ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has written to the Buddhist leaders to go for solar panels to cut down the electricity cost amid protests by some religious leaders over the government’s tariff hike.
In his response to the letter by the chief prelates of Malwathu, Asgiri, Amarapura and Ramanya Chapters said the panels could be provided to religious places at cost or with the required funds to import.
Sri Lanka is in an unprecedented economic crisis and forced to cut down all the subsidies given in the past. The island nation’s successive governments have under priced electricity costs, fearing political repercussions. However, Wickremesinghe’s administration was forced to raise the prices in line with market rates amid extended power cuts.
President Wickremesinghe in his letter said around 42,950 Buddhist temples and other registered religious and social services in the country have been connected to the main power grid and currently.
“Even under the new electricity charges, the highest monthly electricity bill of 33,214 registered Buddhist temples and other religious and social services, is less than 4,000 rupees.,” he said in his letter.
“Only the nearly 9,800 locations that consume more than 180 units have higher charges.”
“It is a fact that with the revision of the new electricity bill, places with high electricity consumption of more than 180 units will be affected.”
After the revision of the electricity tariff in the, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera also has proposed 12,000 temples and religious centres that pay higher tariffs than others to switch into solar power and manage their monthly power consumption.
Some Buddhist monks led by influential Omalpe Sobitha Thera have started a protest against the government move of raising the tariff for religious places. These monks have threatened to not honour the payment on electricity bills.
“It is very practical to install solar panels to religious shrines that have to pay very high electricity bills,” Wickremesinghe said in the letter.
“Opting for alternative mechanisms would only serve to provide short term relief.”
“These solar panels could be provided to these establishments at cost or they could be provided with the required funds to import such solar panels,” he said without elaborating how it could be financed. (Colombo/Sept24/2022)