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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Sri Lanka school teachers threaten trade union action again

Schools remain closed in Sri Lanka as COVID-19 cases continue to surge

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s school teachers and principals who were on strike for much of the year are threatening maximum trade union action once again if a promised salary hike is not made by January 20, 2022.

Ceylon Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin told reporters on Wednesday (22) that no circular has been issued by the Ministry of Education pertaining to the promised increment.

“The budget has allocated 30 billion rupees. All teachers and principals unions have agreed that this must be implemented before January 20, 2022.

“A circular needs to be issued in order to make this payment by that date. Normally, for salaries to be paid on the 20th of the month, preparations are made by the 5th, which means this circular must be issued before the 5th. But we see no such initiative,” said Stalin.

Presenting the annual budget for next year, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa announced on November 12 that 30 billion rupees will be allocated for a proposed salary increment for school teachers and principals to be paid in one go.

The allocation, as recommended by a cabinet subcommittee on August 30, effectively ended the months-long trade union campaign by school teachers which saw a series of protests and a strike that dragged on for over 100 days.

Related: Sri Lanka to allocate Rs 30 bn for teachers’ pay hike to be paid in one go

“The education ministry has not implemented the cabinet decision,” said Stalin.

“It is up to the education ministry to implement it. The ministry hasn’t issued the gazette making the teachers and principals service a closed service either,” he added.

Education Minister Gunawardena declared school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service” on August 31.

Both teachers’ and principals’ services are under the public service. But declaring them a closed service allows the government to treat teachers and principals separately from the rest of the public service when resolving their demands of salary anomalies, wages, transfers, and other benefits.

“The budget was passed on December 10. To date, the education ministry hasn’t taken any step pertaining to that circular,” said the union leader.

“If the government doesn’t pay us our [increment] from January as promised, we will take the maximum action we can take, including in connection to exams,” he added. (Colombo/Dec22/2021)

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Sri Lanka India industrial zone around Trinco, maritime links mooted

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ports Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had highlighted the desire of both the Governments to work closely to develop the industrial zone at Trincomalee, after accepting an invitation to participate in a maritime summit.

The Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS) will be held in India from October 17-19, 2023 at Mumbai where Sri Lanka has been invited at a partner country.

At a curtain raiser event on September 22, India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopal Baglay had said both countries were working on enhancing sea connectivity according to a vision document launched during a recent visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India.

Minister de Silva will lead a delegation from Sri Lanka to the summit.

Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, T K Ramachandran said the Global Maritime India Summit aims strengthen the Indian maritime economy by promoting global and regional partnerships and facilitating investments.

The event will give an opportunity to the Government of Sri Lanka to attracting greater investment from India in development of its maritime infrastructure, Ramachandran said.

It will also facilitate greater business to business interactions. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka brings back import para tariff on milk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has brought back an import para tariff called the Ports and Airports Levy, to several grades of milk powder.

Milk powder has been removed from a list of PAL exemptions, making them liable for a 10 percent tax.

The PAL para tariffs are also a contentious issue in terms of export competitiveness, and the government has previously given undertakings that they will be eliminated.

Trade freedoms of the poor figure in an IMF/World bank reform program with the governments.

Milk is a protein rich food, in a country where children of poor families are facing stunting and malnutrition.

Economic nationalism is seen at high levels in food, with several businessmen are pushing for trade protection, amid an overall autarkist (self-sufficiency) ideology, going directly against policies followed in East Asia, which the same as hold up as examples.

Sri Lanka keeps dairy product prices up ostensibly to bring profits to a domestic dairy company and farmers.

Sri Lanka also keeps maize prices up, ostensibly to give profits to farmers and collectors. (Colombo/Sept22/2023)

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Sri Lanka govt warns liquor manufacturers: pay defaulted tax or lose licence

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka government which is struggling to raise the state revenue despite   higher taxes, has warned liquor manufacturers to pay defaulted taxes or lose their licence.

The government is now getting tough with past tax defaulters amid concerns over falling short of this year’s revenue target agreed with the International Monetary Fun (IMF).

“Liquor manufacturing firms owe us 660 crore rupees (6.6 billion rupees),” Siyambalapitiya told  reporters on Thursday (21).

“Most of this or around a third is the only excise tax amount to be paid. The rest is penalty. If a liquor manufacturer does not pay on time, we impose a penalty of 3 percent per month This means 36 percent (penalty) per annum,” he said.

“We have given them deadline to repay the basic excise taxes. If they don’t pay, we will cancel their licence.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government committed an ambitious revenue target among many other reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return to a $3 billion loan package.

However, the revenue could face a short fall of 100 billion rupees, State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

A new Central Bank Act also has legally prevented the government of printing money at its discretion as  in the past.  (Colombo/September 24/2023)

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