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Monday February 6th, 2023

Sri Lanka president proposes long neglected laws for gender equity, women empowerment 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed a new bill on gender equality and women’s empowerment to be submitted to Parliament soon in the island nation where violence against women are not considered a serious crime amid lethargic responses from law enforcement authorities for such violences.

Despite many decisions to empower women in the past, public at the grassroots have yet to see some changes in the violence against women. Many women victims harassed by men are reluctant to seek justice in Sri Lanka because most men are gender insensitive, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe urged the women’s parliamentarians’ forum to prepare the bill and emphasized that women’s representation should be increased not only in the Parliament but also in other sectors and the public sector as well as the private sector should focus their attention in this regard.

“We are drafting two acts related to Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. It is also proposed to establish an independent commission under the name of the National Women’s Commission to give leadership and make recommendations to the Parliament to intervene in matters relating to gender equality and women empowerment,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament during the Committee Stage debate for the Ministry of Women and Children.

Despite Sri Lanka being the first country to produce the first woman prime minister and president, most women are reluctant to join politics in the island nation in a patriarchal society despite more than half of the population being women.

Women are not only considered equal under the existing practices, but their rights are also usually violated by men due to gender insensitiveness, analysts say. There are only a handfuls of women at the higher level of top corporates.

The island nation has only 12 lawmakers in the 225-member legislature. Most women politicians say they are not given opportunities by their party’s counterpart men due to the patriarchal nature of the society.

Wickremesinghe’s last 2015-2019 government enacted a law to mandatorily allocate 25 percent of the local government seats to women from 2018 local government polls. However, no women were given opportunities for decision making.

“When we look at the estate sector, and garment factories, most of the employees are females but there is not a single woman director in them. Not only the Private sector but the government sector too has made the same mistake, as the scenario in the Corporations are the same,” Wickremesinghe said in his capacity as the Minister of Women Affairs and Children.

“We can address it by way of law. However, where the education sector, health and administrative sector are concerned, female representation is higher. But in the private sector, we don’t find this development and it should be improved. But when we look at the numbers receiving education, more than 50 per cent are female which is not reflected at the higher level of employment.” (Colombo/Dec01/2022)

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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