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Friday June 2nd, 2023

Sri Lanka tech campus drives online exams in Covid-19 lockdown

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, a fee levying tech campus said nearly 10,000 students sat for exams online during a Coronavirus lockdown.

Over 95 percent of students from the faculties of Computing, Engineering, Business, Humanities & Sciences, Graduate Studies & Research, School of Architecture, School of Law, School of Hospitality and Culinary had sat for the online exams.

“It is unprecedented in Sri Lanka’s higher education system, for such a large number to complete the full stretch of exam papers,” The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Nimal Rajapakse said.

“The papers were divided into multiple-choice, short answer questions, and the longer 3 to 4-hour papers which had to be answered on paper, then scanned and uploaded to our servers.

We had lockdown browsers and other tools and methods to ensure the integrity of examinations.”

He said Eduscope, a tech start up led by Malitha Wijesundera, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences had played a key role in online delivery of lecturs and exams.

The exams, which were conducted over a period of thee weeks, had each student sat for between four to six subjects.

The institute had to invest heavily in its IT infrastructure to handle the online delivery of lectures and examinations. “We see the value of this investment and plan to do more to give the best learning experience to our students,” says the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

“Like any other institution, we had some concerns because it’s the first time something like this was being done on this scale locally,” Rajapaksa said.

“Even international universities with sophisticated online tools had faced challenges, so in that sense, we had some worries – that there could be technological problems, low rates of participation which are issues that cannot be disregarded in a virtual environment.

“In a physical examination, students would raise a hand to clarify something which was not a possibility with online although we had hotlines managed by staff taking queries on the phone.

“Many of the exams had vivas and both academic staff and students had to put in a lot of work to do these online.”
The process had to be designed to treat everyone equally and their performance during the entire academic year could be judged fairly.

In some courses there was 100 percent participation, but in others there had been power outages and connection problems.

Those students would be given another opportunity to complete the exams. For pass/fail grades the choice of writing a regular in-class exam during the next semester would be given.

“We looked at student concerns and international best practices and designed the system around them, taking care not to create any disadvantages to students,” Rajapaksa said.

“They were sitting for exams from all over the island, so we had to consider that. We created a hotline where a student facing an issue such as a technical glitch, power outage, or any other, could call us and register the problem.’

SLIIT Vice Chancellor, Lalith Gamage, the institute had gained knowledge and experience. SLIIT is looking use know-how to enhance online learning and expand portfolio of courses to reach a wider section of society.

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Sri Lanka to ramp up weekend fuel deliveries after petrol price cut

More deaths reported at Sri Lanka fuel queues

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation will be operating on the weekend to complete all fuel deliveries to end vehicle queues forming outside fuel stations after the price revision earlier in the week, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“Instructions have been given to CPC and Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals to continue fuel deliveries on Saturday and Sunday this week to supply sufficient stocks to all fuel stations,” Minister Wijesekera said in a TWITTER.COM MESSAGE

“To reduce expenses on overtime, CPC and CPSTL have not been operating on Sundays and public holidays in the last 4 months,” Wijesekera said.

“Non-placement of orders by fuel stations from last Saturday, anticipating a price reduction, not maintaining minimum stocks, immediate increase in demand by consumers after the price revision, and quota increase have created shortages in the fuel stations.”

The Minister in April 2023 said all fuel stations would be required to maintain a minimum of 50 percent of stock tank capacity.

“I have asked CPC to review and suspend the license of fuel stations that had not maintained minimum stocks.” (Colombo/ June 02/ 2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yield up at close, rupee at 291.75/292.50 against the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s bonds closed steady on Friday, dealers said, following the central bank’s decision to cut its main policy rate by 250 basis points.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.75/292.50 rupees, dealers said.

The rupee opened at 290.25/75 to the US dollar Thursday and closed at 292.50/295.50 to the US dollar.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 24.70/90 percent up from 24.50/90 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 25.75/26.25 percent up from 25.00/26.00 percent a day earlier.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 27.00/30 percent, up from 26.30/27.00 per cent at last close.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 20.25/21.00 percent, up from 20.00/40 per cent at last close.
(Colombo/ June 02/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares edge up on positive macroeconomic sentiments

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher in trade on Friday, over positive macro-sentiments encouraging investors to redeem their interest towards buying, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.72 percent or 62.19 points to 8,753.80,  while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.68 percent or 16.87 points to 2,487.29.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

Prior to the Monetary Policy investors were quite optimistic that inflation is to lower and interest rates will decrease and since exp, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka Central Bank is waiting for the government proposal on the domestic debt restructuring (DDR), the central bank governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said amid uncertainty over DDR and speculations over instability in the banking sector.

“On debt restructuring, the borrower is the ministry of finance’s treasury. Certainly we will announce what the strategy will be. We are waiting for a government proposal,” Weerasinghe said.

Sri Lanka’s investors are waiting on assurances to be made on debt restructuring and optimization, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, “It is up to the government to clear the uncertainty, because from our side we have done that part.”

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

The speculation of DDR has hit the market and the risk premium has kept the market lending rates well above the central bank’s policy rates. The government has yet to present its plans on DDR.

Weerasinghe said the central bank has done its best to reduce the risk premium through bringing down the market lending rates while keeping the policy rates unchanged.

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has discussed progress of International Monetary Fund program and debt restructuring during a visit of Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura, statement said.

“The discussion primarily focused on the progress of the IMF program between Sri Lanka and the IMF,” a statement from President’s office said.

“Attention was also paid to the on-going debt restructuring negotiations.”

However Officials from IMF have said Sri Lanka has to focus on expanding taxes.

“We discussed the importance of fiscal measures, in particular revenue measures, for a return to macroeconomic stability,” Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura said in a statement.

The finance ministry this week issued rules requiring everyone above 18 year of age to register to pay income tax.

“I was encouraged by the authorities’ commitment to negotiate a debt strategy in a timely and transparent manner.

The market generated a revenue of 738 million rupees, while the daily average was 1 billion rupees.

Top gainers in trade were Vallibel One, LOLC Finance and Browns Investment. (Colombo/June02/2023)

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