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Friday March 1st, 2024

Sri Lanka Freedom Party to support abolishing presidency; SJB cries foul

ECONOMYNEXT — The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has said it will fully support a move to abolish the the executive presidency, even as the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya cries foul at what it’s calling a tactic to delay elections.

SLFP chairman and former President Maithripala Sirisena said speaking at an event on Monday February 12 that his party would be fully behind a speculated referendum to abolish the presidency.

“What we hear is that a referendum will be held on abolishing the executive presidency. If there is such a referendum, we the SLFP will raise not one hand but both in support,” he said.

SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman, meanwhile, accused President Ranil Wickremesinghe of scheming to delay the presidential elections scheduled to be held by October this year.

“The local government election was delayed because the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghes would lose. The president who postponed that election, now realising that he cannot win the presidential election, he is trying to abolish the executive presidency,” he said.

Rahuman resigned from his parliamentary seat to contest the local government polls as the SJB’s candidate for Colombo Mayor.

“He’s trying to cancel any elections he can’t win,” the former MP said referring to Wickremesinghe.

Sirisena said speaking at a separate event on Sunday that Wickremesinghe has tasked a group of lawyers with looking into abolishing the executive presidency and it is unclear whether a referendum or parliamentary poll will come first.

According to Sirisena, the group of lawyers is headed by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

In a recent interview with India’s WION network, Wickremesinghe was noncommittal about contesting the presidential election that should constitutionally be held by at least October 17 this year. He did, however, say “both presidential and parliament” elections are due when asked about elections happening in 2024.

Asked how optimistic he is of his own chances, Wickremesinghe said: “For me to be back, I must contest.”

When pressed for his plan, he said: “I have come here to put the economy into order. My first order is to focus on that we get out of bankruptcy.”

There was no confirmation from the president that he would definitely be running. (Colombo/Feb13/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s RAMIS online tax collection system “not operatable”: IT Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s online tax collection system RAMIS is “not operatable”, and the Ministry of Information Technology is ready to do for an independent audit to find the shortcomings, State IT Minister Kanaka Herath said.

The Revenue Administration Management Information System (RAMIS) was introduced to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when the island nation signed for its 16th International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016.

However, trade unions at the IRD protested the move, claiming that the system was malfunctioning despite billions being spent for it amid allegations that the new system was reducing the direct contacts between taxpayers and the IRD to reduce corruption.

The RAMIS had to be stopped after taxpayers faced massive penalties because of blunders made by heads of the IT division, computer operators and system errors at the IRD, government officials have said.

“The whole of Sri Lanka admits RAMIS is a failure. The annual fee is very high for that. This should be told in public,” Herath told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Thursday (29)

“In future, we want all the ministries to get the guidelines from our ministry when they go for ERP (Enterprise resource planning).”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government said the RAMIS system will be operational from December last year.

However, the failure has delayed some tax collection which could have been paid via online.

“It is not under our ministry. It is under the finance ministry. We have no involvement with it, but still, it is not operatable,” Herath said.

“So, there are so many issues going on and I have no idea what the technical part of it. We can carry out an independent audit to find out the shortcomings of the software.”

Finance Ministry officials say IRD employees and trade unions had been resisting the RAMIS because it prevents direct interactions with taxpayers and possible bribes for defaulting or under paying taxes.

The crisis-hit island nation is struggling to boost its revenue in line with the target it has committed to the IMF in return for a 3 billion-dollar extended fund facility. (Colombo/Feb 29/2024) 

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Sri Lanka aims to boost SME with Sancharaka Udawa tourism expo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is hosting Sancharaka Udawa, a tourism industry exhibition which will bring together businesses ranging from hotels to travel agents and airlines, and will allow the small and medium sector build links with the rest of the industry, officials said.

There will be over 250 exhibitors, with the annual event held for the 11th time expected to draw around 10,000 visitors, the organizers said.

“SMEs play a big role, from homestays to under three-star categories,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu told reporters.

“It is very important that we develop those markets as well.”

The Sancharaka Udawa fair comes as the Indian Ocean island is experiencing a tourism revival.

Sri Lanka had welcomed 191,000 tourists up to February 25, compared to 107,639 in February 2023.

“We have been hitting back-to-back double centuries,” Gajabahu said. “January was over 200,000.”

The exhibition to be held on May 17-18, is organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators.

It aims to establish a networking platform for small and medium sized service providers within the industry including the smallest sector.

“Homestays have been increasingly popular in areas such as Ella, Down South, Knuckles and Kandy,” SLAITO President, Nishad Wijethunga, said.

In the northern Jaffna peninsula, both domestic and international tourism was helping hotels.

A representative of the Northern Province Tourism Sector said that the Northern Province has 170 hotels, all of which have 60-70 percent occupancy.

Further, domestic airlines from Colombo to Palali and the inter-city train have been popular with local and international visitors, especially Indian tourists. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 309.50/70 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 309.50/70 to the US dollar Thursday, from 310.00/15 on Wednesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were slightly higher.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.50/70 percent down from 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.10 percent from 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.30/45 percent up from 12.20/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.35/50 percent up from 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.55/13.00 percent up from 12.50/90 percent. (Colombo/Feb29/2024)

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