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Sunday April 14th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Colombo North Port growth will be linked to India: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Colombo North Port expansion will be driven by demand mostly from India and also Pakistan and Iran if they become stable growth areas, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said.

“We have to remember one thing only, that is what is going to take place in India, what’s the development in Pakistan and what’s the development going to be in Iran,” he was quoted as saying at a forum where a 30 -year port development plan was discussed on April 21.

“Those three will decide the capacity, the number of TUs that we can have… As it is now, people have a very bright forecast for India, and that’s possible if it can be achieved.”

By 2050 India was expected to have a population of 1.7 billion person up from 1.4 billion.

“The industrialization of India is happening fast, especially in some areas,” he said. “You find Gujarat, Maharashtra and other one in the Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu.”

“Secondly is Pakistan, though it may be going through a financial crisis now like us.”

Pakistan has a central bank which acts operates in the same way as Sri Lanka printing money to suppress rates and collapsing its ‘flexible exchange rate’, critics say. Iran which produces oil, also has a central bank which drives the country close to hyperinflation from time to time.

Sri Lanka is also discussing with India the development of Trincomalee port in the North East, he said.

“..[W]e discussing with India on the development of the Trincomalee Port on the basis that in the next 25 years there will be vast development in the Bay of Bengal, both on the Indian side, the Bangladeshi side, Malaysia and even Myanmar,” President Wickremesinghe said.

“So we have to look at the Trincomalee Port and also its capacity to be a point for cruise tourism in the Bay of Bengal.”

Hambantota Port which was built with Chinese finance is now being managed by CM Ports group. A 4,000 acre industrial zone is planned. A refinery is also expected to come up there.

“In the meantime, remember that the Chinese are undertaking Wast to West railways in Africa together with the African nations,” he said.

“One which will go from Kenya all the way to West African coast and another which will most probably go through Congo. So the whole logistics and transport in the region will change and we have to take that into account and make whatever adjustments we do now to ensure that Sri Lanka becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean.”

The full statement is reproduced below:

Following is the full speech made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the 30 Year Development plan of the North Port of Colombo workshop on Friday (21) at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH).

I must first commend the Minister and the Sri Lanka Port Authority for the work they have done. This ministry is now called the Ministry of Shipping and Aviation. Some people have asked me why don’t we split it and have two Ministries, one for shipping and one for aviation. I said no, our intention is to make Sri Lanka an air and sea hub. So we will have one Ministry of Shipping and Aviation. So we’ve got to think differently and I think the Minister is the best person to be in charge.

Sri Lanka has to think of the future, what we will do in the next 25 years, how we are going ahead to make this a developed country. We have to look at the developments in India, in Pakistan, in Iran, and total Makran coast, in assessing the role that Sri Lanka has to play as an important hub.

So in addition to Colombo, we have the Galle Port, which has great potential for tourism, the Hambantota Port and the Trincomalee Port.

With the Trincomalee Port, we are discussing with India on the development of the Trincomalee Port on the basis that in the next 25 years there will be vast development in the Bay of Bengal, both on the Indian side, the Bangladeshi side, Malaysia and even Myanmar. So we have to look at the Trincomalee Port and also its capacity to be a point for cruise tourism in the Bay of Bengal.

Hambantota at the moment we have the port functioning not at its full capacity, but the development in Hambantota in the next 10 – 15 years, where about 4000 acres will be set aside just for manufacturing not taking into account the development of agriculture and fisheries. This will mean and the fact that there’s going to be at least one refinery, indicative that the activities there will increase.

We have the airports which we are developing. Katunayake airport, which has to be further developed, Mattala airport, which has to be commercially viable.

Then with those two airports, we’ve just opened up Palali and development of Hingurakgoda as the main domestic airport for the Eastern region and the North Central Province.

So within this it’s a role that the North port has to play. We have to think now of what the development should be.

The SLPA and the consultants have given us a report on the feasibility of the north port. We have to remember one thing only that what is going to take place in India, what’s the development in Pakistan and what’s the development going to be in Iran.

Those three will decide the capacity, the number of TUs that we can have, the number of containers, the units we have would depend on that. As it is now, people have a very bright forecast for India, and that’s possible if it can be achieved.

By 2050, India will be the most populous country in the world from 1.4 billion it will be up to 1.7 billion people. The industrialization of India is happening fast, especially in some areas. You find Gujarat, Maharashtra and other one in the Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu.
But this is the beginning. From there it should spread to other areas. So industrialization manufacturing is now taking place in India.

It still hasn’t reached the level that China reached somewhere in 2010.It still has to go there. So if at all at some stage it will be that the progress will be not arithmetic but geometrical progression.

So we will have the development in India. Then what is the connectivity that’s going to take place between India and Sri Lanka. Our closest point is in the north. Are we going to have a role on role of ferries? Are we going to have more permanent structures?

