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Saturday June 3rd, 2023

Sri Lanka to reopen 5,000 schools, but teachers on strike refuse to budge

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

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has decided to reopen some 5,000 schools with a maximum of 200 students each over the next two to three weeks, a top minister said, though school teachers and principals have yet to call off a two-month-long strike.

A policy decision in this regard was taken at a meeting held at the health ministry with the national COVID-19 task force, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters on Thursday (16).

The government also expects to reopen preschools and primary schools (grades 1 to 6) in the near future, he added.

However, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin said teachers will not resume work until long-standing salary anomalies in their service are not resolved.

Trade unions of teachers and principals have been on strike since July 11 and have withdrawn from online education and from issuing results of the GCE Ordinary Level exam held early this year over the issue.

Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said despite financial difficulties, a special allowance of 5,000 rupees will be granted to teachers and principals who report to duty in September and October, the months in which the government plans to hold the GCE Advanced Level and Grade 5 scholarship exams.

“The Secretary to the Ministry of Education has reportedly said that if principals don’t hand over the applications for the exams, they will look at alternatives. I wish to ask him if that’s a threat,” said Stalin.

“This can be resolved only through discussion,” he added.

The teachers’ and principals’ strike is continuing for the 67th day today (17).

Minister Gunawardena declared school teachers’ and principals’ services as a “closed service” on August 31.

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.

“The implementation of the national decision to close down the teachers’ service will be implemented in the next few months,” Gunawardena said at the time, adding that the cabinet had 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 with the recommendation by a four-member cabinet subcommittee which looked into the salary anomalies of teachers and principals.

The minister also 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 August 30 to implement these measures in parts before the next four years to find a permanent solution.

Teachers, however, have rejected the offer.

“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. We don’t accept these increments or allowances otherwise we will continue our strikes if that does not happen,” Stalin said.

However, a trade union affiliated with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the SLPP Education Services Association, said with Basil Rajapaksa taking the Financial Minister position, they believe a better solution will be provided.

“We request teachers and principals to resume duties concerning students who are facing the exams this year,” SLPP Education Services Association organiser Sisira Kumara Rathnayaka told reporters.

“This is not supporting the government, but rather doing our duty as responsible teachers,” he added. (Colombo/Sep16/2021)

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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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