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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s GMOA criticises plans to establish three private medical colleges

GMOA Secretary Haritha Alutghe

ECONOMYNEXT – Plans to establish three private medical colleges in Sri Lanka have drawn criticism from the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), a professional body of doctors that has historically opposed private medical education in the island nation.

GMOA secretary general Haritha Aluthge told reporters that Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s announcement on Sunday September 10 that he had approved a proposal to open three private medical colleges was an attempt to sidetrack the conversation on the challenges faced by the medical community.

“This is an unfortunate attempt to bury real solutions by bringing in false solutions. Even now, our medical faculties are run amidst great difficulty,” he said.

Minister Rambukwella said at a press conference on Sunday that the process of establishing the proposed three private universities has already begun.

“There are many students who qualify to study medicine. We have eleven universities now, but that is not enough.

“Our medical degrees are recognised worldwide. If there are universities either state or private being established to that standard, we can supply graduates from those universities to the world too,” said the minister.

In the United Kingdom, a Sri Lankan medical degree is greatly valued, he claimed.

The three universities have been approved on the condition that all academic staff are Sri Lankan and the institutes set aside a number of scholarships to students from poor families.

The GMOA, however, is less than enthusiastic.

Aluthge said that, including a recently established faculty at the Uva Wellassa University, Sri Lanka has 12 medical faculties currently in operation, which are expected to produce some 2,100 doctors in the next four to five years.

“Even the established medical faculties are run at great difficulty. The main reason is that there isn’t sufficient academic staff,” he said, noting that more and more academics are migrating.

“To maintain standards, there must be one academic staff member per seven medical students. Right now there isn’t one even for 15 students,” he said.

“The environment is not right for doctors to remain in the country. Their salaries and benefits are low. They have enough opportunities outside to work in a better environment. This talk [of private universities] has emerged against a background of a historic increase in the migration rates of doctors,” he said.

There are only 800 lecturers working in Sri Lanka’s medical faculties at present, said Aluthge, insisting that 1,600 to 1,700 are needed.

“At such a time, planning to expand medical education in the country without even a proper feasibility study, will pose a challenge,” he said.

Amid reports of increased brain drain, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe in August directed government officials to devise a strategy to seek compensation from foreign nations that recruit Sri Lankan doctors.

Wickremesinghe proposed that the matter be raised at World Health Organisation (WHO sessions and at other international fora.

“Can’t we make a case at the next WHO? Press it for other countries also. You’re taking our doctors. At least give us two more medical faculties,” said Wickremesinghe.

“I think together with the foreign ministry, you should make this case and we should press it at different fora,” he added.

The compensation mechanism can be similar to the Loss & Damage Fund that was established at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27), the president said.

“Your people are leaving. That’s not our fault. England is producing so many; they’re not staying,” he said.

“Either change your system and keep your doctors or otherwise compensate us for that,” he added.

Wickremesinghe advised the officials present to discuss the matter with the Health Ministry secretary next week.

“If you get this established, you can get the engineering schools also,” he said.

A new Medical Act was also proposed at the meeting, to be formulated within six months with a view to addressing inadequacies in the existing Medical Ordinance. (Colombo/Sep11/2023)

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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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