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Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka vaccine conundrum: How did Colombo residents get AstraZeneca in Galle?

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan authorities will investigate allegations that the elusive second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Galle to residents of Colombo despite an island-wide lockdown, State Minister Channa Jayasumana said.

The privately owned Derana network reported on June 08 that a text message had circulated that the second dose of AstraZeneca was scheduled to be administered the previous day at the Galle Heath Services district director’s office. According to the Derana report, more people from Colombo had turned up for the 6.45am rollout than residents in Galle, in clear violation of ongoing curfew-style movement restrictions.

Derana reported over 100 vehicles bearing Western Province license plates were seen at the Southern Province vaccination centre.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a shortage of AstraZeneca for some 600,000 people anxiously awaiting their second dose, with the government appealing to foreign governments and other parties to share their excess stocks. Health authorities have said frontlie workers in the health sector and the military will be prioritsed with the limited number of AstraZeneca doses left – although, 196 of these remaining doses were controversially distributed May 29 and 30 at an influential Colombo temple with links to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Related: Abhayarama’s unsanctioned vaccine rollout: Chief incumbent blames Sri Lanka govt

Similar to Galle, the Abhayarama incident too involved an anonymous messaging circulated among residents telling them to go and get their second jab.

Both the chief incumbent of the temple and health authorities claimed on May 31 that the message originated from them. Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told reporters on May 30 that the doses of AstraZeneca left in the country were reserved solely for cancer and kidney patients.

“Because there were people gathering outside the temple and there was a risk of the virus spreading there, we had to release some of those doses that were in storage to bring the situation under control,” she said.

The Derana report on the Galle incident noted that locals who turned up at the Health Services district director’s office were turned away as there were not enough doses after inoculating those who had come from Colombo.

Derana reported that residents from Kollupitiya, Kelaniya, Dehiwala and other parts of Colombo had driven down to Galle for the jab.

It is still unclear how these Western Province residents obtained permission to travel to the Southern Province in the middle of an island-wide lockdown.

State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Channa Jayasuman told reporters June 08 afternoon that a Health Ministry team has been sent to Galle to investigate the matter and take disciplinary action against anyone found to be involved.

The second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine was given to 466 people on June 08, taking total second jab receivers to 353,789.

Sri Lanka has received 1,264,000 doses of the Covishield-branded version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). Half a million of these were donated by the Indian government, with another half directly purchased by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) from SII. The remaining 264,000 was received through the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led COVAX facility.

Since January 29, Sri Lanka has administered the first dose of Covishield to 925,242 citizens, leaving 338,758 doses. However, authorities claim that 353,789 people – some 15,000 more than the number of doses as per official data – have received the second jab so far. But according to Minister Wanniarchachi, the number of doses left after the first-dose rollout is 356,730.

If her number is accurate, Sri Lanka should have in its possession 2,941 doses of the vaccine (356,730 – 353,789) as of June 08. (Colombo/ June 09/2021)

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India supports Sri Lanka Coast Guard to boost maritime security

ECONOMYNEXT – India has given 1.2 million US dollars’ worth spare parts to Sri Lanka’s Coast Guard to be used in a vessel also gifted to the Indian Ocean Island on an earlier occasion, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“Handing over of the large consignment of spares symbolizes India’s commitment to support capability building towards addressing the shared challenges of Maritime Security in the region,” the Indian High Commission said

The spare parts were brought to Sri Lanka on the Indian Coast Guard Ship Sachet, an offshore patrol vessel that was on a two-day visit to the island.

The spares were formally handed over to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha which was gifted to Sri Lanka in October 2017 by India.

India has gifted spare parts for the ship in June 2021 and April 2022 and also provided assistance in refilling of Halon cylinders in January 2024. (Colombo/June23/2024)

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Sri Lanka Water Board makes profits, tax-payers inject Rs28bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run National Water Supply and Drainage Board has made a profit of 5.2 billion rupees in the year to December 2023, after a tariff increase despite not getting money for 25 percent of its water it pumps out.

