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Friday August 19th, 2022

Sri Lanka president to call snap parliamentary election in March

Colombo, Sri Lanka | AFP | Sri Lanka’s new president said Friday that he will call a snap parliamentary election in March following his sweeping victory at the weekend.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is hoping to ride a wave of popularity by calling an election six months before the current parliament’s five-year term expires on March 1.

“I will consult the people at the earliest opportunity I get under the constitution,” he said, after swearing-in a new cabinet headed by his brother Mahinda, a former president who will now serve as premier and finance minister.

The brothers are credited with brutally defeating Tamil separatist militants in 2009 to end Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, making them adored among the majority Sinhalese-Buddhist majority.

For the same reason they are feared by many Tamils, and also among the Muslim minority who have seen increased hostility since Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people in April.

Currently the Rajapaksas and their allies have just 96 lawmakers in the 225-seat parliament, making it hard for them to pass legislation.

The opposition of outgoing premier Ranil Wickremesinghe is also six MPs short of a majority.

The new 16-member cabinet also includes another Rajapaksa brother, Chamal, who was made minister of agriculture and irrigation in addition to trade.

Foreign affairs was given to Dinsesh Gunawardena, 70, a leader of a small Sinhala nationalist party in coalition with the ruling party.

The only female in the cabinet, Pavitra Wanniarachchi, will take on women’s affairs and health.

Nobody was named to the defence or law and order portfolios.

The International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that Sri Lanka’s economy was slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the April 21 attacks.

But the international credit rating agency Fitch warned Thursday that the new president’s pledges to increase social spending, public-sector wages and pensions could damage Sri Lanka’s public finances.

During Mahinda’s 2005-15 presidency, Sri Lanka borrowed almost $7 billion from China for infrastructure projects — many of which turned into white elephants mired in corruption — pushing up Sri Lanka’s debts.

In a possible sign that he intends to avoid a repeat of Sri Lanka’s strategic drift towards Beijing under his brother, Gotabaya’s first official trip abroad will be to India next week.

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Sri Lanka schedules 3-hour power cuts for Aug 20, 21: regulator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will impose power cuts of up to three hours on Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21, Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said.

All areas (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W) will have power cuts of 1 hours and 40 minutes between 10.30 am and 06.00 pm and 1 hour 20 minutes from 06.00pm to 10.00 pm.

Click here for a detailed schedule.

The state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said supply interruption time and restoration time will vary within 30 minutes as indicated above.

Sri Lanka’s daily scheduled power cuts that were reduced to one hour in July with power generation from hydro power plants contributing more than 50 percent to the main grid reducing thermal power plant use was extended to three hours last week due to a breakdown at the Norochcholai coal power plant.

According to officials, the breakdown happened in Unit 1 of Norochcholai which will take around two weeks to repair.

The Minister of Power & Energy said Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work while Unit 3 will continue to operate. West Coast and other fuel power pPlants will be used to manage the supply, the ministry said. (Colombo/Aug02/2022)

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Sri Lanka guidance peg edges T-bond yield edge down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions edged down on Friday (19), while yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly and in T-bill remain unquoted in dull trade, a day after the Central Bank announced the policy rates will remain stable, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.95/28.05 percent on Friday, slightly up from 27.90/28.00 percent on Thursday.

No T-bills were quoted on Friday, dealers said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions further weakened by three cents to 361.00 rupees against the US dollar on Friday from 360.97 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 368.00 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 19/2022)

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Sri Lanka records 10 new COVID-19 deaths in 48 hours as case numbers rise

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths in the 48 hours from August 17 to 19 taking the country’s pandemic death toll to 16,640, health ministry data showed.

Sri Lanka is experiencing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases with the relaxation of public health restrictions relating to face masks and public gatherings.

Health authorities said the situation will be monitored constantly and have asked the general public to continue to follow basic hygiene measures in order to control the spread of the virus again in the community.

In August alone 2,924 new cases were recorded in Sri Lanka, with 84 deaths attributed to the disease.

So far in 2022, from January onward, health authorities have identified 81,157 patients to date.

Epidemiology unit data showed that 874 patients are currently receiving treatment, out of which 716 are receiving home based care.

The spread of the virus has increased with the use of public transport rising after an easing of a fuel crisis.

Sri Lanka is also facing difficulties in securing essential medicine supplies for the health sector due to a forex shortage.

Health officials said if the number of COVID-19 patients rise to a level the health sector cannot manage,  with the added issues of fuel and medical shortages, the health system might collapse.

“It is the responsibility of us all. There is no use trying to forcibly control people. We all have the responsibility to reduce or stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of control. We have been living with it for the past two years,” Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said. (Colombo/Aug19/2022)

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