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Sunday December 3rd, 2023

Sri Lanka parliament must decide on its authority on finance: Namal

FILE PHOTO – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with nephew Namal at the opening of the last part of the Southern Expressway/PMD

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka parliament must take a call on whether its authority on public finance ought to be devolved to another entity, ruling party MP Namal Rajapaksa said, claiming that all 225 legislators must be held responsible for the 2019 tax reduction.

Addressing parliament during the ongoing 2024 budget debate, Rajapaksa said much of the debate’s time has been taken up for a scandal involving Sri Lanka Cricket, the conduct of the chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and a “certain court verdict”.

The MP was ostensibly referring to a recent Supreme Court verdict holding his father and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, two of  President Rajapaksa’s brothers and officials affiliated with their administration responsible for Sri Lanka’s financial crisis. Among the decisions mentioned in the verdict were an ill-advised tax cut, paying off a 500 million dollar bond, and a refusal to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to MP Rajapaksa, some of these decisions including the tax cut was endorsed unanimously by parliament, while others were policy decisions by the then government.

“We have to question whether a government policy can be challenged in court,” said the younger Rajapaksa.

“On the one hand, this was a policy approved by the cabinet and presented to this house, and passed in parliament upon debate. The next day, about the VAT percentage, it was once again presented to parliament and that too was passed by vote.

“None of these political parties in parliament did opposed the reduction in taxes at the time. The parties that talk about it loudly today, I have to ask you if you’re opposed to reducing the tax burden on the people. You supported it the, but today what is being discussed is how that’s wrong,” said Rajapaksa.

If these decisions were to be attributed to an individual or group of people, the MP said, it must be noted that they were policy decisions by the government.

“All 225 who unanimously endorsed it are responsible. This is the truth,” he added.

Rajapaksa said if it was wrong to pay off the 500 million dollars in debt, then it can apply to the public too.

“If a person cannot pay off a bankloan without banrupting himself, does he have the right to not pay?”

Thirdly, on going to the IMF, Rajapaksa said it was a political matter.

“The IMF may be good for some people, but for others the it may not be so. So how do we determine if at this particular time should we go to the IMF or not? That cannot be done.”

“Lastly, and mainly, the country is being pushed to a place where no government can take a decision. Those who reduce taxes can be wrong, and one day those who raised it can be wrong too.

“This house must decide then do we uphold Sectoin 29 of the constitution? Or do we devolve that to another party? If so then let’s pass an act in parliament about that and give that to the relevant institutions.

“That responsibility lies with parliament,” the MP said, insisting that his party respects court verdicts. (Colombo/Nov20/2023)

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Sri Lanka UGC wants to boost number of IT-related degrees

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s University Grants Commission is of the view to boost the number of Information Technology (IT) related degrees in state universities with an aim to pave the way for a digital economy.

Sri Lanka’shigher education system has been producing more graduates in Arts stream while the degrees in highly demanded IT and other engineering services are being looked at only now.

“We do have a high demand for engineering, science, AI, computer and electronical engineering

studies,” Chairman of University Grants Commission, Sampath Amaratunga, told reporters at aa media briefing on Friday

“However, while avoiding neglecting the humanities, we should develop new IT skills.”

Amaratunga confirmed that a student who studied in any stream could obtain an IT degree, including students who studied in the arts stream.

The UGC data show that out of 18,490 engineering technology stream students who sat for their Advanced Levels (A/L) in 2022, 10634 were eligible for university.

“Even streams like agriculture should be encouraged to use technology,” Amaratunga said. (Colombo/Dec 2/2023)

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Sri Lanka leader inaugurates Climate Justice Forum at COP28 in Dubai

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe launched Climate Justice Forum (CJF) at the ongoing 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) held in Dubai in a move to gather support for vulnerable nations hit by climate-change led disasters.

This year’s climate summit held in Dubai’s EXPO2020 features a raft of issues for countries working to find common ground in tackling climate change, including whether to phase out fossil fuels and how to finance the energy transition in developing countries.

Wickremesinghe inaugurated the Climate Justice Forum at COP28 on Saturday and emphasized the critical importance of addressing climate issues with a sense of justice and equity.

The President had been in talks with many nations vulnerable to climate change disasters including African and South American countries to get their support for the CJF.

The move is to compel advanced and developed countries to look into the poor nations hit by the climate changes and help them to get over economic and debt burdens by either investing more in green energy initiatives or writing off debts to ease financial pressure.

Sri Lanka, which is now facing an unprecedented economic crisis, has seen increasing losses and damages, both human lives and physical properties due to climate change-led disasters like floods, drought, and earth slips.

In his speech at the COP28 forum, Wickremesinghe on Friday said the Climate Justice Forum will provide a platform for constructive and proactive engagements. (Dubai/Dec 2/2023)

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Sri Lanka IMF review goes to executive board on December 12

ECONOMYNEXT – The first review of Sri Lanka’s International Monetary Fund program is scheduled to go the lender’s Executive Board for consideration on December 12.

Sri Lanka officials were expecting the review to be completed in December as soon as official creditors gave their assurances.

According to the notice Sri Lanka had missed one performance criterion and has requested modifications.

Sri Lanka has outperformed on a number of quantity targets including inflation. In addition to quantity PCs there was also one non-accumulation of arrears.

There would also be re-phasing of access. The review was originally expected around September with another review based on December data, leading to September and March disbursements.

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