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Friday March 1st, 2024

Sri Lanka looking to use prisoners, rehabilitation centre “inmates” for agri work

Sri Lanka is discussing the possibility of utilising prisoners and detainees in drug rehabilitation centres for agriculture

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is discussing the possibility of utilising prisoners and detainees in drug rehabilitation centres for agriculture, as the country faces a possible food shortage thanks to an overnight ban on chemical fertiliser.

The programme aims to convert prisoners into a valuable human resource for the country, a Cabinet statement released on Tuesday July 05 said, with no elaboration on whether they will be compensated for their labour.

Under the program, inmates in open camps and work camps will be instructed by the Department of Agriculture to cultivate high-yielding crops with the aim of fulfilling food requirements of the prisons.

Existing agricultural programs in three drug rehabilitation centres in the country will be expanded, the statement said.

A thousand acres of unutilised land belonging to the Mahaweli Authority and the National Livestock Development Board in the Kandakadu and Navasenapura regions of Polonnaruwa will cultivated by the detainees at the rehabilitation centres.

Five hundred acres will be set aside for maize cultivation, and the remaining land for native grains, fruits and vegetables.

The discussions come at a time when the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre is under scrutiny by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, after the suspicious death of a detainee and mass escape of nearly 700 more. Addicts treated at these centres are not considered prisonsers, according to officials, though critics claim otherwise.

Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission probing rehabilitation centre mass escape

Sri Lanka is currently going through what experts dub “the worst performing season in a decade,” thanks to the aftereffects of President Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s overnight chemical fertiliser ban.

The ongoing fuel crisis is also causing transport issues, with many retailers complaining that suppliers do not have the fuel to deliver goods.

Sri Lanka’s food prices have gone up 80.1 percent in the 12 months from June 2021 to June 2022. Many Sri Lankans are finding it impossible to afford basics, even if they are available on the market, and the country’s malnutrition rates have gone up.

A statement by the World Food Programme revealed that over than 80 percent of Sri Lankan families are eating less and cheaper. The country also has the second highest rates of child malnutrition is South Asia according to the UNICEF.

In the face of the crisis, the Sri Lankan government was forced to remove the ban on chemical fertiliser, and has been allocating land for agricultural purposes with the hope of driving up output. (Colombo/05Jul/2022)


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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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