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Friday June 9th, 2023

Sri Lanka hikes electricity prices 75-pct after soft-peg collapse

ECONOMYNEXT – The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has approved a proposal by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to increase monthly electricity charges by an average of 75 percent, effective Wednesday August 10.

PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake announced the tariff hike on Tuesday August 09, noting that different price plans will be applicable to different numbers of units consumed.

Ratnayake said the CEB is now permitted to increase rates by 264 percent to consumers who use below 30 units up to a maximum of 198 rupees, and from 30 units to 60 units by 211 percent to a maximum of 599 rupees. From 60 to 90 units, the increase will be by 125 percent.

This will be the first time electricity rates are increased in nine years. The CEB has faced steep cost increases since 2001 with rupee depreciation adding to costs. CEB diesel rupee cost went up 350% since 2013, coal rupee cost went up 650% ad furnace oil rupee cost went up 410%.

In June 2022, the CEB requested PUCSL approval to raise tariffs by 229 percent.

The PUCSL has imposed a number of conditions on the CEB for the rate hike. These include the opening of a bulk supply transaction account, conducting an independent dispatch audit for 2021, renewing and revising purchase and sales agreements and payment of interest for security deposits obtained from consumers.

The PUCSL had requested that no bonuses should be given for CEB staff until finances become stabilised.

The CEB has also been instructed to charge only a monthly fixed amount for retail consumers with solar rooftops under the Net Metering and Net Accounting schemes.

Ratnayake said 100 million US dollars is needed to import coal after October. Base power is provided by coal, he said.

Furnace costs have also risen, he said, noting that Sri Lanka currently generates 30 to 35 percent of electricity using fuel.

“With the rising global prices and the war situation we need to increase tariffs because we produce a lot of electricity by burning fuel,” he said.

Meanwhile, local electricity suppliers have to be paid 20 billion rupees, he added.

The new tariffs are made according to the least cost based method. The tourism industry will get tariff hikes in two stages, due to the precarious situation of the industry.

People who earn more than 60 percent of income in forex will have to pay electricity bills with dollars, said Ratnayake. The consumers who fall under this scheme will get a 1.5% discount on their bills.

“Power cuts are going on, the dollar has gone up, we are getting oil for high prices without a proper plan…so we cannot justify [raising prices as CEB had earlier proposed],” he said.

He claimed that in the CEB will be able to cover costs in the next six months, as the revenue requirement filed by CEB was 505 billion rupees, while the expected revenue increase due to the new tariffs is expected to be 512 billion rupees including LECO sales.

The Treasury had allocated 85 billion rupees to the CEB, he added.

“Till next January we might be able to manage the situation with less than three hour power cuts, depending on several factors” he said, commenting on the ongoing scheduled power cuts.

Ratnayake said Sri Lanka has 7.8 million electricity users, 6.7 million of which are domestic consumers. 1.1 million are general purpose, while 1.4 million consume under 30 units.

1.7 million use 90 units, while 4.8 million use fewer than 90 units each month, he said. (Colombo/Aug09/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s police, health workers mostly violate rights of LGBTQ community – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.

A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235  during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.

The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.

“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.

“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”

The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism  and lesbianism against the country’s law.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”

Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.

The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.

Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.

“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.

“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law.  Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”

“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”

While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.

“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.

“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)


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Sri Lanka rupee close at 294.50/295.50 to dollar, bond yields up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka spot US dollar closed weaker at 294.50/295.50 rupees and the bonds were up on Thursday, dealers said.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.00/292.00 rupees rupees on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 23.40/60 percent up from 23.10/40 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 26.75/27.00. percent, up from 26.25/60 percent on Wednesday.

(Colombo/ June 08/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares close higher on favorable macroeconomic prospects

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher on Thursday, as investor sentiments picked up on lowered inflation and policy rate cuts, after two consecutive losses in previous sessions due to selling interest and profit taking, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.52 percent or 45.28 points to 8,767.34, this is the highest the index has been since May 18, while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.65 percent or 16.05 points to 2,479.87.

The market was seeing gains, due to lowered policy rates and low inflation stimulating buying interest and driving the sentiment up, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

“There are gradual improvements in the market sentiment, with positive sentiments coming in from lowered policy rates and inflation,” an analyst said.

The market generated foreign inflows of 57 million rupees and received a net foreign outflow of 282 million rupees.

The market generated a revenue of 853 million rupees, this is the highest the turnover has been since June 01, while the daily turnover average was 1 billion rupees. From the total generated revenue, the banking sector contributed 120 million rupees, Diversified Banks contributed 115 million rupees and the Capital Goods Industry generated 78 million rupees.

Top gainers during trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Cargills. (Colombo/June06/2023)

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