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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka in first Covid-19 death, new lockdown as Coronavirus count goes to 115 – Update

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded its first COVID-19 death yesterday as the country remained under curfew overnight and a restriction remained imposed on foreign arrivals.

The ban on arrivals was extended till April 07 by the island’s Civil Aviation Authority to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We found a person in Akurana who had come from abroad,” General Shavendra Silva, who heads an anti-Covid task force told Sri Lanka’s Sirasa TV.

“Until we find the contacts we have blocked the town. We have also found a person in Puttalam who had been to Thailand.”

Indefinite curfew will continue in Colombo, Gampaha, Kaluthra Puttalam, Jaffna and Kandy, the President’s media office said.

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Sri Lanka extends indefinite curfew to Kandy and Puttalam, Akurana under lockdown

Inter-district travel is banned except for essential services.

Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry said the total confirmed cases rose to 115 while 199 were under observation at designated hospitals around the country.

Sri Lanka has discharged nine patients from hospital including a Wave I patient from China.

The patient who died had a history of high blood pressure and blood sugar, the head of Sri Lanka’s Health Service Anil Jasinghe said.

Coronavirus patients have to be cremated or buried in a grave 8 feet deep, under supervision of the Judicial Medical Officer of the area, Medical Officer of Health and police, Jasinghe told Derana, a privately run television station.

The remains have to be sealed in a body bag, he said.

Two members of the family would be allowed to view the body, he said.

Permit Raj, Price controls bite

Sri Lanka intensified state controls on food distribution on Friday and Saturday with a price control agency disrupting activities, reports said while private pharmacies were banned from selling drugs directly to customers.

Activities at several economic centres were at a low ebb on Sunday, television reports said.

Sri Lanka had started a permit system and the Consumer Affairs Authority, a price control agency that has become an obstacle to economic activities in ordinary times had also disrupted economic activities Friday with price controls.

Colombo’s Manning market saw a high level of demand on Friday with new buyers and sellers coming in, until the CAA slapped price controls, and officials were seen berating traders on national television.

On Sunday to reduce demand and keep prices down outsiders had been reduced, a reporter said on Derana TV.

The CAA had earlier generated a tinned fish shortage by slapping a price control in a country that was already hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Any entrepreneur who suffers losses due to state price controls would want to do business another day.

In another state oriented move, only state pharmacies were allowed to sell drugs directly to consumers.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called on restrictions to be relaxed on Saturday but did not directly abandon attempt to centralise control or distribution.

A wide gap exists between Sri Lanka’s economic policies including monetary policy and the health department, public health officers, military and health officers, who have been contact chasing.

Sri Lanka PM asks Covid-19 food delivery blocks to be cleared amid permit raj

Sri Lanka bans private pharmacies selling drugs during Coronavirus curfew

Sri Lanka makes ‘helicopter drops’ of new money despite soft-peg

Airport closure extended

Sri Lanka said it has extended a ban on arriving passengers by one week to April 07 from March 31, the island’s Civil Aviation Authority said, but aircraft would still be able fly in with cargo, transit passengers and fly out with outbound passengers.

“… [A]ll international Airports in Sri Lanka will continue to be closed for the operation of inbound international commercial passenger flights (i.e. arrivals) until 2359hrs on 7 April 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka),” the CAA said in a notice to all airlines.

“This closure will be reviewed by the Sri Lanka Authorities.”

During the period aircraft departures with passengers originating from Colombo, stopovers, transit passengers or visiting tourists, Emergency Diversions to BIA, Freighter Operations and humanitarian flights, Technical landings and Inbound ferry flights (without passengers).

Related

Sri Lanka extends partial airport closure till April 07 to fight Coronavirus

SriLankan Airlines fighting Coronavirus battle with 95-pct fleet grounded

SriLankan Airlines, Oman Air and Qatar are flying daily to Sri Lanka as is Aeroflot.

Cathay Pacific is flying cargo to and from the country. SriLankan Airlines is also flying cargo only flights bringing in vital supplies.

Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Ashok Pathirage said 95 percent of the fleet was grounded.

