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Monday December 4th, 2023

Sri Lankan transport service providers struggle after sharp fuel price hikes

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan transport providers are grappling with practical issues and ethical dilemmas as diesel prices shot up by 45 percent in the second week of March. With schools and offices starting work at full capacity from Monday (14), the situation seems bleak for all parties involved.

An office transport service provider whose route begins from Panadura to the World Trade Center (WTC) in Colombo told EconomyNext that drivers are considering price increments proportional to the diesel price hikes.

‘’Diesel prices increased by one third so travel fees will be increased from 1,800 to 2,000 rupees,” he said.

‘’People will definitely stop coming in the van. I am expecting that, but I have no other choice,’’ he added.

Another transport provider who spoke to EconomyNext said: ‘From an ethical standpoint, we can’t raise fees. The majority of firms are not increasing salaries of employees so it is not fair to go for a higher fee structure.’’

Sri Lanka is currently going through one of the worst financial crises in the country’s history, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves severely impacting essential imports. The state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) raised petrol (Octane 92) by 77 rupees and (auto) diesel by 55 rupees last Friday (11), after the island nation’s central bank’s flexible exchange rate resulted in near 30 percent depreciation in the currency within three days.

The move came a day after Lanka IOC, the Indian Oil Corporation unit in Sri Lanka, raised petrol and diesel prices by 50 rupees and 75 rupees respectively to minimise its losses from rupee fall and rise in global oil prices.

As the country eases COVID-19 restrictions and more workers are asked to physically report to work, the price increases are leaving some transport service providers unable to make up their mind.

“We are no longer able to work from home. Transportation cost is a big chunk of my salary and with all these price increments, I will have to choose between going bankrupt or walking to work,’’ one office worker said on the condition of anonymity.

Schools also reopened in full capacity on Monday, and school van drivers remain undecided on whether or not to increase prices according to the fuel hikes.

“The All Island School Van Operators Association (AISVOA) has advised us to implement a 40 per cent increment. But looking at the ethical side, we simply cannot ask the parents to pay that much because it is a massive increase,” says a school van driver whose route takes him from Maththegoda to Colombo.

“I am running on old fuel. The price is high – even if we can pay, there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to run the next day. Many people have had to stop the service,” he added.

Many transport providers said that the current fee increments only take into account the price hikes of diesel, and not the increasing prices of spare parts, tyres and other accessories.

“If we think about everything we need at this time, the price increase will be unmanageable for people,” one transport provider said.

The minimum bus fares for private buses were also increased by 15 per cent on Monday.

A member of the Ceylon Private Bus Owners’ Association told EconomyNext: “Normally I drive from Maharagama to Colombo, but yesterday I only did one round. That too was during peak hours. I think many people will implement that system as it is more convenient to everyone and helps preserve diesel in the long run.”

Meanwhile, Gemunu Wijeratne, Ceylon Private Bus Owners’ Association President, said: ‘’Due to the fuel shortage the buses in operation were limited to 15 to 25 per cent.” (Colombo/Mar15/2022)

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Sri Lanka stocks close up as some investor interest returns

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Monday, CSE data showed.

The All Share Price Index was up 0.22 percent, or 23.33 points, at 10,743.59.

The S&P SL20 index was up 0.68 percent, or 20.60 points, at 3,067.73.

Turnover was at 708 million. The banks sector contributed 189 million, while the food, beverage and tobacco sector contributed 176 million of this.

Sri Lanka’s stock market has seen some investor interest return after last week’s news that the country had managed an agreement on a debt restructuring deal with an official creditor committee, and foreign funds for some development projects resumed.

Top positive contributors to the ASPI in the day were Sampath Bank Plc (up at 71.50), LOLC Holdings Plc (up at 379.00), and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc, (up at 90.90).

There was a net foreign outflow of 52 million.

Citrus Leisure Plc, which announced that its banquet hall and revolving restaurant at the Lotus Tower would launch on or around Dec 9, saw its share price rise to 6.20 rupees. (Colombo/Dec4/2023).

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Sri Lanka rupee closes broadly steady at 328.10/30 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 328.10/30 to the US dollar on Monday, from 328.00/10 on Friday, dealers said.

Bond yields were stable.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2025 closed at 13.70/14.00 percent from 13.70/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 closed at 13.90/14.10 percent from 13.90/14.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 closed at 14.00/14.10 percent from 14.05/10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 14.20/35 percent from 14.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 14.25/45 percent, from 14.20/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 14.05/40 percent, from 14.00/45 percent. (Colombo/Dec4/2023)

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Gov minister highlights abortion rights, sex-ed for children, and Sri Lanka men killing their women

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s legislators have politicized the topics of rape and violence without addressing the elephant in the room, Jeevan Thondaman, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development said in parliament on Monday (4).

“All the members here are talking about rape. What happens after that? We must talk about abortion rights. That is not something anyone wants to touch on, and that is why we are in this place right now,” Thondaman said.

“Despite alarming statistics on rape and violence, women are often blamed and punished for it. The criminalisation of abortion is a major example of this.”

Sri Lanka has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. According to a 2016 estimate by the Health Ministry, he said, approximately 658 abortions take place a day, and close to 250,000 a year.

“That’s 250,000 women whose lives you are endangering.”

He added that what was needed at this point in time was comprehensive sexual education (CSE) for children and young people.

“Only through CSE in schools will children and young people develop, accurate, age appropriate knowledge attitude and skills; positive values such as respect for human rights, gender equality, diversity and attitude and skills that contribute to a safe, healthy and positive relationship.”

Thondaman pointed out that CSE plays a pivotal role in preparing young people for a world where HIV, AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and sexual and gender based violence still pose a risk to their well-being.

“CSE basically empowers children take control and make informed decisions freely and responsibly.”

Thondaman also highlighted the findings of a 2021 study (Fatalities_20211109_UNFPA) by the UNFPA and the University of Kelaniya that showed that a majority of women killed in Sri Lanka were murdered by those close to them.

“62 percent of homicides of Sri Lankan women are committed by either an intimate partner, ex-partner or family member. 84 percent are killed in their own homes by someone they know.”

Police and the judiciary have failed Sri Lanka’s women, the minister pointed out.

“Only 5 percent of these cases, between 2013-2017, were ever concluded. Men claim they were provoked, or are of unsound mind or have mental illness: These have been successful defenses. And the Police often express sympathy to this narrative as opposed to the victim’s.”

“We have a history of protecting oppressors.”

It takes 7-10 years for a child rape case to conclude, he pointed out.

Establishment of child courts are needed, he said, as well as several legislative amendments. “The government is working on a new law to reform the domestic violence act, reform of marriage and divorce laws to ensure there is an easier path to divorce: no one should be forced to remain in a marriage that is either abusive or not healthy.” (Colombo/Dec4/2023)

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