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Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Sri Lanka govt talks with teacher trade unions end with no final decision: officials

ECONOMYNEXT – A crucial round of talks between a Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapalsa-led group of ministers and school teacher trade unions who have been on strike for more than three months over salary anomalies ended without a final decision on Tuesday (12), officials said, while a trade union leader said the unions have not decided to stop the ongoing strike.

School teachers and principals have been on loggerheads with the government demanding a solution to salary issues that have plagued the service for decades. The strike has effectively ended online education for school students who have had to rely on distant learning for much of 2021 due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Tuesday’s meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Rajapaksa and held with representatives of all trade unions related to teachers and principals, sought to to bring the strike to an end before starting some schools on October 21.

“The discussion went positively and most of the trade unions understood the situation,” Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told EconomyNext.

“We explained clearly that it is difficult to provide the salary increase at once, but we will give it in installments, with the first installment to be in the 2022 budget with 34 billion rupees. We also agreed to reduce the number of installments.

“Except a few trade unions, others were in agreement. But they said they will announce their decision tomorrow,” he said.

However, a trade union leader said there was no agreement reached on the proposal from the government side to give the salary increase in two stages, even though the cabinet decision was to give it in another three stages.

“According to the proposal, they said one third of the salary increase will be given from next January, while the remaining two-third’s increment will be given in 2023,” Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin told EconomyNext.

“We did not give our response in the meeting, but we hope to discuss it with the unions tomorrow and give our response after that. We have also not made a decision to stop our ongoing strike yet. Everything will be decided tomorrow after we have our meeting.”

Sri Lanka has decided to reopen some 5,000 schools with a maximum of 200 students each over the next two to three weeks amid the continued strike.

The government had expected the strike could be ended before October 21, said Minister Gunawardena.

He had previously declared school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service” on August 31.

Both teachers’ and principals’ services are under the public service. But declaring them a closed service will allow the government to treat teachers and principals separately from the rest of the public service when resolving their demands of salary anomalies, wages, transfers, and other benefits.

This will also mean that cadres from the teachers and principals services cannot be transferred to any other public services.

The government earlier announced a special allowance of 5,000 rupees for teachers and principals who will be on duty during September and October 2021, the months in which the government had planned to hold GCE Advanced Level and grade 5 scholarship examinations.

The education ministry had postponed the two key exams, drawing public criticism. (Colombo/Oct12/2021)

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Sri Lanka eyes SOE law by May 2024 for better governance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to pass a Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act improve governance of state-owned enterprise by May 2024 as part of an anti-corruption efforts following an International Monetary Fund assessment.

Sri Lanka’s state enterprises have been used by politicians to give ‘jobs of the boys’, appropriate vehicles for personal use, fill board of directors and key positions with henchmen and relatives, according to critics.

Meanwhile macro-economists working for the state also used them to give off-budget subsides or made energy utilities in particular borrow through supplier’s credits and state banks after forex shortages are triggered through inflationary rate cuts.

The government has taken billons of dollars of loans given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation from state banks.

There have also been high profile procurement scandals connected to SOEs.

An SOE Reform Policy was approved by Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in May 2023.

The Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act has now been drafted.

A holding company to own the SOEs will be incorporated and an Advisory Committee and Board of Directors will be appointed after the PCB law is approved, the statement said. (Colombo/Mar01/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 308.80/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 308.80/90 to the US dollar Friday, from 309.50/70 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.65/75 percent up from 10.50/70 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.90/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.15/35 percent down from 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent up from 12.30/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/45 percent down from 12.35/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.00 percent from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Mar1/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up 0.37-pct, Expo to de-list

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up 0.37 percent on Friday, and SG Holdings, the parent company of Expolanka Holdings Plc, said it was taking the company private.

Expolanka is the largest listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

“Expolanka Holdings PLC has, at the Board Meeting held on 1st March 2024, considered a request from its principal shareholder and resolved to initiate the de-listing of the Company’s shares from the Official List of the Colombo Stock Exchange subject to obtaining necessary shareholder approval and regulatory approvals,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

As per arrangements with SG Holdings Global Pte Ltd, the Company’s majority shareholder, it will purchase its shares from shareholders who may wish to divest their shareholding in the Company at a purchase price of Rs 185.00 per share. The share closed up at 150.50.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.37 percent, or 39.47 points, at 10,691; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.64 percent, or 19.59 points, at 3,037.

Turnover stayed above the 1 billion mark for the sixth consecutive day, registering 1.4 billion.

Crossings in Melstarcorp Plc (135mn) up at 89.50, Hatton National Bank Plc (64mn) up at 158.00, Hemas Holdings Plc (53mn) up at 75.00 and Central Finance Company Plc (26mn) up at 103.50, added significantly to the day’s turnover.

“The upward trend is continuing, with more retail buying also coming in, the number of trades was more than 10,000 today,” a market participant said. “Investors are looking for undervalued stocks and buying in quantities.” (Colombo/Mar1/2024).

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