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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s education ministry to be allocated Rs 237 Bn in Budget 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka plans to allocate 237 billion rupees for the ministry of education for education-related capital and recurring expenditure in the island nation’s nine provinces, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha said, ahead of an upcoming budget presentation.

“The cabinet of ministers has already approved the policy framework for education reforms, which we will present in Parliament after receiving sectoral parliamentary approval. This initiative aims to establish a stable education policy that endures across different governments and ministers,” Premajayantha said speaking to journalists on Monday November 06.

“It will drive reforms in four key areas, focusing on transitioning from an exam-centric system to a more diversified and inclusive classroom assessment. The ultimate goal is to provide quality education to both students and educators,” he said.

According to the minister, Sri Lanka’s next academic year is set to commence on February 19, 2024, and the curriculum spanning from the first to the eleventh year will be completed within the same academic year.

“Due to certain delays in the country, the school year began on March 27, 2023. We have taken measures to prevent such delays, enabling the start of the new school term on February 19, 2024. Our objective is to ensure the full completion of the curriculum from the first year to the eleventh year within the same academic year, allowing us to conduct the 2025 school year without disruptions.

“We have also made arrangements to conduct Advanced-Level Examinations. Although there have been some professional challenges, we have managed to maintain the examination schedules, ensuring timely examinations. We are also prepared to release the results of the Ordinary Level Examinations conducted in the third week of this month. Despite the on-going circumstances, we are determined to manage time efficiently and conduct exams as scheduled,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Treasury has approved recruitments for 50 percent of vacancies, the minister said, amid concerns raised over cash-strapped Sri Lanka’s capacity to add to an already bloated public sector.

“As the examinations have been completed, we are actively preparing for interviews and recruitment. Approval has also been granted for 707 teacher education service positions and we are working towards their immediate appointment. This move aims to provide training for teachers across 19 faculties. Our goal is to fill all teaching service vacancies before the upcoming school term,” he said.

Referring to purported challenges in the appointment of teachers and development officers as graduates, Premajayantha said a “group of individuals” had gone to courts when the authorities were ready to hire teachers and development officers as graduates. As a temporary solution, provincial-level vacancies for retired dignitaries and teachers who have left service have been approved and recruitment is underway to address the needs of all provinces, he said.

“In an effort to bolster education in specific subjects, the Treasury approved the recruitment of 5,450 personnel for science, mathematics, English, foreign languages and technology subjects. These recruitments are being conducted at the provincial level and the gazette notification for national schools is scheduled for release this week.”

According to the minister, plans are also underway for textbook distribution, school uniforms and meal provisions, Preparations and distribution of textbooks for the year 2024 are completed, with 80 percent of school uniform work finalised. Beginning next year, the government is planning to provide meals to all school students, with the aspiration of offering lunch to every school child by 2030. Several programs, in collaboration with the World Food Program, USAID and the private sector, are already underway, he said.

Insisting that the government is committed to providing professional training in skills and technology to students post-general and advanced level examinations, the minister said selected schools will offer evening classes over a four-month period, focusing on guidance, English, information technology, or various other courses tailored to students’ preferences. (Colombo/Nov07/2023)

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Sri Lanka president appoints Supreme Court-faulted official as police chief after CC clearance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the 36th Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the country after the Constitutional Council (CC) cleared the official who along with three other police officers were asked by the Supreme Court to compensate 2 million rupees in a fundamental rights case last year.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the IGP in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The island nation’s Supreme Court on December 14 ordered Tennakoon when he was the Acting IGP and three other officials to pay a compensation of 500,000 rupees each for the violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Police Commission to take disciplinary action against the said Police officers after it considered the petition filed by W. Ranjith Sumangala who had accused the Police officers of violating his fundamental rights during his detention at Mirihana Police Station in 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the four police officers violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner by his illegal arrest, detention and subjection to torture at the Mirihana Police Station, which was under the supervision of Tennakoon at the time of the arrest.

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake presented the official appointment letter to Tennakoon on Monday (26) at the Presidential Secretariat.

When Tennakoon was asked over if the Supreme Court decision would have an impact on his appointment as the IGP last week, he declined to comment, saying that it was a Supreme Court matter and he does not want to say anything about it.

Tennakoon was also criticized by Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith when he was appointed as the Acting IGP citing allegations against him related to security lapses leading up to the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 269 in April 2019.

However, Tennakoon rejected the allegations. (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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No water tariff hike in Sri Lanka this year: Minister

Millennium Challenge Corporation Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s planned water tariff formula is ready, and the government will implement it this year only if the formula’s tariff is lower than the current price, Water Supply Minister Jeevan Thondaman said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has been implementing IMF-led pricing policies on utilities and the Water Supply Ministry has already come up with a formula.

“There is a water tariff formula in place right now and we are waiting for it to be drafted and seek approval from the cabinet,” Thondaman told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Monday.

“Once this water tariff formula is in place, there will be an annual revision with an option of biannual review.

The formula has been developed with the help of the Asian Development Bank. The formula includes electricity and exchange rate among many others as components like the fuel formula.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) increased the water tariff in August 2023, claiming that the operating cost had been increased owing to high interest payment for bank loans and increased electricity prices.

The last year revision saw the consumers paying 30-50 percent increase from the existing water bill.

Minister Thondaman said he will implement the new formula this year only if there is a reduction.

TARIFF CUT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED 

“We will have to wait to see what the formula is. If the formula shows us there needs to be a reduction in the water tariff, we can implement it. But if there is an increase, why should we burden the people when we are on a road to recovery?” he said.

He said a group of experts including University Professors are working on the formula and the numbers.

“Once they come with the number, we will have to take a decision on whether we are going to impose on the people or not,” he said.

“We have already spoken to the Asian Development Bank and informed them we have established the formula. But according to the ADB requirement of this policy-based loan, the implementation period is only in 2025.”

“But right now, you want to take the approval for the formula for sustainability.”

The Energy Ministry is considering a drastic slash in electricity tariff soon. Thondaman said the exact numbers will be decided on after the finalized electricity tariff.

However, he said that as per the formula, there has to be a up to 10 percent increase in the water tariff as of now.

“Given the current formula set up, there must be around a 9-10 percent increase. It was actually at 14 percent. What we have done is since it is at 14 percent, we also did a calculation to see how we can do a cost cutting,” he said.

“So, despite our cost cutting measures, there will be an increase of 9 or 10 percent. But we will not be imposing it as of now because this year is meant to be policy sector reforms. Next year is meant to be the implementation.”

“As per August 2023 water tariff hike, we are able to come close to sustainable. So right now, there is no issue in the water sector. But a formula eventually needs to be established.” (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar Monday, from 310.95/311.05 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed stable at 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.80/90 percent down from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.00/12.15 percent down from 12.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/70 percent from 12.20/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/70 percent down from 12.40/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.60/80 percent from 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent from 12.50/13.30 percent. (Colombo/Feb26/2024)

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