Total revenues went up to 61.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 35.4 billion rupees, a Finance Ministry report said.

Water revenue surged to 58.5 billion rupees from 33.1 billion rupees, cost of sales also went up to 32.8 billion rupees from 23.14 billion rupees, helping boost gross profits from 12.3 billion rupees to 29.0 billion rupees.

Finance costs surged to 14.9 billion rupees from 3.9 billion rupees,

NSWD reported net profits of 5.2 billion rupees for the year, against a loss of 2.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

The Treasury had given 28 billion rupees from tax payer money to settle loans.

During the Rajapaksa administration, macroeconomists who ran the Finance Ministry made state enterprises borrow money from banks through Treasury guarantees listing them as ‘contingent liabilities’, claiming they were ‘off balance sheet’.

The Road Development Authority, which had no revenues to speak of borrowed large amounts of money from banks which were listed as ‘contingent liabilities’ though they were a responsibility of the state from day one, allowing macroeconomists to understate both the budget deficit and national debt, critics say.

The water tariffs were raised by 81 percent after macroeconomists printed money to supress interest rates for flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting. The currency collapsed after macroeconomists tried to float the rupee with a surrender rule in place.

Non-revenue water for which no money is collected was 25.2 percent. The agency was supposed to reduce non-revenue water. In some districts religious establishments are responsible for non-revenue water, according to an official who said it on condition of anonymity.

The water board is also unable to collect money from some services like common toilets for underserved communities. (Colombo/June23/2024 – Update II)

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Sri Lanka will expedite Indian projects: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will expedite Indian-backed projects in the island, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Indian business people after a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Modi the need to accelerate the joint program that we have decided, agreed on. So the major ones are identified, and Foreign Minister Jaishankar came down today [20] to have a discussion. Now this will show the new path we are taking,” president Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“It won’t be individual projects. We’ve discussed a fair number of them. First is the grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India, so that sustainable energy can be transmitted to India.

“We have the Sampur solar power project, which is a Government to Government (G2G) project, and a three island project, which is where we hope the ground breaking can take place in July,” he told Indian business people at the 31st All India Partner’s Meet 2024 (AIPM 2024), held at ICT Ratnadipa in Colombo.

The AIPM 2024 which was organised by KPGM Sri Lanka and India provided a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to collaborative projects that promise to redefine bilateral relations and propel socio-economic growth.

“It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to have you in Sri Lanka, in Colombo, holding this meeting. It shows on one hand the close friendship that our two countries have, and on the other hand, the confidence that you have in Sri Lanka.

“Having now survived two difficult years, I must acknowledge that this was possible because India gave us a loan of $3.5 billion. All that will be repaid.”

Cooperation between the two nations needed to be enhanced, particularly in the energy sector, aiming to foster new development for the Northern region, Wickremesinghe said.

“We are looking at developing Palk Straight for wind energy and solar energy, both countries to get together and have a large farm for solar energy, for renewable energy. It also means that we will have a new economy for the northern province, which was worst affected by the war.”

Several Indian-backed projects in Sri Lanka have stalled due to protests from some parties, with some going to courts.

India is helping expand the Kankesanturai port, and is discussing development of the Palali and Colombo airports.

The National Livestock Development Board of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with India’s Amul Dairy Company, is involved in a project to enhance liquid milk production in the country.

The two nations are also considering establishing land connectivity.

Discussions have also taken place regarding expediting the Trincomalee Development Project, which encompasses industrial investment zones and tourist areas.

“Plans are underway to construct a multi-product oil pipeline from Nagapatnam to Trincomalee, pending the final observation report. Trincomalee is poised to become a hub for oil refining, with the development of ports and investment zones, transforming Trincomalee Port into a significant hub on the Bay of Bengal.

“Today, the entire East Coast is being opened up for tourism, with additional land earmarked for hotels in Galle and southern areas. Moreover, there are plans to establish more investment zones across the country, alongside expanding our professional training programs. In these endeavours, we are collaborating closely with India.” (Colombo/Jun22/2024)

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