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Friday February 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka fuel prices fall 17.9-pct, regulated bus fares down 4.2-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bus fares which were raised by state regulation three times this year have come down by 6 percent after a fuel prices were cut by 17.9 percent, while the minimum fare is up 33 percent over the year, official data shows.

Since May when fuel prices were raised by formula, bus fares were raised twice amid allegations that a part of the price increase was politically motivated.

Since montly formula pricing began, Lanka Auto Diesel has fallen from a peak of 123 rupees a litre to 101 rupees or 17.9 percent.

The National Transport Commission which regulates prices cut the price of fares by about 4.2 percent.

With the latest price cut, diesel prices are up 6.3 percent after a fuel pricing formula was started in May, from 95 rupees to 101 rupees a litre while fares are up an average of 17 percent.

But the minimum fare is up from 9 rupees to 12 rupees or 33 percent.

Earlier in the year the National Transport Commission, then under Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva raised the minimum fare to 12 rupees from 10 rupees despite Lanka Private Bus Owners Association chief Gemunu Wijeratne saying it was not required.

However following threat of a strike by All Ceylon Private Bus Owners’ Federation, the Transport ministry had raised the minimum fare.

The LPBOA had asked for a 10 percent increase but the Transport Ministry had agreed to a 12.5 percent increase, The Island newspaper reported.

Wijeratne said he did not want the minimum fare raised because it would drive more people towards three wheelers.

The NTC has kept the minimum fare at 12 rupees.

Three wheeler prices are not regulated by the state and are subject to free market competition.

There is no strong three wheeler associations to drive price collusion and taxi app firms like PickMe, which have boosted productivity of have kept prices down.

Even before taxi apps came, call centre taxis were boosting productivity.

Under state regulation, there is no competition and room for innovation is also limited, leading to a wide gap between regulated buses and the free market especially in quality.

Reports said several three wheeler association have reduced the minimum fare back to 50 rupees from 60 rupees, with 92 Octane petrol falling 19 percent to 125 rupees from a peak of 155 rupees.

In the free market, where there are no government license to stop competition, prices do not go up in line with fuel prices.

Under Nimal Siripala de Silva there were several attempts to regulate three wheelers including banning entry to younger drivers, but Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera shot it down. (Colombo/Dec29/2018)


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Sri Lankans may need to wait for Monetary Board meeting minutes despite new Act

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans may have to wait more time to read the meeting minutes of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board, a top official said, despite a new act that has made the central bank to be more transparent and accountable for its decisions.

Many central banks including the United States’ Federal Reserve, India’s Reserve Bank, and Bank of Mexico release the minutes of their monetary policy meeting to ensure transparency.

The new Central Bank Act passed by the Parliament in line with the guidance by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) includes measures for Sri Lanka’s central bank to be more transparent and accountable.

These measures include releasing the Monetary Policy Report every six months and the first such report was released on February 15.

However, the central bank has not taken a decision to release the minutes of the Monetary Board meetings on the monetary policy.

“Going forward, one day this could happen,” Chandranath Amarasekara, Assistant Governor at the Central Bank told reporters on Wednesday (21) at a media briefing.

“Right now, we have just started working on the new Central Bank Act. We are not there yet. There is no such decision on releasing minutes yet.”

The central bank in the past printed billions of rupees to keep the market interest rates artificially low and provide cheap funding for successive governments to propel a debt-driven economy.

It’s decision, however, led Sri Lanka into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with sovereign debt default.

It also propped up the rupee currency artificially in the past to maintain a stable exchange rate at the expense of billions of US dollars. The move also contributed for the economic crisis and later the central bank was forced to allow over 60 percent depreciation in the rupee in March 2022.

However, none of the top central bank officials was held responsible for wrong decisions to hold interest rates artificially low with money printing and propping up the rupee. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Amid mass migration, Sri Lanka to recruit volunteers as English teachers

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to appoint foreign and expatriate volunteers to teach English for Sri Lanka students, the Ministry of Higher Education said, amid thousand of teachers migrating to other countries after the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Over five thousand teachers have left the country with the Education Ministry permission using the government’s circular of temporarily leaving state jobs while tens of thousands of teachers have left the country without informing the relevant authorities, Education Ministry officials say.

That had led to an acute teacher shortage in the country.

Suren Raghavan, the State Minister for Higher Education said the shortage has aggravated because most of the graduates who have an English degree become writers and join the private sector due to higher salary.

“They do not join government schools. This is a problem all over the country which is why we need to have an online system,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

Separately he said on Thursday at a press conference that he had spoken to Canadian and Australian High Commissions to get the assistance of where their English teachers who have experience in teaching English as a second language in South Asia.

He also said that there is a number of teachers in the Unite Kingdom have shown interest in teaching English and they have experience in teaching in other Asian countries such as Burma and India while the teaching would be done free of charge.

The new move also comes at a time when the country’s English literacy rate is on the decline, according to the Minister.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe announced the English-for-all initiative three months ago with plans to improve English literacy at school and university level. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Sri Lanka tea production up 1.4-pct in Jan 2024, exports up 6.8-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production was up 1.4 percent to 18.73 million kilograms in January 2024, with high growns falling and low and mid growns rising, industry data shows.

High grown tea in January 2024 was 3.56 million kilograms, down from 3.36 million, medium growns were 2.6, up from 2.5 million kilograms and low growns were 12.56 million, up from 12.32 million kilograms last year.

Exports, including re-exports were up 6.88 percent to 18.76 million kilograms, industry data published by Ceylon Tea Brokers show.

Export earnings were reported at 102 million US dollars, up from 99.5 million dollars last year. The average FOB price was 5.45 US dollars a kilo down from 5.67 dollars last year.

Tea in bulk was 8.5 million kilograms valued at 12.79 billion rupees, tea in packets was 7.8 million kilograms valued at 13.1 billion rupees and tea in bags was 1.8 million kilos, valued at 5.06 billion rupees.

The top buyer was Iraq with 2.5 million kilos, up from 2.1 million last year followed by the UAE with 1.99 kilos, up from 1.86 million last year.

Russia bought 1.98 million kilos, down from 2.0 last year, Turkey bought 1.72 million kilos, from 2.3 million last year, while Iran bought 1.32 million, up from 614 million last year. (Colombo/Feb23/2024)

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