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Saturday December 10th, 2022

Sri Lanka exports US$884mn in May; US, EU top buyers

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has exported 884 million dollars of goods in May, up 50 percent from April 2020, but a little lower than 964 million recorded in 2019, the state export promotion office said.

Exports from January to May 2021 was 4,583.56 million dollars 32.6% from 3,456.32 Million in 2020

Apparel was up 69 percent to 370 million US dollars, tea was flat at 109 million dollars, rubber based products were up 79 percent to 91 million US dollars, electronic components were up 62 percent to 35 million US dollars, Sri Lanka Export Development Board said.

The United States was the top export destination with 213 million US dollars, UK bought 72 million US dollars of goods, India 55 million dollars and Germany 53 million US dollars.

The EU as a region bought 210 million US dollars of goods, just behind the US.

Sri Lanka went into a lockdown in the last week of May though export firms were allowed to operate.

Apparel exporters say demand is recovering in the West with vaccination and stimulus money but the domestic pandemic has pushed up absenteeism and costs were also rising with the Fed firing a new commodity bubble.

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Cyclone Mandous kills hundreds of livestock in Sri Lanka’s northern farms

ECONOMYNEXT – Unusually cold weather in Sri Lanka’s northern province caused by the Mandous cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal has led to the death of hundreds of farm animals with hundreds more falling sick.

An official said a drop in temperature below 20 degrees Celsius combined with strong winds triggered the death of nearly 350 cattle and 180 goats in four districts of the province.

Jaffna District Kilinochchi District Mullaitivu District Vavuniya District
Cattle deaths – 49

Sick – 17

Cattle deaths – 168

Sick – 159

Cattle deaths – 120

Sick – 159

Cattle deaths – 21

Sick – 17

Goat deaths – 58

Sick – 50

Goat deaths – 6

Sick – 3

Goat deaths – 42

Sick –

Goat deaths – 85

Sick –

Deptaretment of Animal Production & Health (DAPH), Provincial Director, Dr S Vaseeharan attributed the incident to poor livestock management practices, which he said has been killing farming animals for years, long before the arrival of the cyclone.

“These kinds of tragedies occur every other year due to the extreme hot climatic conditions, floods and so on. These animals have no insurance cover since they are raised to be slaughtered,” Vaseeharan said.

The official said livestock in these districts have no safeguard against such natural disasters. They’re free grazing animals with no permanent shelter to protect them from environmental hazards.

“There are also 300- 400 in a herd. These animals are owned by farmers and they are sent astray to graze on available land. That’s the extent of their management system,” said Vaseeharan.

A majority of the animals, he said, are for meat production and not for dairy and therefore the farmers are not inclined to invest or care about their well-being.

The small farms too have being affected and Vaseeharan said prevention is actually impossible and the number of deaths may rise.

However, the latest updates from the Department of Meteorology said cyclone Mandous was expected to gradually weaken into a deep depression by Saturday morning and into a depression by noon. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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Sri Lanka receives over 300 medical items through Indian credit line: officials

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has already received more than 300 medicine items as of December through the Indian credit line and hopes to complete all orders by March 2023, officials said.

From the one billion US dollar credit line from India, 200 million USD was to purchase medical supplies, with the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) given the responsibility of placing the order.

Sri Lanka has seen medicine shortages since late June with the Central Medicine Storage running out of stocks.

The authorities said that, until stocks are restored, the ministry has implemented a central communication strategy to facilitate the exchange of medicines between medical institutes based on availability.

The SPC called tenders in March and, by April, the tenders were being evaluated by the officials.

“Of the 200 million US dollars we received, we allocated 55 million US dollars to the private sector supplier,” Chairman of SPC Sarath Liyanage told EconomyNext on Friday.

Orders will be placed for 674 medicine items and 17,88 surgical equipment, Liyanage said.

“So far we have received 74 medicine items through the SPC and more than 300 plus from the private sector supplier. No matter which sector you are bringing it from, the products’ origin must be India, which is a condition we have to follow.

“By December 31, we have to place all the orders and we hope by March 2023, we will have received all the medicine and equipment we have ordered.”

The island nation is currently struggling with lack of medicine in the health sector and, due to high demand and the low supply, the prices have increased in pharmacies and people have reduce their prescribed dosage.

Officials said the Indian credit line is being utilised according to a particular procedure, which took the local authorities around a month to understand along with how the letters of credit will be issued to the Indian banks and how the orders must be placed.

“We had to go through a series of documents and a specific supplier was selected to purchase a specific medicine,” said Liyanage.

According to the official, the orders will be sent to the Trade Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the high commission of India or the Delhi office and will then come to the Treasury.

A UNI number will be issued for the order and that number will be used by the SPC to place the order.