These are issues that we have to resolve and that will also determine the viability of our ports, especially of the port of Colombo. So in looking at the port there’s only two issues which came to my mind.

Firstly is the environment, especially the impact on fishing that we have to take seriously. Because before you start building you have to get the support of the people in the area.

Secondly, we are also discussing with India. But at the end of it the projections show that the development will be fast and there’ll be a need for more, certainly a larger capacity for containers.

Then we may have to make adjustments that we will know we’ll be going into India and having talks with them. So we will have an idea of what is the low growth scenario and what is the high growth scenario and where and where will it take place. Because India also has to develop its port, but Sri Lanka’s advantage is the port we have.

Secondly is Pakistan, though it may be going through a financial crisis now like us in time to come when you look at the population, it has a great capacity for development, followed by Iran. And if Iran goes ahead with the Chabahar Port which will join up to Central Asia and Russia, then Makran coast itself is something to look at. So these are all areas we have to think of development.

In the meantime, remember that the Chinese are undertaking east to West Railways in Africa together with the African nations. One which will go from Kenya all the way to West African coast and another which will most probably go through Congo. So the whole logistics and transport in the region will change and we have to take that into account and make whatever adjustments we do now to ensure that Sri Lanka becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean.

We can do it, we should do it, and we did that over a thousand years ago. I’m sure we make up our mind, go ahead. So I must thank the Minister for all the effort that he has taken in and we can also start discussing what the future steps should be.

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LGBTQIA+ Rights: Europe and South Asia See Similar Discriminatory Practices

ECONOMYNEXT – The rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community have been fraught with challenges and continue to be so, despite the many gains achieved in recent years.

Nor are those handful of rights universally applied, a recent discussion which looked at the European and South Asian perspectives on same-sex rights and unions revealed. Most developed nations have introduced protections for those identifying as LGBTQIA+, and a view from a distant lens paints a picture of tolerance. Yet, a closer look at the European arena throws up the many gaps that are evident in the application of the law.

In the so-called conservative South Asian nations, changes to legislation are slow to be implemented. That may come as a surprise, for, contrary to popular belief, same-sex relationships were culturally acceptable in the South Asian region and is not a Western concept points out Ruhaan Joshi, a Public Policy Practitioner from India.

Society’s view on same-sex relationships dimmed with the imposition of Western values and the criminalisation of such relationships with the advent of colonial rule.

While the LGBTQIA+ communities in South Asian countries currently battle to have same-sex relationships decriminalised and their unions legally accepted, the irony is that countries that first made such relationships punishable by law have moved on to be more welcoming, though some discriminatory practices continue.

Joshi was part of a discussion themed ‘On Being Queer and LGBTQIA+ in South Asia and Europe, held in Germany on April 9 this year. The discussion which included the release of two papers which examined the rights and protections of the LGBTQIA+ community in Europe and South Asia, respectively, was organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

Joining Joshi in the discussion were lawyer and parliamentarian Premnath C Dolawatte from Sri Lanka, Milosz Hodun, President, Projekt Polska Foundation, Poland, Michael Kauch, a Member of the European Parliament and RENEW Europe Group and Inaya Zarakhel, a Dutch-Pakistani actress and an activist on Queer Rights, who moderated the discussion. The two papers were presented by Hodun and Joshi, respectively.

In his opening remarks, Kauch pointed out that while the view of the liberals is that the rights recognized in one member nation of the EU must be accepted by all member countries, that is not the ground reality, the issue of Rainbow families being a case in point.

In the context of the European Union, though the Court of Justice has ruled on the freedom of movement of those in same-sex partnerships and their families, the ruling is not universally applied by member nations.

In Italy, and some European nations, surrogacy which helps childless couples to become parents is illegal. In other situations where same-sex parents are of different nationalities a child in that union faces restriction of movement or the possibility of being stateless if one parent hails from a country where such parental rights are not recognised.

Hodun meanwhile stated that in Poland transgender persons must first sue their parents for the gender assigned to them at birth, to have their gender marker changed on documents.

Some countries such as Russia and Azerbaijan resort to State-sponsored homophobia, and in many instances politicians and political parties promote such biases to boost their voter base it was pointed out. Even where laws are in place for the protection of LGBTQIA+ rights, there is no political will to implement them.

In Europe where migrants arrive in droves seeking asylum, and are frowned upon by many of those countries, LGBTQIA+ members face even more discrimination Hodun says, both by other refugees and governments, where most often the state ignores the situation despite the guidelines issued by the UN and the European Court of Justice. Hate speech and hate crimes too are on the rise he adds stating that at least 80 per cent go unreported.

Increasingly the LGBTQIA+ community has experienced a diminishing of their safe spaces as right-wing and populist governments are elected across the globe. Taking a dig at feminism, meanwhile, Kauch states that though feminists uphold a woman’s right to opt for an abortion, they take a different approach on the topic of surrogacy.

