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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka former PM Wickremesinghe back in p’ment; receives warm welcome from govt MPs

ECONOMYNEXT – Amid hearty greetings from government benches and a more lukewarm welcome from the opposition, Sri Lanka’s four-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as a member of parliament on Wednesday (June 23) for a record ninth consecutive time.

Wickremesinghe is now the only active Sri Lankan politician to have entered every parliament since 1977.

The United National Party (UNP), which Wickremesinghe has been leading since 1994, suffered a major setback at the 2020 parliamentary polls when the party faced its worst election defeat in history. Helped by a mass exodus of members loyal to then UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, Sri Lanka’s so called grand old party was reduced to a single national list seat in parliament.

The UNP polled only 249,435 votes, a mere 2.15% of all votes cast at the elections. In contrast, at the 2015 parliamentary elections, Wickremesinghe alone polled over 500,000 preferential votes in the Colombo district.

Ending 10 months of debate, denials and speculation, the UNP finally nominated Wickremesinghe for the national list seat this month, and the Election Commission on June 18 gazetted the former premier as an MP.

Wickremesinghe had previously declined a unanimous request from the UNP’s Working Committee to represent the party in parliament, according to party sources. He had cited a UNP policy of not letting defeated candidates into parliament through the backdoor and called for a younger member to represent the party in his place.

Asked about the apparent change of heart, he told the privately owned Derana TV last week that the Buddhist clergy, UNP members and supporters had urged him to take up the seat.

Ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs were seen enthusiastically tapping their desks and congratulating Wickremesinghe as he took oaths June 23 morning, to which Wickremesinghe replied “jaya wewa” (loosely translated, “may you/we be victorious”. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena wished, too, him “all the best”.

His former colleagues in the now main opposition the Premadasa-led Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) seemed unmoved.

Government members who spoke at the occasion claimed that a number of SJB MPs have declared their intention to rally behind Wickremesinghe upon his entry to parliament, a claim which both the SJB and the UNP have denied as baseless.

Meanwhile, SJB lawmakers in the House started protesting the recent fuel price hike and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, against whom they have submitted a no confidence motion. The MPs were seen displaying placards condemning the price hike and seemingly refusing to respond to oral questions.

SLPP MP Shantha Bandara took the opportunity to claim that the SJB was, in fact, protesting Wickremesinghe by disrupting the day’s session. (Colombo/June23/2021)

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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter 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.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.


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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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