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Monday April 22nd, 2024

Sri Lanka to issue special identification for disabled persons to make voting easier

File photo of polling booth

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka plans to issue special identification cards to disabled persons to make it easier for them to vote in elections, Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Open and Responsible Government Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi said.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) legislator told reporters on Wednesday October 11 that there is a significant population of disabled citizens in Sri Lanka who encounter challenges when participating in elections.

To address these issues, he said, efforts are underway to issue special identification cards for the disabled, making it easier for them to cast their votes.

“Moreover, the cost of importing voting ink is substantial. Given that the National Identity Card is now a mandatory requirement, reducing election expenses is a priority. The committee has suggested the development of a specialised programme to achieve this objective,” he said.

The committee also plans to enhance “enhance” Sri Lakna’s public institutions and issue “user-friendly” guidelines to them, said Sumithraarachchi.

He said input from the public, government officials and scholars will be sought in developing the proposed guidelines.

A statement from the president’s office said the MP had discussed the committee’s role in addressing issues related to government institutions, transparency and accountability.

Noting the need for government agencies to provide efficient and accountable services to the public, Sumithraarachchi said the committee has engaged with various institutions, including the Pension Department, Police Department, Independent Commissions, Finance Commission and Election Commission, to improve service delivery.

The importance of holding government institutions accountable and ensuring that they are accessible to the people was also discussed.

“The committee also recommended regulating the allocation of funds to provincial councils through the Finance Commission. They also discussed the performance of the police department, crime prevention and drug control measures,” said Sumithraarachchi.

The committee’s overarching goal is to develop a comprehensive set of guidelines that will strengthen democracy and enhance the accountability of government institutions, he said. These guidelines aim to improve the responsiveness of these institutions to the needs of the people, he added.

According to the PMD, the guidelines have been formulated with the input of various stakeholders, including government officials overseen by the President’s Secretary, the University Grants Commission, academics and the general public.

“It is crucial for all parties involved to carry out their responsibilities with a clear sense of accountability. Accusations alone will not advance the country; therefore, we must work with integrity and strategic planning to progress,” Sumithraarachchi was quoted as saying.

“Honesty and well-thought-out strategies are essential to the nation’s development. Furthermore, the cooperation of media organizations is vital. When the media operates with accountability, it can significantly contribute to the country’s progress and its journey towards a better future,” he said. (Colombo/Oct12/2023)

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IMF official: Sri Lanka’s road ahead is challenging, critical to keep up with reform momentum

ECONOMYNEXT –International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said Sri Lanka’s future with many reforms are challenging, but it is critical to keep up with the reform momentum.

Gopinath stated this after meeting the island nation’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington.

“I commended them on hard-won economic gains in the past year. The road ahead is challenging and it’s critical to keep up with the reform momentum,” Gopinath wrote on her X platform.

Under IMF programme, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has implemented a raft of hard reforms including higher taxes.

Sri Lanka agreed to the IMF programme after it declared bankruptcy with sovereign debt default in April 2022.

Semasinghe after the meeting tanks Gopinath for acknowledging Sri Lanka’s economic progress.

“Our discussion was insightful and productive, and we appreciate the opportunity to delve into the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the State Finance minister said in his X platform.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our reform agenda and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with the IMF to advance our shared goals.”

Sri Lanka was compelled to go for IMF after the unprecedented economic crisis which was followed by a political crisis that ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government who were legitimately elected.

The IMF programme has included reforms in state-owned enterprises, fiscal sector and financial sectors to ensure debt sustainability.

The global lender also has pledged its support to speed up the island nation’s lingering debt restructuring process with private creditors including sovereign bond holders. (Colombo/April 22/2021)

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Sri Lanka motor racing crash claims 7 lives, 4 critical

ECONOMYNEXT – A deadly accident at motor Race Sri Lanka’s hill country town of Diyathalawa has claimed at least 7 lives police said, after a racing vehicle, in the seasonal Fox Hill Super Cross ploughed in to spectators after running off the track.

Another 21 spectators were injured Sunday, and hospitalized and at least four were critical, police said.

Thousands of people come to watch the Fox Hill Super Cross race, which is usually held in April, as large numbers of people head to the cooler climes in the hills.

According to footage taken by spectators one car overturned on the side of the track.

Sri Lanka’s Newsfirst television said Marshalls were waving flags to caution other vehicles, when another car went off the track and crashed into spectators. (Colombo/April21/2024)

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Widespread support for Sri Lanka debt workout, reform progress at IMF/WB meet: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – There was widespread support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and acknowledgement of progress made under an International Monetary Fund program, at meeting of the fund and World Bank, State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

“The strides made in our economic recovery and financial stability have been acknowledged as significant advancements towards our country’s prosperity by our stakeholders and international partners,” Minister Semasinghe said in an x.com (twitter) post after attending the meetings.

“Further, it was heartening to note the widespread appreciation and support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reaching the restructuring targets and confident of smooth progress in the continued good-faith engagements for a speedy debt resolution that will ensure debt sustainability and comparability of debt treatment.”

Sri Lanka ended a first round of talks with sovereign bondholders in March without striking a deal but some agreement on the basis for a deal.

An initial deal with bilateral creditors have been reached, but they may be awaiting a deal with private creditors to sign formal agreements.

International partners have appreciated reforms made under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Semasinghe said.

“It was great to engage in productive bilateral discussions with all of whom appreciated the recent economic developments, progress in debt restructuring, strengthening of tax administration, and ongoing governance reforms,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has been allowed to re-appreciate by the central bank amid deflationary monetary policy, bringing tangible benefits to people in the form of lower energy and food prices, unlike in past IMF programs.

Electricity prices were cut as a strengthening currency helped reduce the cost of coal imports.

Related Sri Lanka central bank mainly responsible for electricity price cut

The currency appreciation has also allowed losses to the Employment Provident Fund imposed to be partially recouped, helping old workers near retirement, as well as raising disposable incomes of current wage earners on fixed salaries.

Related Sri Lanka EPF gets US$1.85bn in value back as central bank strengthens rupee

The IMF, which was set up after World War II to end devaluations seen in the 1930s after the Fed’s policy rate infected other key central banks, started to actively encourage depreciation after a change to its founding articles in 1978 (the Second Amendment).

The usefulness of money as a store of value, or a denominator of current and future values then decline, leading to loss of real savings, real wages and increases in social unrest.

Before that, members who devalued more than 10 percent after printing money for growth or any other reason, faced the threat of suspension from the organization as punishment.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has appreciated to around 300 to the US dollar now from 370 after a surrender rule was lifted in March 2023.

But there is no transparency on the basis that economic bureaucrats are allowing the currency to gain against the US dollar (the intervention currency of the central bank).

The rupee is currently under pressure, despite broadly prudent monetary policy, due to an ‘oversold position’ in the market after recent appreciation made importers and banks to run negative open positions as the usefulness of the currency as a denominator of future value declined with sudden strenghtening. (Colombo/Apr21/2024)

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