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Friday July 12th, 2024

Sri Lanka ‘free’ visas likely to face $10 VFS Global fee, website: Harin

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s attempt to woo tourists from 67 countries with free visas is likely to face a 10 dollar charge from VFS Global, an outsourcing provider and also the website, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said.

“There is a doubt about that. Our government will not take anything,” Minister Fernando told reporters in Colombo Monday.

“I think the current thinking is (mathaya) that the 10 dollar VFS fee will have to be paid.”

Minister Fernando said he could not say exactly what will be in the final cabinet paper. But the ‘facilitation’ fee paid to VFS Global would help reduce potential congestion in the airport, he said.

The Public Security Ministry has said the VFS website was required on national security considerations on which he was unable to comment, he said.

His interest was to boost tourism, which can conflict with national security.

“In Singapore there is nothing like that,” Fernando said. “They track from the ticket. There are ways I hope Sri Lanka will also go there and will understand this.

A report by an 11 member committee on free visas is likely to be submitted to the cabinet in the next two weeks.

“I saw how free visas are helping Maldives meet its tourism targets,” he said. “We have to be competitive. Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore are giving free visas, only we have got tangled in this (may hooter pater-yer-ker pa-ter-li-lar-gen-ner innay)

“A positive factor is that the Minister of [Public Security] told me that 6 month multiple entry visas have increased by a large amount. One year and 5 years visas have also seen a diamond.

“My stand is that the single entry visa should be relaxed. He is looking at security, I am looking at marketing, that is why some people think there is a clash.”

“Several parties in the tourism sector have expressed deep concerns. Some are prepared to go to court. We are not going to oppose the freedoms of the people.”

The travel industry has protested that the complex website operated by VFS Global was losing them customers and warned that the country will not be able to meet a 2.3 million tourism target for 2024.

Sri Lanka earlier issued a double entry visa for 51 dollars which was valid for up to 6 months for the first visit, compared to 3 months for competition. It was slashed to three months in April.

Growth in Sri Lanka’s visitors which was above 50 percent in the first quarter has started to flag amid the friction created by the VFS website. In May growth fell to 34 percent, below the required 50 percent to reach the target.

Sri Lanka was also hoping to boost arrivals after the winter season and reduce the so-called ‘low season’ before the VFS website and fees.

Comments on travel forums show that older visitors are in particular struggling to deal with the website and repeat visitors who had used the earlier user-friendly website are frustrated, though younger visitors are coming up with work-arounds to deal with problems in the site. (Colombo/June26/2024)

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Sri Lanka appoints new Attorney General

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed K A Parinda Ranasinghe PC as Attorney General.

He was appointed in terms of Article 61E (b) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the president’s media division said.

The new AG received the appointment from President Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday.

He fills the post after the retirement of former Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes stronger at 301.70/302.00 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed stronger at 301.70/302.00 to the US dollar on Friday, from 302.80/303.00 to the US dollar on Thursday, dealers said, while bond yields were up.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.90/11.00 percent, up from 10.85/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2027 closed at 11.75/80 percent, up from 11.80/88 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2028 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 12.10/30 percent, up from 12.15/25 percent. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up, muted activity

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.35 percent, or 41.71 points, at 11,843; while the more liquid S&P SL20 Index closed up 0.56 percent, or 19.20 points, at 3,454.

Turnover was low at 653 million.

“The market picked up a bit from yesterday but it’s still below the psychological 12,000 mark,” Softlogic Stockbrokers said.

“Local retail participation drove the market predominantly.”

John Keells Holdings Plc brought in Rs109mn to the turnover, and the share closed flat at 194.50.

Melstacorp Plc contributed in Rs104mn to the turnover, and the share closed flat at 85.00.

Sentiment around the banking counters was mostly negative. Sampath Bank Plc closed down at 77.00, closed flat at 101.25, and Hatton National Bank Plc closed flat at 195.25.

The top contributors to the ASPI were Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc (up at 103.50), Bukit Darah Plc (up at 397.00), and Hayleys Plc (up at 101.00).

Foreign participation remained low as well. There was a higher net foreign outflow of 101 million.

“Foreign selling was seen on John Keells Holdings, and banking counters; Hatton National Bank Plc (down at 195.00), Pan Asia Banking Corporation Plc (down at 20.70), and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc.

There was selective foreing interest on the diversified financials sector, particularly in companies that had vehicle leasing portfolios. “We think this might be due to the news of the vehicle import ban possibly ending.”

LOLC Holdings Plc closed up at 440.50, People’s Leasing and Finance Plc closed up at 12.20.

Softlogic Holdings Plc which announced the date of its rights issue, closed up at 8.50. (Colombo/Jul12/2024)

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