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Friday June 2nd, 2023

Sri Lanka trade unions to protest controversial energy deal

ECONOMYNEXT – Thousands of Sri Lanka’s strong trade union members from state-run power, oil, and port firms are to protest on Wednesday (03) against a liquid natural gas (LNG) deal with US-based New Fortress Energy, which critics say has circumvented standard tender procedure.

Sri Lanka plans to sell a government stake in a combined cycle power plant for 250 million US dollars to the US-firm but critics say the involves the purchase of up to 6.0 billion US dollars of LNG fuel in the next few years and has undermined and circumvented an ongoing tender for a floating terminal.

The protest will go ahead as planned despite President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declaring many public services including ports, post, railway, and fuel as essential services.

The trade unions of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Port, and some trade unions related to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) will come to Colombo and protest in front of the CEB head office, a trade union leader said.

“Except those needed to restore a power failure, around 98 percent of CEB employees will join the protest,” Ranjan Jayalal, Convener of the CEB trade unions, told EconomyNext.

“CEB engineers will also join, as well as trade unions from ports and the CPC refinery.”

There could be a maximum of 20,000 employees from all unions that have pledged support to the protest.

“This is a struggle we are going for on behalf of people. We have not been shown the signed agreement with the American New Fortress Energy. We may lose state control in the power sector if this happens,” Jayalal said.

“See what has happened to the country. Our country has no choice, but is compelled to buy contaminated fertilizer shipment from China. We had no choice but to keep quiet when another foreign nation did not allow our lion flag to be hoisted in Colombo South harbour. The same thing will happen with this,” he warned.

Already at least 11 coalition partners of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have revealed how the deal went through at the cabinet.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerasinghe last week said Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa brought up the cabinet paper on selling a 40 percent share in Yugadhanavi to the US-based energy company when ‘other business’ in the agenda was discussed. There was no approval given, claimed Weerawansa.

“But in the minutes of that cabinet meeting, it is stated that the proposal was approved after deliberations. This is an utter lie,” he told a meeting of all 11 coalition partners who are opposing the deal.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila speaking at the same event said the way the deal went through was unprecedented and has never happened in any other previous government which he had considered highly corrupt administrations.

Finance Minister Rajapaksa was not immediately available for comment on the deal being signed allegedly outside the tender process.

Opposition parties however have warned that the coalition partners’ protest against the deal could be a drama to divert the attention of a furious public from the high cost of living, lack of foreign exchange to import goods, not providing fertilizer on time, and job losses during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Trade unions and legislators including replaced power minister Dallas Alahapperuma have voiced concern over the decision to sell the LNG plant to the US firm New Fortress Energy, which critics say will commit state-run CEB to buy large volumes of LNG or pay compensation.

The nationalist SLPP has maintained an anti-US stance before the election and promised the country not to sell any assets to foreigners.

The central bank on Tuesday said the first tranche of a $250 million US dollar deal is expected within the next two months. (Colombo/Nov01/2021)

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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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