drafting fresh legislation for people with disabilities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ministry of social empowerment is “actively crafting” new legislation aimed at improving the rights and well-being of disabled people, State Minister Anupa Pasqual said.

The state minister said speaking to reporters on Wednesday November 08 that a new bill is being designed to “better the lives of differently abled people”, as part of the government’s commitment to “ensuring that differently abled citizens are no longer considered a dependent population and are treated as equal citizens, not relegated to second-class status”.

Pasqual said the bill is being drafted at the recommendation of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Discussions on the matter have been ongoing since 2004, but concrete progress has been elusive, said Pasqual.

“We are now committed to drafting and presenting the bill to parliament within the first quarter of the next year. We have also organised a special conference on International Disability Day, set for December 1, under the leadership of Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe,” he said.

According to the state minister, among the tasks assigned to the Ministry of Social Empowerment is the empowerment of one million beneficiaries from underprivileged backgrounds.

“It is crucial to highlight that the 1.6 million differently-abled community members have not received the empowerment they deserve thus far. Under the dedicated guidance of President Wickremesinghe, we are committed to completing these initiatives in the coming year,” he said.

The state minister said in September that Sri Lanka is also  aiming to boost employment opportunities for people with disabilities, targeting 10 percent this year from the current 3 percent.

Government data show around 4 percent of the island nation’s 22 million population has some disability while the government has increased the allocations for the disabled to empower them.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Open and Responsible Government Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi said in October that Sri Lanka also plans to issue special identification cards to disabled persons to make it easier for them to vote in elections.


Sri Lanka to issue special identification for disabled persons to make voting easier

A new initiative titled Empo 2023, to be launched on December 01, involves disabled individuals from across the island traveling by train from Colombo to Kandy, with a visit to the Dalada Maligawa and a special ceremony planned at the Peradeniya Botanical Garden, the state minister said, noting that the event will bring together differently abled communities from around the world, including China and Japan.

“It is a fundamental aspect of our government’s policy to ensure that the differently abled community is no longer considered a group dependent on others. To achieve this, we are actively working to enable their participation in the development and education sectors. The differently abled community should be treated as equals, with the same rights, technological resources and accessibility as the rest of our population.

“As we embark on the journey into January, our ministry’s primary empowerment goal revolves around productivity. We are keen on exploring how our community can contribute to the overall Gross Domestic Product. Our objective is to establish a micro-level production network involving one million participants,” said Pasqual.

“In addition, we have included proposals in this year’s budget. These proposals entail making the empowerment process mandatory, implementing a pension system and incorporating disability studies into university syllabi,” he added. (Colombo/Nov09/2023)

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IMF official: Sri Lanka’s road ahead is challenging, critical to keep up with reform momentum

ECONOMYNEXT –International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said Sri Lanka’s future with many reforms are challenging, but it is critical to keep up with the reform momentum.

Gopinath stated this after meeting the island nation’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington.

“I commended them on hard-won economic gains in the past year. The road ahead is challenging and it’s critical to keep up with the reform momentum,” Gopinath wrote on her X platform.

Under IMF programme, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has implemented a raft of hard reforms including higher taxes.

Sri Lanka agreed to the IMF programme after it declared bankruptcy with sovereign debt default in April 2022.

Semasinghe after the meeting tanks Gopinath for acknowledging Sri Lanka’s economic progress.

“Our discussion was insightful and productive, and we appreciate the opportunity to delve into the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the State Finance minister said in his X platform.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our reform agenda and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with the IMF to advance our shared goals.”

Sri Lanka was compelled to go for IMF after the unprecedented economic crisis which was followed by a political crisis that ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government who were legitimately elected.

The IMF programme has included reforms in state-owned enterprises, fiscal sector and financial sectors to ensure debt sustainability.

The global lender also has pledged its support to speed up the island nation’s lingering debt restructuring process with private creditors including sovereign bond holders. (Colombo/April 22/2021)

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Sri Lanka motor racing crash claims 7 lives, 4 critical

ECONOMYNEXT – A deadly accident at motor Race Sri Lanka’s hill country town of Diyathalawa has claimed at least 7 lives police said, after a racing vehicle, in the seasonal Fox Hill Super Cross ploughed in to spectators after running off the track.

Another 21 spectators were injured Sunday, and hospitalized and at least four were critical, police said.

Thousands of people come to watch the Fox Hill Super Cross race, which is usually held in April, as large numbers of people head to the cooler climes in the hills.

According to footage taken by spectators one car overturned on the side of the track.

Sri Lanka’s Newsfirst television said Marshalls were waving flags to caution other vehicles, when another car went off the track and crashed into spectators. (Colombo/April21/2024)

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Widespread support for Sri Lanka debt workout, reform progress at IMF/WB meet: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – There was widespread support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and acknowledgement of progress made under an International Monetary Fund program, at meeting of the fund and World Bank, State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

“The strides made in our economic recovery and financial stability have been acknowledged as significant advancements towards our country’s prosperity by our stakeholders and international partners,” Minister Semasinghe said in an (twitter) post after attending the meetings.

“Further, it was heartening to note the widespread appreciation and support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reaching the restructuring targets and confident of smooth progress in the continued good-faith engagements for a speedy debt resolution that will ensure debt sustainability and comparability of debt treatment.”

Sri Lanka ended a first round of talks with sovereign bondholders in March without striking a deal but some agreement on the basis for a deal.

An initial deal with bilateral creditors have been reached, but they may be awaiting a deal with private creditors to sign formal agreements.

International partners have appreciated reforms made under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Semasinghe said.

“It was great to engage in productive bilateral discussions with all of whom appreciated the recent economic developments, progress in debt restructuring, strengthening of tax administration, and ongoing governance reforms,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has been allowed to re-appreciate by the central bank amid deflationary monetary policy, bringing tangible benefits to people in the form of lower energy and food prices, unlike in past IMF programs.

Electricity prices were cut as a strengthening currency helped reduce the cost of coal imports.

Related Sri Lanka central bank mainly responsible for electricity price cut

The currency appreciation has also allowed losses to the Employment Provident Fund imposed to be partially recouped, helping old workers near retirement, as well as raising disposable incomes of current wage earners on fixed salaries.

Related Sri Lanka EPF gets US$1.85bn in value back as central bank strengthens rupee

The IMF, which was set up after World War II to end devaluations seen in the 1930s after the Fed’s policy rate infected other key central banks, started to actively encourage depreciation after a change to its founding articles in 1978 (the Second Amendment).

The usefulness of money as a store of value, or a denominator of current and future values then decline, leading to loss of real savings, real wages and increases in social unrest.

Before that, members who devalued more than 10 percent after printing money for growth or any other reason, faced the threat of suspension from the organization as punishment.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has appreciated to around 300 to the US dollar now from 370 after a surrender rule was lifted in March 2023.

But there is no transparency on the basis that economic bureaucrats are allowing the currency to gain against the US dollar (the intervention currency of the central bank).

The rupee is currently under pressure, despite broadly prudent monetary policy, due to an ‘oversold position’ in the market after recent appreciation made importers and banks to run negative open positions as the usefulness of the currency as a denominator of future value declined with sudden strenghtening. (Colombo/Apr21/2024)

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