Anti-Covid quarantine

Sri Lanka’s military said 1,488 have been released after ending quarantine. In 46 centres, 2,074 including 22 foreigners are in quarantine, Army Chief Shavendra Silva told reporters in a daily recorded video released Saturday night.

Atalugama remains under lockdown, after a confirmed person was found who is believed to have made contact with 26 peopple.

The military has found 20 persons who were now in a quarantine centre, General Silva said. (Colombo/Mar29/2020)

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Sri Lanka parliamentary committee says electricity tariffs should be reduced by 20 pct

ECONOMYNEXT — A parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis has recommended to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) that electricity tariffs be reduced by at least 20 percent.

A statement from parliament said on Monday February 26 that, following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will not suffer any loss.

PUCSL officials have informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill, according to the statement.

The matter was taken up for discussion when the committee, chaired by MP Gamini Waleboda, met in the Parliament on February 22.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and from government institutions including the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called for the meeting.

“The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

“The Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasised that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50 percent of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis,” the statement said.

The committee was also of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

The committee chair has instructed the PUCSL to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

“The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidised interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. The Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

The committee has also recommended that raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials be identified to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries. Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the CEB to external buyers and other entities should also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board, the committee has recommended.

The definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions, the committee had noted, directing the Department of Population and Statistics to support to the policymakers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

“The committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

“The committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week,” the statement said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka sets up fund to help children of Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is mandated to provide education, health, relief and social services, and emergency assistance to refugees. (Pic courtesy UNWRA)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers have approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to set up a fund to help children caught in the war in Gaza, a statement said.

The government will contribute a million US dollars and use funds allocated by state agencies for Ifthar celebrations.

Public contributions are also called.

The Presidential Secretariat is requesting public donations citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” to be contributed to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April.

Deposit receipts should to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Top US official calls for inclusive reforms, deeper defence ties with Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma in discussions with Sri Lanka officials had called for inclusive reforms and stronger human rights and also discussed deeper defence and maritime cooperation.

The United States remains committed to the economic growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka, statement from the US Embassy in Colombo quoted the official as telling government, civil society and economic leaders during his February 23-24 visit to Sri Lanka.

“Verma met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss progress on Sri Lanka’s IMF program, including inclusive economic and governance reforms aimed at keeping Sri Lanka on the path to sustainable economic growth.  Deputy Secretary Verma stressed the vital need to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. They also explored opportunities to deepen defence and maritime cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka, including strengthening the Sri Lanka Navy’s capabilities to safeguard national security and promote a more stable Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.

 On February 23, aboard the SLNS Vijayabahu, one of three former U.S. Coast Guard cutters transferred by the United States to Sri Lanka, Deputy Secretary Verma said: “I am pleased to announce that the Department of State has notified Congress of our intent to transfer a fourth medium endurance cutter to Sri Lanka.  The Department obligated $9 million in Foreign Military Financing to support this effort.  We look forward to offering the cutter, pending the completion of Congress’ notification period.  If completed, this transfer would further strengthen defense cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka.  The ship would increase Sri Lanka’s ability to patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone, monitor its search and rescue area, and provide additional security for ships from all nations that transit the busy sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.” 

 Participating in the announcement at Colombo Port were Sri Lanka State Minister of Defense Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, and U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, who remarked, according to the statement: “The United States has previously transferred three cutters to the Sri Lankan Navy, which deploys these ships for maritime operations and law enforcement missions, countering human trafficking and drug trafficking, while supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts. The eventual transfer of a fourth vessel would be just one more point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” 

Verma also visited the site of the West Container Terminal (WCT), a deepwater shipping container terminal in the Port of Colombo. The WCT, currently being constructed by Colombo West International Terminal (CWIT) Private Limited with 553 million US dollars in financing from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will provide critical infrastructure for the South Asian region, the embassy said.

“Operating near capacity since 2021, the Port of Colombo’s new addition will be the port’s deepest terminal and aims to boost Colombo’s shipping capacity, expanding its role as a premiere logistics hub connecting major routes and markets, boosting prosperity for Sri Lanka without adding to its sovereign debt,” it said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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