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Wednesday March 29th, 2023

Sri Lanka president defends controversial agrochemical ban amid mounting opposition

President Rajapaksa addressing the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaking at a global climate summit in Scotland on Monday (01) defended his government’s controversial decision to ban agrochemicals in the face of mounting opposition by farmers, experts and what he called entrenched lobbies.

“Sri Lanka recently restricted the imports of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides due to public health concerns, water contamination, soil degradation, and biodiversity impacts. Although opposed by entrenched lobbies, this has created opportunities for innovation and investment into organic agriculture that will be healthier and more sustainable in future”, a statement from the President’s Office quoted him as saying at the World Leaders Summit COP26 held in Glasgow.

The Rajapaksa government’s overnight shift to organic fertilizer has been severely criticised by opposition parties, agriculture experts and, not least, hundreds of farmers who have taken to the streets in furious protest.

Critics have said though it is a good idea in theory, the shift to organic fertilizer should be carried out in stages over a number of years.

Professor Buddhi Marambe, a former Dean of Agriculture Faculty at the University of Peradeniya who was recently sacked from all government positions, had been warning in recent newspaper articles that the move could lead to crop declines that in turn cause huge food shortages within months.

Related: Sacked Sri Lanka scientist rejects ad hominem attack as fertilizer warning materialize

Speaking at the COP26 summit, President Rajapaksa further said Sri Lanka is proud to be a co-lead of the “Global Energy Compact for No New Coal Power”.

In September this year, Sri Lanka joined six other countries in pledging a No New Coal Compact, promising to cease the issuance of permits for new unabated coal power plants after the end of the year.

The cabinet office announced on Tuesday (02) that ministers have approved a series of policy guidelines with regard to power generation including a proposal to generate 70 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Other proposals include a decision to forego the construction of new coal power plants and to neutralise net carbon emissions from power generation by 2050.

Related: Sri Lanka cabinet nod for electricity policy guidelines; 70pct renewable by 2030

The COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference is being held at a “critical moment in the fight against climate change” and is attended by around 25,000 people from 197 countries representing a wide range of fields.

“It is essential that the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases fulfil their national commitments and assist developing nations navigate through the climate crisis,” the President’s Office statement quoted Rajapaksa as saying in his address.

Rajapaksa also called on nations to work together in a spirit of true cooperation to overcome the crisis and sustain humanity and the planet.

“Climate change affects all nations, but disproportionately impacts developing island nations. Developing nations that take bold steps towards climate change mitigation and adaptation deserve extensive support,” he said.

“Sri Lanka is deeply aware of the impacts of climate change. Our rich philosophical heritage, shaped by Lord Buddha’s teachings, places great value on environmental integrity,” said Rajapaksa, adding that sustainability is at the heart of Sri Lanka’s national policy framework.

“Sri Lanka’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions aims to reduce emissions towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It is expected to increase carbon sequestration capacity by 7% by 2030 and steps are being taken to phase out use of fossil fuels,” he said.

In 2019, Sri Lanka spearheaded the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which seeks to halve Nitrogen waste by 2030, the statement said.

“We look forward to more countries joining this initiative.”

Sri Lanka leads the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods under the Commonwealth Blue Charter initiative. President Rajapaksa also said Sri Lanka welcomes investments, technology transfers, and climate financing for its “ambitious sustainability efforts, along with broader development assistance to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Colombo/Nov02/2021)

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Sri Lanka stocks recover with banking and finance sectors leading the way

Stock Market. Free public domain CC0 image.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s stocks edged up on Wednesday recovering from the two-day loss, with banking and finance sectors pushing up the market as buying interest returned for the day, easing selling pressure, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed up 0.42 percent or 39.03 points to 9,272.43.

The market was on a downward trend since last week as investors are adopting a wait-and-see approach until more clarity is given regarding local debt restructuring after the International Monetary Fund approved the extended loan facility.

“Buying interest has renewed and selling pressures are wearing off,” Ranjan Ranatunga of First Capital Holdings said.

Shares at Lanka IOC was gaining during the following week on the news that the Sri Lanka cabinet has granted approval for three oil companies from China, the United States, and Australia in collaboration with Shell Pl to lease 150 fuel stations for each company to operate in the local market.

However, sudden price revision of fuel by the Energy Ministry has hit the shares dragging it down, analysts said.

A crossing was seen by Horana Plantations, with a 51 percent stake change coming into play, the crossing had generated 700 million rupees from the total turnover, Ranatunga said.

The market saw a net foreign inflow of 32.8 million rupees, and the total offshore inflows recorded so far in 2023 are 3.3 billion rupees.

The most liquid index, S&P SL20, closed 0.64 percent or 16.95 points up at 2,673.25.

The market saw a turnover of 1.4 billion on Wednesday, below this year’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees.

Top gainers were Sampath Bank, Vallibel One and DFCC Bank.(Colombo/March29/2023)

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Rupee closes weaker at 328.50/329.50 against the US dollar, Bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s treasury bond yields were down and the rupee closed weaker in the spot market on Wednesday following an undersubscribed treasury bill auction, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond closed at 31.25/30 percent on Tuesday, steady from 31.20/60 percent on Tuesday.

A 15.09.2027 bond closed at 28.25/29.00 percent, unchanged from Tuesday.

A one-year bill closed at 24.00/30 percent, down from 24.25/25.00 percent.

Sri Lanka rupee closed at 328.50/329.50 rupees against the US dollar weakened, from 325/328 rupees from a day earlier. (Colombo/ March29/2023)

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Sri Lanka tuk tuk, bus fares to be cut on lower fuel prices

CROWDED: An overloaded bus in a suburb of Colombo, leaning sideways with passengers clinging to foot boards.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bus fares will be cut from 12.9 percent from midnight onwards, a public transport regulator said while tuk tuk drivers said they are cutting their free market fares with immediate effect.

“The minimum rate will be cut to 30 rupees from tonight,” Lasantha Alagiyawana acting Transport Minister told reporters Wednesday. 

The minimum bus fare was previously 35 rupees. 

Three wheeler association President, Lalith Dharamsena said the first kilometer is charged from 100 rupees and 80 rupees for the second kilometer.

The price of Petrol 92 Octane will be slashed by 15 percent or 60 rupees to 340, Petrol 95 Octane 95 will be reduced by 26.5 percent or 135 rupees to 375, Auto Diesel by 19.8 percent or 80 rupees to 325, and kerosene by 3.3 percent or 10 rupees to 295.

Wijesekera said on President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s advice and in line with the price formula agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the prices will be reduced from midnight today. (Colombo/Mar29/2023) 

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