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Saturday May 18th, 2024

Sri Lanka opposition SJB to launch massive farmers’ protest on Nov 16: MP

image – Harin Fernando Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main opposition the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) plans to launch a “massive” farmers’ protest on November 16, SJB MP Harin Fernando said, inviting all workers to join.

Edited to add: SJB MP Dr Harsha de Silva told EconomyNext a short while ago that the protest will be held in Colombo joined by “not just farmers, but many others”.

Farmers in Sri Lanka have been protesting a controversial decision to ban agrochemicals in what experts say is an ill-conceived overnight shift to organic fertilizer.

Related: Sri Lanka president defends controversial agrochemical ban amid mounting opposition

Fernando told reporters on Monday (08) that the objective of the protest will be to see if the government will make good a perceived threat to “grab farmers by the neck”.

Fernando, a vocal critic of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration, was ostensibly referring to a remark made by Rajapaksa on Saturday (06) that he did not wish to force organic fertilizer on farmers who aren’t receptive to it.

Speaking at a public event, a visibly annoyed Rajapaksa said that the transition to organic fertilizer was always going to be a great challenge.

“Some say they expected a military-style Gotabaya. I could do that, but that would mean, when the farmer is asked to use organic fertilizer, I can go with the army, grab them by the neck and say ‘use this’, but I have no need to do that. Is that what was expected? No.

“Some said that if I won, democracy would disappear. Now they themselves say ‘oh no, this not who we had expected, [we had expected] someone like in the army.’ I can do that if I want. But this is a democratic country,” the president said in Sinhala.

The official English translation of the speech, as released by the President’s Media Division, had the line:  “I can. To tell the farmers to use organic manure by resorting to physical force similar to how they do it in the army. But I have no need to do that.”

Some critics saw, or chose to see, a veiled threat in the president’s words.

“The wave of protests in the country cannot be stopped. On November 16, we plan to start this with a massive farmers protest. The objective of the protest is to see if the protestors can be grabbed by the neck, the way he said they could be. We will take to the streets with the farmers on that day to see if this can be done,” said MP Fernando.

Farmers are not the only group protesting the government.  School teachers and principals were on a strike for a record 100+ days over salary anomalies that have remained unresolved for 24 years. Trade unions only recently returned to work after much back-and-forth with the authorities, but protests continue islandwide with teachers demanding that the cash-strapped government find a solution to their woes fast.

The teachers again took to the streets on Tuesday (09). Meanwhile, health workers too are on a 24-hour token strike over salary anomalies of their own.

Related: Teachers, health workers in Sri Lanka promise TU action on Nov 9 over salary issues

“We believe the people of this country, not just farmers but all workers in the country can come out,” said Fernando. (Colombo/Nov09/2021)

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Sri Lanka suffers over $138mn foreign outflow from govt bonds in 2024 after rate cuts

ECONOMYNEXT – Foreign investors have dumped 41.6 billion-rupee ($138.6 million) worth of Sri Lanka government securities in the first 20 weeks of 2024, the central bank data showed, after reduction in the key policy interest rates.

The foreign holding in Sri Lanka’s treasury bills and treasury bonds fell to 75.9 billion rupees on the week ended on Friday (17), May 2024, from 117.4 billion rupees on the week ended on December 29.

The central bank rate has reduced the key policy rates by 50 basis points so far in 2024, extending the rates cut by 700 basis points since June last year.

The rupee appreciated 9.1 percent in the first four months, but the gain failed to attract foreign investors amid a dragged debt restructuring negotiation with external private creditors.

Currency dealers said lackluster demand for dollars due to dampened imports with heavy controls, boom in both tourism revenue and remittances have helped to increase the dollar liquidity in the market, leading to the appreciation of the local currency.

The dealers said foreign investors can earn capital gain if they had bought government securities before the appreciation and now the offshore investors might be selling their bonds.

“They are also discouraged by policy rate cut because that will reduce their returns from the rupee bond investments,” a currency dealer said.

The yield in 12-month T-bills has fallen 336 basis points in the first four months of this year, the central bank data showed.

The central bank also reduced the Statutory Reserve Ratio (SRR) of commercial banks by 200 basis points in August last year to boost liquidity in the market with an aim to reduce market interest rates.

Under tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for its $3 billion loan program, the central bank raised key monetary policy rates in 2022 and last year to bring down inflation which hit over 70 percent in 2022. The inflation has fallen to the lower single digit now.

The rupee has appreciated to around 300 against the US dollar this week from around 330 level early in November. The local currency was at 365 rupees against the US dollar in early 2022. Depreciation causes capital loss for foreign investors. (Colombo/May 18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourist fair seeks to involve universities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourism fair kicked off this week to promote interaction between industry stakeholders and relevant Government bodies, including the Tourist Police, and also universities.

“Several universities, including Colombo, Uva Wellasa, Kelaniya, Sabaragamuwa and Rajarata were given free stalls to facilitate student interaction with industry professionals,” Chairman of the Sancharaka Udawa Organising Committee, Charith De De Alwis said in a statement.

The event takes place today (18) at the BMICH and houses stalls for hoteliers, tour and transport services, with a goal of attracting 10,000 visitors.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), the 11th edition of Sancharaka Udawa offers a platform for both B2B and B2C sectors.

“Sancharaka Udawa houses over 170 exhibitors and a footfall of more than 10,000 visitors,” De Alwis said.

This year’s edition will include participants from outbound tourism sectors to facilitate capacity building. The event provides networking opportunities for industry newcomers and veterans.

“The networking platform offers opportunity for small and medium-sized service providers integrating them into the broader tourism landscape. The anticipated outcome is a substantial increase in bookings particularly for regional small-scale tourism service providers.” (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s CEB sells LTL shares to West Coast IPP for Rs26bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has sold shares of an affiliate to West Coast Power Company Limited, an independent power producer giving profits of 25.9 billion rupees in the March 2024 quarter, interim accounts showed.

The sale has been carried out as a transfer.

“Twenty-eight percent (28-pct) of share ownership of CEB within LTL Holding’s equity capital has been transferred to West Coast Power Company Ltd for a total consideration of Rs 26 billion as part of a partial settlement of outstanding dues…” the March interim accounts said.

“This transaction resulted in a net gain of Rs25.9 billion rupees which has been recognized and reflected in the ‘Gain from Share Disposal’ in the individual financial statement in CEB.”

LTL Holdings is a former transformer making unit of the CEB set up with ABB where the foreign holding was sold to its management.

The firm has since set up several IPPs.

West Coast Power operates a 300MW combined cycle IPP in Kerawalapitiya promoted by LTL group liked firms in which both the Treasury and Employees Provident Fund also have shares.

Its operational and maintenance contract is with Lakdhanavi, another private IPP. The firm has been paying dividends.

The capital gain from the transfer of shares helped the CEB post profits to 84 billion rupees for the March 2024 quarter.

CEB reported gross profits of 62.7 billion rupees from energy sales and 30.6 billion rupees in other income and gains in the March 2024 quarter. Other income was only 3.1 billion rupees in last year. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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