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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka to address teachers’ salary anomalies in November budget, no quick fix: Minister

Minister Prof G L Peiris speaking to reporters

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government is not in a position to provide “instant solutions” to the issue of teachers’ salary anomalies and instead hopes to present proposals that cover the gamut of the public service in the upcoming budget come November, Education Minister Prof G L Peiris said.

Responding to a question by main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Wijeratne in parliament Tuesday (03) morning, Peiris said Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic woes brought about by the pandemic will not allow a quick fix to the teachers’ demands.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka have been on strike for 23 days running over the question of salary anomalies that they say goes back 24 years – an issue that successive governments have failed to resolve. Daily protests in different parts of the island organised by teachers’ unions attracting large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Despite warnings from doctors, the government on Monday (02) resumed state services, with all public servants including teachers directed to report to work.

MP Wijeratne asked Peiris if teachers were being called back to work along with other government workers because the government was afraid of the wave of protests.

The education minister said the matter was discussed extensively at a cabinet meeting Monday evening. Minister Gamini Lokuge told reporters at the end of the meeting that teacher salaries will not be increased.

Said Prof Peiris: “We accept on principle that teachers are not where they ought to be right now. They need some redress. As a policy, we accept there’s a need for a pay rise.

“The government’s position is that we have to think of parallel services too. Otherwise other complications will arise. We would have to talk with the Salaries and Cadre Commission too.”

Insisting that the government is sincerely interested in solving the crisis, Peiris said: “We have great respect for teachers. But the most apt time to do this is when the budget is being presented, taking all other [government] services into account.”

That Sri Lanka is facing economic issues must also be noted, he added.

“So we cannot give an instant solution today. The government expects to present practical solutions for the gamut of the public service with the budget in November,” he said.

Responding to Peiries, Wijeratne said the teachers are not in fact asking for an immediate pay hike but for a timeline on when the salary anomalies will be removed.

Peiris reiterated that solutions will be proposed in the budget, adding that it’s Sri Lanka’s underprivileged who are suffering as a result of the ongoing trade union action. (Colombo/Aug03/2021)

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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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