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Monday April 15th, 2024

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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Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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