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Tuesday April 16th, 2024

Sri Lanka faces blackouts after CEB official resisting unsolicited deals removed

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power sector has plunged into a crisis with a trade union warning of blackouts after a senior official who resisted unsolicited power deals was sent on compulsory leave and alleged attempts are in motion to undermine the independence of the general manager.

Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union had earlier resisted attempts to give a liquefied natural gas supply monopoly to US-based New Fortress Energy on an unsolicited deal.

CEB engineers had also opposed attempts to bring back feed-in tariffs at high prices, usurping competitive tenders required according to the CEB Act. CEB had earlier gone to court to stop pre-set feed in tariffs and start competitive tenders at much lower prices.

Unions had warned that Sri Lanka will be committed to buy unwanted LNG under the deal valued at 6 billion US dollars and pay compensation it fuel was not used under a so-called Take-or-Pay unsolicited deal.

Union are now in arms after Janaka Aluthge, the head of CEB’s transmission division, which also handles power purchases was suddenly transferred and replaced, apparently on the orders initiated by the Board.

When Aluthge questioned the transfer in writing, he was sent on compulsory leave.

Sri Lanka is now facing blackouts as unions step up work to rule.

CEB Engineers Union had already declared a work-to-rule where they will not work after 4.15 pm but which did not apply to break downs.

“This week when there was a power failure we restored it in 1.5 hours even though there was a work to rule,” CEB Engineers Union Saumya Kumarawadu told reporters on December 01.

“But from today we are not going to attend to break downs after 4.15pm.”

“We are doing this to halt massive economic harm for the country, for the people for the future of the country.

“We are raising a voice against replacing the rule of law with the law of the jungle.”

CEB workers say staff changes are a matter for the General Manager and not the Board, or the Chairman, according to CEB’s governing law.

Unions allege that attempts are being made to disrupt the way the General Manger is appointed to cherry pick persons who will carry out orders from the top which will ultimately backfire on the country.

In the past the most senior Additional General Manager had been made the General Manager.

Now the Board is attempting to extend the term of the current GM to cherry pick the next CEB Chief effectively violating the CEB law and precedent through the backdoor, unions allege.

“For 52 years, since 1969, the next most senior engineer had become the General Manager,” Kumarawadu said.

“Now without respecting the law of the land, attempts are being made to appoint people who will carry orders of a higher functionary; appoint persons as General Manager who will carry out the law of the jungle.”

Unions say extension are not given to the GM as they then become beholden to the Minister who approves it and also because it prevents the next in line senior person from automatically getting the post without political meddling.

CEB staffers say attempts are under-way to take away powers from Area Engineers who have the knowledge and authority to re-energize the grid to others which can endanger people and the grid worsening the stand-of with unions.

Sri Lanka’s power does not fail unless the CEB Engineers Union goes on strike. Sri Lanka last faced blackouts 30 years ago when engineers went on a full blown strike. (Colombo/Dec01/2021)

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IMF urged Sri Lanka to preserve “hard earned gains” after economic crisis: State FinMin

ECONOMYNEXT – The International Monetary Fund has urged Sri Lanka to preserve the hard earned gains after an unprecedented economic crisis under the global lender’s programme, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by Shehan Semasinghe met Kenji Okamura, the Deputy Managjng Director of the IMF on the first day of the IMF and  World Bank Spring meeting.

“Mr. Okamura commended the Sri Lankan authorities on strong programme implementation and excellent reform progress. He emphasised the need to preserve the hard earned gains Sri Lanka has experienced since the beginning of the IMF programme and continue strong ownership,” the State Minister said in his X (Twitter) platform.

He said the Sri Lankan delegation including Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe and Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana explained the recent socio-economic developments to Okamura.

He also affirmed the IMF top official on the authorities’ commitment to ensuring continuity and consistency of macroeconomic policies and reforms undertaken under the programme. (Colombo/April 16/2024)

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Sri Lanka State FinMin meets BCIU in US; discusses post-crisis investment prospects 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe met Business Council for International Understanding( BCIU) in Washington on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings late on Monday and discussed investment prospects in the island nation which is gradually recovering from an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Our discussion centered on the potential that Sri Lanka offers for international investors. Explored various sectors, including education, tourism, renewable energy, agriculture and technology, where strategic investments can drive sustainable economic growth and development,” Semasinghe said in his X (Twitter) platform. 
“We reviewed the current macro-economic landscape of Sri Lanka, including recent reforms that have transformed to results. Glad to concluded the forum by marking constructive dialogue and a shared commitment to support the economic development of Sri Lanka.” 
“We thank participants, stakeholders holders and global partners for the significant interest shown in unlocking the full potential of the Sri Lankan economy and fostering greater international understanding and cooperation.” (Colombo/April 16/2024) 
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India allows Sri Lanka to import 10,000MT of onions

ECONOMYNEXT – India has relaxed an export ban allowing 10,000 metric tonnes of onions to be shipped to Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“The exemption for Sri Lanka reiterated India’s Neighbourhood First policy, adding to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities here,” the statement said.

Onion prices went up in Sri Lanka after India and Pakistan banned exports.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade has issued a notice allowing National Co-operative Exports Limited to ship 10,000 MT of onions.

The UAE has also been allowed to import 10,000MT of onions on top of 24,400MT already permitted.

A large Indian and South Asian expat community lives in the UAE. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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