Dolawatte who waded into unchartered waters when he presented a Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise same-sex relationships through an amendment to section 365 of the Penal Code and the repealing of section 365A in its totality, is hopeful that the Bill will pass its third reading. It’s been an uphill battle he says, referring to the case filed in the Supreme Court against the Bill. The court ruled in his favour.

He had little or no support from his own party members, but says the President of the country, and younger party members are with him on this issue. Apart from making Sri Lanka a safe space, it would encourage foreign nationals identifying as LGBTQIA+ to visit without fear, and thus boost tourism he opines.

As Joshi states society has come a long way from when LGBTQIA+ were made fun of and were subject to violence to the positive portrayal in movies. Such movies are also well-received by society. Transgender identity has a distinct recognition in South Asian religious beliefs. Hijra, Khwaja Sara or Kinnar are some names given to transgender folk and they have, since ancient times been an accepted group in society. On the one hand, there’s Afghanistan and the Maldives which make no allowances for the LGBTQIA+ community, while Nepal became the first South Asian nation in 2023, to register a same-sex marriage, Joshi states. In most South Asian nations, the courts have ruled in favour of relaxing the rules against this community, and, like in Europe, it is the governments that drag their feet.

For governments to change their stance, society must take the lead in fighting for the unconditional dignity of the individual, freedom of movement, and safeguarding the tenets of democracy, he says adding that it must also run parallel with the LGBTQIA+ community looking beyond themselves at issues that impact democratic values, and the societal restrictions non-LGBTIQIA+ groups face, such as opposition to inter-caste marriage and the right to adopt outside their caste systems and equal access to many other privileges.

While the panellists advocated working together across the global divide as a step towards achieving equal rights for all, Dolawatte also called for caution; too much pressure on such issues from Europe he said may not be welcome, and must be handled with care.

With right-wing and populist governments getting elected across the globe, Kauch claims the forthcoming EU elections will prove crucial in deciding how future and current governments ensure tolerance and diversity amongst their citizenry.

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Sri Lanka making new economic laws to embed structural reforms

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making new laws and also revising old legislation following a comprehensive review of past experience and lessons learned, Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana has said.

Most of these new laws focus on structural changes of the existing executive and administrative structures, Siriwardana was quoted as saying in a speech to ministry officials on April 08.

The laws related to public finance, procurement, public private partnerships, state enterprises and also a law on the offshore economy.

The following new laws are being made:

a. Public Financial Management Bill
b. Public Debt Management Bill
c. Economic Transformation Bill
d. Management of State Owned Enterprises Law
e. Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law
f. Investment Law
g. Public Procurement Bill
h. Unified Labor Law Bill
i. Food Security Bill
j. Public Asset Management Bill
k. Microfinance and Credit Regulatory Authority Bill
l. Secured Transaction Bill
m.Offshore Economic Management Bill
n. New law for facilitating proposed agricultural land lease programme
Public Service Employment Bill
o. Sri Lanka Accounting and Standard Monitoring Act

Changes are planned to the following laws

a. Amendments to Agrarian Development Act
b. Amendments to Excise Ordinance
c. Amendments to Customs Ordinance
d. Amendments to Finance Act
e. Amendments to Foreign Exchange Act. Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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After PM’s Chinese visit, US NSA talks to Sri Lanka President’s advisor on peace, security

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan held talks with Sri Lanka President’s Senior Advisor on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka focusing on regional security issues this week.

The conversation between the two comes days after Sri Lanka Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena ended an official visit to China in which he met President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Qiang in Beijing amid discussions over further investments in Sri Lanka and concerns over banning Chinese research ships.

The United States along with India is highly concerned over increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, which is located in a strategic location in the Asia.

China already owns a port and a proclaimed land next to the main Colombo port in Sri Lanka and analysts say the Beijing’s ownership of assets has raised doubts if China is planning to use Sri Lanka as a military base. China has denied this and said its relationship with Sri Lanka is only based on commercial aspects.

The discussion between Sullivan and Ratnayaka focused on a range of crucial topics aimed at bolstering bilateral relations between the two nations, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

“Central to their discussion was the unwavering U.S. commitment to supporting Sri Lanka’s security and sovereignty,” the PMD said in a statement.

“Acknowledging Sri Lanka’s ongoing endeavours, Sullivan emphasized the importance of completing the fiscal, monetary, and governance aspects of the IMF program.”

The US along with India has raised possible threats of increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, government officials have said. Both  countries see China as a security threat to the Indian Ocean region, they say.

“The conversation also delved into future prospects for collaboration between the two countries, exploring avenues for enhanced cooperation in various spheres,” the PMD said.

“Sullivan conveyed his keen interest in fostering continued engagement with Sri Lanka, underscoring the mutual objective of advancing peace and security in the region.”

“This dialogue marks a pivotal moment in U.S.-Sri Lanka relations, demonstrating a shared commitment to promoting stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.” (Colombo/April 13/2024)

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