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Sunday December 10th, 2023

Sri Lanka university lecturers accuse govt of hurting quality of paper-marking

ECONOMYNEXT – University lecturers who have withdrawn from marking GCE Advanced Level answer scripts as part of a trade union campaign said they will not be intimidated and also accused the government of hurting the quality of the paper-marking process by hiring substitutes.

Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) media spokesman Charudaththa Illangasinghe told reporters Monday April 24 that the association will meet Tuesday evening to discuss the issue and any further trade union action.

“A/L is an important exam; it is the university entrance exam. The government is attempting to bring down quality of the process by getting other parties to mark the answer scripts,” said Illangasinge.

“We will not allow the government to destroy education,” he added.

Illangasinghe was referring to a decision by the government to recruit retired university lecturers to the answer scripts. This follows a controversial statement by President Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 19 when he issued a one-week ultimatum to the education sector trade unions engaged in the papermarking boycott as part of its ongoing series of protests against an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed tax hike.

The two-month delay has already seen the schedule for releasing results being disrupted, which has also delayed this year’s exams.

President Wickremsinghe at a meeting with Education Ministry officials on Wednesday warned that he would make education an essential service under emergency law and initiate legal action against teachers who did not comply with the law.

“All those marked the papers last time, must be available for service now. If not, I will prosecute them and take their property also,” Wickremesinghe told the officials.

“You can’t stop the education of children. What nonsense is this? By next week, I will tell the AG (Attorney General) to be ready with the emergency regulations.”

FUTA and school teachers unions’ have been up in arms over the president’s warning.

Illangasinghe called the government’s progressive income tax hike “inhuman”.

“It was the government that brought this problem and it is the government that keeps the problem going.

The government must find a speedy solution and quickly resolve the problem of marking answer scripts,” he said.

FUTA has written to President Wickremesinghe about how they will not be intimidated by “empty threats”.

“We would like to tell the public, don’t fear anything. We plan to end this soon. We stand for these children.

We care about education. We won’t let the government destroy education,” he said. (Colombo/Apr24/2023)

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ADB USD200mn loan for Sri Lanka economic stabilization efforts

ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US 200 million dollar concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help stabilize the country’s finance sector.

The Financial Sector Stability and Reforms Program comprises two subprograms of IS 200 million dollars each, according to a statement by the ADB.

“The program’s overarching development objective is fully aligned with the country’s strategy of maintaining finance sector stability, while ensuring that banks are well-positioned for eventual recovery,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The expected development outcome is a stable financial system providing access to affordable finance for businesses in various sectors of the economy.”

The ADB statement continues:

“Subprogram 1 targets short-term stabilization and crisis management measures that were implemented in 2023, while subprogram 2 is planned to be implemented in 2024 and focuses on structural reforms and long-term actions to restore growth in the banking sector.

The program will help strengthen the stability and governance of the country’s banking sector; improve the banking sector’s asset quality; and deepen sustainable and inclusive finance, particularly for women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest review, Sri Lanka’s economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, although a full economic recovery is not yet assured.

The program is a follow-on assistance from ADB’s crisis response under the special policy-based loan that was approved for Sri Lanka in May 2023.

It is aligned with the fourth pillar of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility provided to Sri Lanka to help the country regain financial stability.

It is also in line with the government’s reform agenda, including strengthening the operational independence of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and its designation as the country’s macroprudential authority.

In designing this subprogram 1 loan, ADB has maintained close coordination and collaboration with the IMF to design targeted regulatory reforms for the banking sector—including the asset quality review—and with the World Bank on strengthening the deposit insurance scheme.

“The loan is accompanied by a $1 million grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund to provide advisory, knowledge, and institutional capacity building for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance and CBSL.”

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Sri Lank in blackout as power grid hit by cascading failure

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka suffered a blackout as Saturday evening as the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board grid was hit by a cascading power failure.

The cascading failure is believed to have been triggered by the failure of the Kothmale-Biyagama transmission line.

“The Ceylon Electricity Board wishes to inform our customers that due to the failure of Kotmale – Biyagama main transmission line, an island wide power failure has occurred,” CEB Spokesman Noel Priyantha said.

“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply.”

With hydro plants running flat out, a outage of the line tends to create a big imbalance in the demand and supply, leading to tripping of more lines and generators.

Lines can trip due to lightening strikes, or equipment failures.

Sri Lanka last suffered a cascading failure in December 2021, due to the failure of the same transmission line.

RelatedSri Lanka power blackout as grid hit by cascading failure

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Sri Lanka to host regional Food and Agriculture Organization conference

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will host the 37th session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from February 19-22, 2024 in Colombo.

The Conference will bring together agriculture ministers and officials from 46 countries across the region to discuss challenges in food and agriculture.

“The 37th APRC will provide a vital platform for regional collaboration, benefitting the agricultural landscape, fisheries sector and environment of Sri Lanka,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said at a press briefing on Friday (8) to announce the conference.

FAO has had an active presence in Sri Lanka for over 40 years. “FAO has supported the country in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the development of the fisheries sector for growth and climate resilience,” Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.

“The APRC conference will be an opportunity to highlight the innovative approaches introduced in partnership with the government.”

By hosting APRC, Sri Lanka hopes to demonstrate the country’s dedication to the growth of sustainable agriculture, and showcase its commitment to sustainable agricultural development.

The APRC agenda will include a forum on agritourism, especially requested by the Sri Lankan government.

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