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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Sri Lanka teachers, principals go on strike over fuel price

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

ECONOMYNEXT – A collective of Sri Lanka’s government school teacher and principal unions declared sick leave on Monday (25) in a one-day token strike protesting a sharp increase in fuel prices which they said has affected student attendance.

The unions said on Monday that all teachers and students have been affected and are unable to bear the increase in transports costs brought about by the fuel price hike, which has led to countless protests islandwide on top of other ongoing protests demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government.

The teachers’ unions have asked the Ministry of Education to allow teachers and students to go to their nearest school as a temporary relief measure, a union leader said, however, that this request was rejected by the ministry secretary.

“Teachers cannot come into work today. If it took 500 rupees worth of fuel for them to go to school, they now need to spend at least 2,000. The teachers are facing a crisis,” Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin said.

“Bus fare and private transport coach fees have increased. We asked the education ministry to let teachers shift to the school nearest to them as a temporary relief, but this request was rejected by the ministry,” said Stalin.

Secretary of the National Principals Union Parakrama Weerasinghe said student attendance has dropped due to the prevailing economic crisis in the country.

“When asked why they can’t come, they say their parents are in a gas queue or don’t have enough fuel for transport,” said Weerasinghe.

“Only teachers and principals are even aware of this problem; not ministry officials,” he added.

Weerasinghe said, in order to pressure the authorities to solve the country’s economic and political crises, teachers and principals decided to go for a one-day token strike by applying for sick leave.

However, newly appointed Education Minister Ramesh Pathirana issued a statement that said he believes teachers and principals will report to work for the sake of children.

“I believe even though several unions have decided to apply sick leaves and go on strike, other teachers will report to school as usual,” Pathirana said.

He said, even though it is the right of the teachers to strike, teachers will come to school and resume their teaching activities with the country’s children in mind. (Colombo/April25/2022)

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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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