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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

Sri Lanka former finance minister Mangala Samaraweera passes away

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former finance minister Mangala Samaraweera passed away Tuesday (24) in a private hospital where he was being treated for coronavirus, a coordinator for the former minister said.

The 65-year-old politician contracted COVID-19 earlier this month and was receiving intensive care unit (ICU) treatment at the Lanka Hospital, despite being fully vaccinated.

When unconfirmed reports surfaced last week that Samaraweera had succumbed to the virus, sources close to him said he was in fact on the mend and was responding well to treatment.

Samaraweera had held key portfolios in the cabinets of former presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, all of whom he helped bring to power, earning him the reputation of being a king-maker.

An outspoken politician hailing from the Matara district, Samaraweera left parliamentary politics in 2020, focusing his abilities on forming a broader alliance of like-minded, independent liberal thinkers.

Most recently, he made headlines for his remark at the launch of a new movement named True Patriots that the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) are two sides of the same coin.

Related: Sri Lanka ruling party and main opposition two sides of the same coin: ex foreign minister

To the critics of his tenure as minister of finance, Samaraweera said: “Even though I am a textile designer, I was able to bring fiscal discipline in this country as the finance minister for the first time since 1953.”

“I am always proud of two things. The first one is that, through the Sudhu Nelum Mal Movement (a peace movement under President Kumaratunga in the 1990s), I was able to help and reconstruct the Jaffna library and hand it over to the people. I am also proud of privatising Sri Lanka’s telecom sector. Before 1997, everybody had to wait 10-12 years to get a telephone line,” he said at what would be his final press conference.

Samaraweera was also known for being a staunch defender of minority rights and a vocal proponent of liberal democracy. He often courted controversy, being one of a handful of Sri Lankan politicians to openly challenge cultural norms and their self-appointed purveyors.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose election as president in 2005 Samaraweera was instrumental in, said Sri Lanka has lost a great leader.

Expressing his condolences, SJB and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa tweeted: “Dear Mangala Samaraweera, you were a man of the age who respected humanity and was committed to the vision you believed in according to your conscience. May you attain Nibbana!”

The United National Party (UNP), of which he became a member after defecting from the Rajapaksa camp, said he was a loyal servant of Sri Lanka who had served the public nearly 40 years.

“The services rendered by Samaraweera to the people of Matara and the country have and will be enjoyed by numerous generations. He built his career on the principles of democracy and freedom, values that he fought to ensure all Sri Lankans enjoyed,” the party said.

The former minister’s colleague in the Yahapalana cabinet Dr Harsha de Silva tweeted the following:

Newly appointed health minister Keheliya Rambukwella tweeted: “In yet another tragic outcome of the #COVID19SL pandemic, my colleague Mangala Samaraweera has passed away. It is the loss of another great leader, a true political maverick. We may not have agreed on policy, but he always had my respect. #RIP

The ruling SLPP, too, expressed its condolences.

The opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said though they disagreed ideologically, Samaraweera never resorted to racism for political gain.

“A free thinker in politics, he stayed true to his principles even when doing so would be politically disadvantageous to him,” the JVP said in a Facebook post that was shared by party leader and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake. (Colombo/Aug24/2021)



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Sri Lanka shares down for 2nd day as tax hike, delay in Chinese debt assurance weigh

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged down on Tuesday as worries over delay in financial assurances from China which is mandatory for a $2.9 billion dollar IMF loan and rise in protests against tax hike kept investors in check, analysts said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged down by 0.28 percent or 24.62 points to 8,865.05. It fell for the second session after hitting more than three-month high.

“The market is looking for more macro cues because of faster Chinese debt assurance was expected. The market is also hit by fall in corporate earnings due to high taxes,” an analyst said.

China has given an initial response on debt re-structuring to Sri Lanka though analysts familiar with the process say it is not a ‘hard assurance’ sufficient for the IMF program to go through.

The International Monetary Fund is working with China on extending maturities of Chinese loans to defaulted countries like Sri Lanka, as there is resistance to hair-cuts, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters on January 14.
The earnings for first quarter are expected to be negative for many corporates with higher taxes and rising costs. However, investors had not expected earnings to be low in the December quarter because of year end pick ups on heavy counters, the analyst said.
Earnings in the second quarter of 2023 are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

However, the central bank said the IMF deal is likely in the first quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 dropped by 0.64 percent or 17.74 points to 2,764.51 points.

The central bank has said it could cut interest rates in future when the country sees fall in inflation, which has already started decelerating.

The market saw a turnover of 1.7 billion rupees, slightly lower than the month’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees and while being significantly lower than 2022’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The bourse saw a net foreign inflow (NFI) of 93 million rupees extending the net offshore buying to 413 million rupees so far this year.

Top losers were LOLC, Royal Ceramics Limited and Hayleys. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka exports fall in December as global recession weighs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports earnings fell 9.7 percent in December year-on-year as the island nation saw a drop in buying from its key export destinations which are facing a looming recession after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The earnings from the merchandise exports recorded $1.04 billion  in December 2022 compared to the same month in the previous year as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, and Coconut based Products, Food & Beverages, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries products,” the Export Development Board (EDB) said in a statement.

“The reason for this decline was due to the ongoing recession in major markets due to rising cost of production, energy etc. Imports declined sharply due to inflation and demand for goods and services are reduced.”

However, Sri Lanka saw a record export earning of $13.1 billion in 2022 due to increased demand in the key exports throughout the year

Earnings from all major product sectors except Electrical & Electronic components as well as Diamonds, Gems & Jewellery fell in December.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles decreased by 9.6 percent to $480.3 million in December 2022.  Export earnings from Tea fell by 3 percent to $107.3 million, Rubber and Rubber Finished products dropped 20.3 percent to $74.5 million,

However, export earnings from the Electrical & Electronics Components increased by 16.18 percent to $42.9 million in December 2022, while Diamond, Gems & Jewelry jumped 35.7 percent to $30.8 million. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka records over 6,000 dengue cases in first three weeks of January

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded over than 6,000 dengue cases in the first three weeks of January 2023 after a spell of heavy monsoon rain though a drop in cases is likely from February, officials said.

Health officials identified 6,204 dengue patients by January 22, up from 5,793 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

“A rise in cases can be observed in the November-January period with the heavy rain due to the northeast monsoon,” an official from the National Dengue Control Unit told EconomyNext.

Of all reported cases, 46.3 percent were from the Western Province, official reports showed.

Akuressa, Batticaloa, Eravur, Trincomalee, Madampe, Badulla, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kalmunai North and Alayadivembu MOH areas were identified as high-risk areas for dengue during the third week of January by the health officials.

“We are expecting a decline in dengue cases soon. The Western province is always in the top position with the highest number of dengue cases. Apart from that, we are seeing a higher number of cases during this period in areas like Puttalam, Jaffna districts. A certain number of cases have also been recorded in the Kandy district,” the official said.

“Usually the cases peak in December, but they decline by February. This year, too, we are facing this scenario. There is an increase of dengue during the months of November, December and January”.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in an earlier report said, diesel and pesticides are not being provided by the ministry.

However, rejecting the allegation, the official from the NDCU said the government has provided enough funds for get the necessary pesticides but it is being used according to a scientific method to avoid building a resistance in the dengue mosquito.

“The recommendation is to do the fogging if there is a dengue outbreak or if there are few patients reported from the same locality.

“If you use this pesticide haphazardly, the mosquitos will develop resistance against it,” the official said, adding that there are adequate stocks of the chemical available. (Colombo/ Jan 31/2023)

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