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Saturday March 2nd, 2024

Sri Lanka to declare protesting teachers, principals “closed service” to end long strike

FILE PHOTO – Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is set to recognise school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service”, according to Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, in a bid to resolve a crisis that has brought online education to a standstill, without stirring other public services.

Though the move, the result of a proposal approved by the cabinet of ministers on Monday (30), could help end a long strike by teachers and principals and restart online school education, it will open many a can of worms in the future, two government officials said.

Both teachers’ and principals’ services are under the public service. But declaring them a closed service will allow 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.

This will also mean that cadres from the teachers and principals services cannot be transferred to any other public services, government sources explained.

“The implementation of the national decision to close down the teachers’ service will be implemented in the next few months,” Gunawardena said, adding that the cabinet decided to issue a gazette before November 20 declaring the services a closed service.

“All these decisions are taken to provide solutions to existing problems and the decisions are made taking into consideration the 4.3 million children in the country and their teachers who will pave the way for their future.”

The closed service move comes in line a the recommendation by a four-member cabinet subcommittee which looked into the salary anomalies of teachers and principals.

However, two senior government officials warned the move could be detrimental to the public service in the future.

“The government is setting a bad precedent,” said one official who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

“Tomorrow doctors or nurses or another pubic service can also demand to declare them as a closed service and resolve their issue.”

Another official said Sri Lanka Railways had demanded a similar request two years back.

Forced decision

The government was forced to look into the teachers’ protests as a raft of trade unions of teachers and principals have been on strike since July 11 and have withdrawn from online education and from issuing results of the GCE Ordinary Level exam held early this year.

The education minister said despite financial difficulties, a special allowance of 5,000 rupees will be granted for teachers and principals who will be on duty during September and October 2021, the months in which the government has planned to hold GCE Advanced Level and grade 5 scholarship examinations.

The government has postponed the two key exams that help students select a national school for grade 6 and university entrance, drawing public criticism.

The minister, however, said, implementation of the salary revisions will be done in stages through a 2022 budget proposal. Full implementation will be done in the next four years.

“A decision was taken on Monday (30) to implement these measures in parts before the next four years to find a permanent solution,” he said.

A key teacher trade union welcomed the government’s decisions on “closed service” and salary hike through 2022 budget proposals.

“But we do not accept the 5,000 rupee allowance. We want our salary anomalies to be fixed as a part of the previous Subodhini committee report,” Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union told EconomyNext referring to a report which teacher unions had demanded the most.

“We don’t accept these increments or allowances otherwise. We will continue our strikes if that does not happen,” said Stalin. (Colombo/Aug31/2021)

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Sri Lanka eyes SOE law by May 2024 for better governance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is planning to pass a Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act improve governance of state-owned enterprise by May 2024 as part of an anti-corruption efforts following an International Monetary Fund assessment.

Sri Lanka’s state enterprises have been used by politicians to give ‘jobs of the boys’, appropriate vehicles for personal use, fill board of directors and key positions with henchmen and relatives, according to critics.

Meanwhile macro-economists working for the state also used them to give off-budget subsides or made energy utilities in particular borrow through supplier’s credits and state banks after forex shortages are triggered through inflationary rate cuts.

The government has taken billons of dollars of loans given to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation from state banks.

There have also been high profile procurement scandals connected to SOEs.

An SOE Reform Policy was approved by Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers in May 2023.

The Public Commercial Business (PCB) Act has now been drafted.

A holding company to own the SOEs will be incorporated and an Advisory Committee and Board of Directors will be appointed after the PCB law is approved, the statement said. (Colombo/Mar01/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 308.80/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 308.80/90 to the US dollar Friday, from 309.50/70 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.65/75 percent up from 10.50/70 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.05 percent from 11.90/12.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 12.15/35 percent down from 12.20/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.25/40 percent up from 12.30/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/45 percent down from 12.35/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/13.00 percent from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Mar1/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up 0.37-pct, Expo to de-list

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up 0.37 percent on Friday, and SG Holdings, the parent company of Expolanka Holdings Plc, said it was taking the company private.

Expolanka is the largest listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

“Expolanka Holdings PLC has, at the Board Meeting held on 1st March 2024, considered a request from its principal shareholder and resolved to initiate the de-listing of the Company’s shares from the Official List of the Colombo Stock Exchange subject to obtaining necessary shareholder approval and regulatory approvals,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

As per arrangements with SG Holdings Global Pte Ltd, the Company’s majority shareholder, it will purchase its shares from shareholders who may wish to divest their shareholding in the Company at a purchase price of Rs 185.00 per share. The share closed up at 150.50.

The broader All Share Index closed up 0.37 percent, or 39.47 points, at 10,691; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.64 percent, or 19.59 points, at 3,037.

Turnover stayed above the 1 billion mark for the sixth consecutive day, registering 1.4 billion.

Crossings in Melstarcorp Plc (135mn) up at 89.50, Hatton National Bank Plc (64mn) up at 158.00, Hemas Holdings Plc (53mn) up at 75.00 and Central Finance Company Plc (26mn) up at 103.50, added significantly to the day’s turnover.

“The upward trend is continuing, with more retail buying also coming in, the number of trades was more than 10,000 today,” a market participant said. “Investors are looking for undervalued stocks and buying in quantities.” (Colombo/Mar1/2024).

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