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Monday April 22nd, 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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IMF official: Sri Lanka’s road ahead is challenging, critical to keep up with reform momentum

ECONOMYNEXT –International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said Sri Lanka’s future with many reforms are challenging, but it is critical to keep up with the reform momentum.

Gopinath stated this after meeting the island nation’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington.

“I commended them on hard-won economic gains in the past year. The road ahead is challenging and it’s critical to keep up with the reform momentum,” Gopinath wrote on her X platform.

Under IMF programme, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has implemented a raft of hard reforms including higher taxes.

Sri Lanka agreed to the IMF programme after it declared bankruptcy with sovereign debt default in April 2022.

Semasinghe after the meeting tanks Gopinath for acknowledging Sri Lanka’s economic progress.

“Our discussion was insightful and productive, and we appreciate the opportunity to delve into the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the State Finance minister said in his X platform.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our reform agenda and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with the IMF to advance our shared goals.”

Sri Lanka was compelled to go for IMF after the unprecedented economic crisis which was followed by a political crisis that ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government who were legitimately elected.

The IMF programme has included reforms in state-owned enterprises, fiscal sector and financial sectors to ensure debt sustainability.

The global lender also has pledged its support to speed up the island nation’s lingering debt restructuring process with private creditors including sovereign bond holders. (Colombo/April 22/2021)

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Sri Lanka motor racing crash claims 7 lives, 4 critical

ECONOMYNEXT – A deadly accident at motor Race Sri Lanka’s hill country town of Diyathalawa has claimed at least 7 lives police said, after a racing vehicle, in the seasonal Fox Hill Super Cross ploughed in to spectators after running off the track.

Another 21 spectators were injured Sunday, and hospitalized and at least four were critical, police said.

Thousands of people come to watch the Fox Hill Super Cross race, which is usually held in April, as large numbers of people head to the cooler climes in the hills.

According to footage taken by spectators one car overturned on the side of the track.

Sri Lanka’s Newsfirst television said Marshalls were waving flags to caution other vehicles, when another car went off the track and crashed into spectators. (Colombo/April21/2024)

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Widespread support for Sri Lanka debt workout, reform progress at IMF/WB meet: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – There was widespread support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and acknowledgement of progress made under an International Monetary Fund program, at meeting of the fund and World Bank, State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

“The strides made in our economic recovery and financial stability have been acknowledged as significant advancements towards our country’s prosperity by our stakeholders and international partners,” Minister Semasinghe said in an x.com (twitter) post after attending the meetings.

“Further, it was heartening to note the widespread appreciation and support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reaching the restructuring targets and confident of smooth progress in the continued good-faith engagements for a speedy debt resolution that will ensure debt sustainability and comparability of debt treatment.”

Sri Lanka ended a first round of talks with sovereign bondholders in March without striking a deal but some agreement on the basis for a deal.

An initial deal with bilateral creditors have been reached, but they may be awaiting a deal with private creditors to sign formal agreements.

International partners have appreciated reforms made under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Semasinghe said.

“It was great to engage in productive bilateral discussions with all of whom appreciated the recent economic developments, progress in debt restructuring, strengthening of tax administration, and ongoing governance reforms,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has been allowed to re-appreciate by the central bank amid deflationary monetary policy, bringing tangible benefits to people in the form of lower energy and food prices, unlike in past IMF programs.

Electricity prices were cut as a strengthening currency helped reduce the cost of coal imports.

Related Sri Lanka central bank mainly responsible for electricity price cut

The currency appreciation has also allowed losses to the Employment Provident Fund imposed to be partially recouped, helping old workers near retirement, as well as raising disposable incomes of current wage earners on fixed salaries.

Related Sri Lanka EPF gets US$1.85bn in value back as central bank strengthens rupee

The IMF, which was set up after World War II to end devaluations seen in the 1930s after the Fed’s policy rate infected other key central banks, started to actively encourage depreciation after a change to its founding articles in 1978 (the Second Amendment).

The usefulness of money as a store of value, or a denominator of current and future values then decline, leading to loss of real savings, real wages and increases in social unrest.

Before that, members who devalued more than 10 percent after printing money for growth or any other reason, faced the threat of suspension from the organization as punishment.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has appreciated to around 300 to the US dollar now from 370 after a surrender rule was lifted in March 2023.

But there is no transparency on the basis that economic bureaucrats are allowing the currency to gain against the US dollar (the intervention currency of the central bank).

The rupee is currently under pressure, despite broadly prudent monetary policy, due to an ‘oversold position’ in the market after recent appreciation made importers and banks to run negative open positions as the usefulness of the currency as a denominator of future value declined with sudden strenghtening. (Colombo/Apr21/2024)

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