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Thursday May 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka tourist visa fees for SAARC citizens up 167-pct with VFS Global levy?

ECONOMYNEXT – Tourists from neighboring South Asian countries appear to the hardest hit with a shift of the country’s electronic travel authorization system to IVS-GBS and VFS Global, a private company.

Sri Lanka only charged 20 dollars from a SAARC visitor up to the shift to the private provider.

Based on the information disclosed online, SAARC visa fees have risen to 75 dollars with a gazetted fee going up to 35 dollars and 18.5 dollar additional fee charged by the private provider.

According to a notice on the website, which carries the government seal and is accessed through a link in the Department of Immigration portal, it is operated by IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group.

It is not clear why the private provider was chosen.

Related Sri Lanka jacks up tourist visa fees 50-pct, adds another charge to scrap existing ETA

Travel industry sources said they had not been consulted on the VFS Global linked cost increases and had taken up the issue with authorities and were awaiting a reply.

Low fees for SAARC citizens have a been Sri Lanka foreign policy strategy of regional integration.

In the ASEAN region, citizens of member countries can travel without any visa and all airports in the region have dedicated immigration counters for them.

Visas for other Asian nationals including those in ASEAN have gone up to from 50 to 75 dollars. With the IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group, levy the fee will go up to 93.5 dollars, of up 87 percent.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Daily FT newspaper reported that another 7.27 dollar, ‘convenience fee’ not originally disclosed on the website was charged on top of the 18.5 dollar fee.

So called ‘hidden fees’ are problem in online transactions, according to observers.

If the hidden fee was not charged earlier, SAARC visas would be up 203 percent and ASEAN and other would be up 100 percent.

It is not for whose convenience the fee is charged.

Earlier an extra fee was charged for on-arrival visas issued physically at the airport, encouraging pre-arrival ETAs which helps speed up passenger processing at the airport.

The VFS Global levy and the visa fee hike comes as President Ranil Wickremesinghe pursues a strategy of greater integration with the ASEAN region.

ASEAN follows a strategy of drawing citizens into the country and getting them to spend in hotels and entertainment.

Sri Lanka travel agents were unaware of the new fees.

Sri Lanka is expecting 2.3 million tourists in 2024. At 18.5 dollars a person, the IVS-GBS & VFS Global Group would amount to 12.76 billion rupees over a 12-month period. (Colombo/Apr18/2024 – Updated with the full name of the companies listed on the copyright notice of the website)

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Sri Lanka plans to expand Bingiriya export zone to 1,100 acres

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expanding an export processing zone in Bingiriya in Kurunegala and plans to link the area with Puttalam with roads and other infrastructure, Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

A task force of ministerial secretaries will be appointed to carry out the tasks speedily, following a cabinet paper submitted by President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

The Bingiriya zone already has 157 acres and another 282 acres is being developed by the Board of Investment, he said.

Steps would also be taken to acquire 666 acres.

There was no information whose lands would be acquired. (Colombo/May23/2024)

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Sri Lanka has power breakdowns amidst extreme weather

ECONOMYNEXT – The state-owned power utility, the Ceylon Electricity Board has reported over 36,900 breakdowns resulting in power interruptions to more than 300,000 consumers in the last three days due to inclement weather in the island, the power minister said.

“Additional service staff has been assigned to attend the breakdowns and the CEB management & service staff are working 24 hours to restore power to the affected consumers,” Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera said on social media platform X (twitter).

Wijesekera said consumers could report power interruptions through the CEB hotline 1987, via SMS to 1987 with BD and the electricity consumer number to follow, or use the CEB Care app, or through http://cebcare.ceb.lk.

The South-East monsoon has seen floods, landslides and strong winds do damage to the utility provider’s infrastructure in the last week. (Colombo/May23?2024)

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Sri Lanka President calls for unity, sacrificing for a better tomorrow on Vesak day

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has recalled a sermon from the Buddha about sacrificing for a better tomorrow, and called for unity to heal and rebuild the country, as Buddhists celebrate Vesak.

Buddhists celebrate Vesak as commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha.

“At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow,” President Wickremesinghe said in his Vesak day message.

“We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day.

“Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. ”

The full statement is reproduced below:

The Vesak festival is a profoundly sacred day for Buddhists worldwide, commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing. Buddhists in Sri Lanka, along with their brethren around the globe, celebrate Vesak with deep devotion. They spend this period engaging in religious observances and venerating the Buddha with fervent devotion.

At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.

We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day. Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. The principles of Lichchavi Raja Dharmaya will guide us in this endeavour.

Let us keep in mind that the primary aim of the Vesak festival is to foster spiritual growth and character development in a world rapidly advancing physically. I wish everyone a blessed Vesak festival.

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