Liyanage said that, apart from the medicine and equipment that is already imported, more orders will be placed in the coming days. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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Sri Lanka opposition MP sees racist agenda behind behind pro-China demonstration

TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – A protest held outside the Chinese embassy in Colombo against opposition legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam was likely the work of a paid group with little knowledge of Sri Lanka’s crisis and pushing someone else’s racist agenda, the MP said.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext on Saturday December 10 that the protestors were peddling a familiar narrative of racism.

“These people are clearly on a racist agenda. We know how this agenda plays out and we know who is behind it from before, so it’s not anything new. People can connect the dots and figure out who might be behind this protest,” he said.

The hurriedly put together demonstration seemed to be against Rasamanickam’s controversial warnings of anti-China protests in Sri Lanka over Beijing’s purported reluctance to restructure the crisis-hit island nation’s debt.

A small group of protestors including a number of Buddhist monks had gathered outside the embassy premises on Friday December 09 condemning Rasamanickam’s statement in parliament that people will take to the streets against China in a “go home, China” wave of protests similar to the “go home, Gota” protests that unseated Sri Lanka’s powerful former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“I was actually very happy to see a protest happening against me in Colombo. This is the first time there was a protest held against me,” said Rasamanickam.

I”f you look at the group that were protesting, they are quite unaware of the current economic situation in the island,” he added.

One banner displayed by the pro-China protestors contained the words “let us strongly condemn the ‘Go home China’ statement by separatist Rasamanickam” in Sinhala, though the organisers had been careful to omit the word ‘separatist’ in the English translation of the slogan.

It is unclear at present who was behind the protest, but a placard carried by one of the protestors read “is this going from anti-Gota to anti-China”, indicating the possible involvement of pro-Rajapaksa elements.

“It looked like a paid  group of people who came with no knowledge of the country’s situation and was completely under the agenda of somebody else,” said the MP.

The Batticaloa district lawmaker claimed that some people had offered to organise a counter-protest against the pro-China demonstrators but he declined the offer.

“I refused it because the citizens aren’t silly. They are aware of their surroundings and what is going on, so we need not protest in that way,” he said.

A commotion also ensued at the demonstration when a woman started recording it on her mobile phone, prompting some of the protestors to demand that she leave. Words were exchanged, with the visibly agitated woman yelling at the protestors that they were conspiring to sell Sri Lanka to China.

What triggered the protest was an explosive remark by MP Rasamanickam on December 02 that if China were a true friend of Sri Lanka’s, it would agree to either write off the island nation’s 7.4 billion dollar debt or at least help restructure it.

Nearly a fifth of Sri Lanka’s public external debt is held by China, according to one calculation.

“If China, who has nearly 20,000 billion dollars, is truly Sri Lanka’s friend… offering 9 million litres of diesel or half a million kilos of rice isn’t real help,” said Rasamanickam, speaking in Sinhala.

“I say to China and the Chinese embassy that, as 22 million Sri Lankans irrespective of ethnic or religious differences got together to say ‘Go home, Gota’, don’t push us to a place where we will be saying ‘China, go home’,” he said.

Whatever the agenda behind Friday’s protestors, they are not alone in their opposition to Rasamanickam’s strong words against China. Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harsha de Silva was strongly critical of the statement, insisting that Sri Lanka cooperate with all countries.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext that his words were misrepresented.

“What I said was ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa didn’t listen to the voices of the people and people ended up saying ‘Gota Go Home’ and if the Chinese fail to address the issues and act in the interest of the Sri Lankan community, naturally people will start opposing them also. If that happens, I simply said that I will support them because for us our country and our people are the priority,” he said, adding that his speech had raised awareness among the public of the situation.

The MP has been raising his voice in parliament and elsewhere in recent days over what he claims is a hesitance on the part of China to assist in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring efforts. The 2.9 billion dollar extended fund facility (EFF) that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has offered to extend to the island nation is contingent upon the successful restructure of this outstanding in addition some stringent reforms that experts say are long overdue.

Colombo has been vague at best on the status of ongoing restructure talks with Sri Lanka’s creditors, and opposition lawmakers and others have expressed concern over what seems to be a worrying delay. Rasamanickam and others have claimed that China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, is the reason for the apparent standstill.

Meanwhile, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva has called on China to speed up restructuring of debt in Sri Lanka and Zambia following a meeting with the leaders of the country.

“We had a very fruitful exchange, both on the G20 Common Framework and on some specific cases,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“We need to build on the momentum of the agreement on Chad’s debt treatment and accelerate and finalize the debt treatments for Zambia and Sri Lanka, which would allow for disbursements from the IMF and multilateral development banks,” she said. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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