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Tuesday September 26th, 2023

Sri Lanka tea plantations claim growing support for new wage model

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Planters’ Association, representing managers of commercial tea plantations are saying that there is more support for a new wage model which can boost worker earnings and output.

Under the so-called ‘revenue share model’ a worker is assigned a plot of tea which can be plucked at any time they wish, without any supervision. Their earnings go up based on the weight of the plucked weight.

The PA says staff have increased output from 18 kilograms to 24 where the model has been tried out and earnings have exceeded 65,000 rupees.

“Several RPCs that have already implemented this system have witnessed remarkable progress, with workers earning two to three times the wage they would have otherwise received,” PA media spokesperson Roshan Rajadurai said in a statement.

“The Revenue Share Model’s flexible working hours have unlocked the potential for increased productivity in previously unharvested areas, addressing labour shortages and boosting overall plantation output.”

The unsupervised work has allowed workers to attend to their personal needs and start work late or early as they wish. Workers who are skilled can also finish work early.

Plantations managers say one reason for lower productivity in commercial plantations versus small holder tea farms is that more skilled staff who work in a group come under peer pressure from seniors in the group to slow their pace.

They can avoid the problem and work less hours or pluck more by working on their own or with family members.

The Planters’ Association says “tentative support for wage reforms expressed by a high-ranking official of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress on social media.”

“For more than a decade, the PA has steadfastly maintained that the only way for Sri Lankan plantations to achieve operational sustainability is through the abolition of the daily attendance-based model in favour of a revenue share, similar to what has been practiced on tea smallholder estates with enormous success,” Rajadurai said.

“While Trade Unions have typically been entrenched in their opposition to such reforms, we are encouraged to see the growing realisation among these stakeholders as to the value of this model for workers.

“Especially since more RPCs have been exposed to this model of working, they too are pushing Trade Unions to support these reforms to move ahead.

“We maintain that a revenue share model is the only viable way to ensure the feasibility of Sri Lanka’s tea industry without compromising on our obligation to provide our employees with a sustainable and rewarding livelihood.”

Wages can sometimes add up to 70 percent of the auction prices of tea, though individual salaries may not be high based on fixed wages promoted by unions.

The PA says there is “an alarming trend of labour migration out of the plantation sector,” with some firms facing labour shortages. (Colombo/Sept02/2023)

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Future SJB govt to “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with IMF: Harsha de Silva

ECONOMYNEXT – A future government led by the incumbent main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SJB legislator Harsha de Silva said.

The MP tweeted Monday September 26 morning that a closed-door discussion between the SJB and an IMF team that’s currently in Sri Lanka to review the ongoing programme was productive and had focused on governance, transparency and equity in the reform process.

“It was a good discussion. We were quite frank,” said de Silva in a clip he shared of him speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network.

“Yes, we said we agree as the SJB that we need to work with the IMF, and that we accept that large-scale economic reform will have to take place. That was the baseline.

“However, the leader of the opposition said that, under our government, certain modifications will have to happen,” said de Silva.

The MP, who also chairs the parliament’s Committee on Public Finance (COPF), said this is because the people “obviously see that there is inequity in the implementation of this agreement”.

News footage of the SJB’s latest round of talks with the IMF team showed that SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa along with de Silva and a handful of his colleagues in the party were joined by former Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs who were vocal supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. MPs Nalaka Godahewa and G L Peiris also seen joining a group photo with the IMF and the SJB lawmakers.

The SJB was among the first to demand that the then government of ex-President Rajapaksa approach the IMF before Sri Lanka’s currency crashed in 2022. Over the months since incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration embarked on an IMF-prescribed reform agenda, the opposition party has adopted a more critical position on the international lender.

In May,  SJB MP Kabir Hashim speaking at a public event in Monaragala alluded to a unique vision his party possesses with regard to macroeconomic development that doesn’t necessarily include the IMF.


Sri Lanka’s SJB no longer enamoured of IMF, promises new govt in three moons

The SJB’s position with regard to the IMF programme, Sri Lanka’s 17th so far, has been less than consistent. The party, which was among the first to call for a deal with the iInternational lender at the onset of the island nation’s worst currency crisis in decades, abstained from voting for the agreement in a vote taken in parliament in April.

While the SJB hasn’t quite had a drastic departure from its original pro-IMF stance, the party has been increasingly vocal of late about the socioeconomic impact of the deal.

SJB leader Premadasa earlier this year reportedly said a future SJB government would not be obligated to honour deals made by the incumbent government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. MP de Silva explained later that what his party leader had meant was that Sri Lanka must negotiate terms favourable to the country when dealing with the IMF. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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Sri Lanka cabinet okays appropriation bill for 2024 budget

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had approved a draft Appropriation Act for 2024, the state information office said.

The Finance Minister’s proposal to gazette the bill and table it in parliament was approved by the cabinet.

Presenting the appropriation bill is the first stage of presenting a budget for 2024,

The appropriation bills set outs the expenditure plans for each ministry.

The budget proposals, made in November is called the second reading of the Appropriation Act. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s MEPA to get 28.5 mn rupees from Singaporean AEPW, for beach clean up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is to receive 5.7 million rupees a year, for five years, from Singapore-based marine waste solutions provider, Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), to maintain 8 beach cleaner machines.

The donation is meant to support MEPA clean coastal areas across Sri Lanka, using BeachTech Hydro Sweepy beach cleaner machines, previously donated by the organisation.

The oil industry-founded non-governmental organisation donated the 8 beach cleaners worth about US$180,000 to MEPA in the wake of the 2021 MV X-press Pearl ship disaster.

The machines manufactured by Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, a German company, are effective at cleaning up plastic nurdles and other types of potentially harmful non-biodegradable waste, minimising human contact with hazardous materials.

As a significant amount of money is spent for the deployment of these machines for beach cleaning activities, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has agreed to provide the funds for the upkeep of the machines for a period of five years.

With this financial donation, the Maritime Environment Protection Authority will be able to continue using these machines without interruption to clean identified beaches in the future. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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