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Sunday August 14th, 2022

Sri Lanka’s UNP, NPP to vote against energy minister against better judgement

ECONOMYNEXT – Both the United National Party (UNP) and the National People’s Power (NPP) will vote in favour of a no confidence motion against Sri Lanka’s energy minister Udaya Gammanipla Tuesday (20), MPs said, though neither party believes the move to be politically sound.

Former prime minister, UNP leader and the party’s sole representative Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament Tuesday that he will vote in favour of the motion though he is of the view that the opposition should instead be voting against all cabinet ministers.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP S M Marikkar moved the no confidence motion against Gammanipla Monday (19) morning over the latter’s role in the recent, highly controversial fuel price hike.

An amendment proposed by Wickremesinghe that the motion include the entire cabinet was rejected by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena Tuesday morning.

Related: No-faith motion: Former Sri Lanka PM proposes amendment to include entire cabinet

“The energy minister was one of the parties responsible for the fuel price increase. But it’s actually the finance minister that increases the price, in any government. As far as I know, this has not changed. So the finance minister is also responsible.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but the cost of living committee also discussed this matter – which means the ministers on that committee must also be included,” said Wickremesinghe.

Signed by 43 SJB MPs including opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, the motion cites an official statement by ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) general secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam blaming the price hike on Gammanipla. The energey minister, however, maintains that the price increase was a collective decision made by the pricing committee, a sentiment that’s since been echoed by the government.

“The new finance minister must also be included since the price has not been brought down as promised,” said Wickremesinghe, referring to statements made by a number of backbencher MPs in the government who claimed that newly sworn in Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa would not have allowed a fuel price increase.

“This motion has evidently been brought over a statement attributed to MP Sagara Kariyawasam. He has since retracted that statement. He is no longer of that position,” he added.

Wickremesinghe said the no confidence motion has resulted in bringing government MPs together.

“Now all the minsters have united. The government is collectively ready to show its strength,” he said.

Speaking to EconomyNext from parliament, NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya said though the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led coalition will vote in favour of the motion for a number of concerns with regard to the energy minister, the party believes the move has given increasingly disillusioned government MPs a rallying cry.

“We’re not very happy with the motion, in that we don’t think it was politically very useful or strategic at this point. It’s kind of playing to the gallery. We’re voting in favour of it because we do have a problem with what’s going on with the fuel price increase, and the fact that the government has not given the advantage of the global reduction in oil prices to the consumer at any point,” said Amarasuriya.

The MP said what came of the mysterious fuel stabilisation fund was also a key concern.

Related: Sri Lanka minister warns of financial terror, mystery deepens over fuel stabilisation fund

“We have a lot of questions and concerns. That’s why we’re voting in favour, but we don’t think that this no confidence motion is very strategic at this point because it has given an opportunity for  government members who were showing some dissatisfaction with the government an opportunity to rally,” she said. (Colombo/Jul20/2021)

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Sri Lanka jet fuel shortages costing SriLankan Airlines US$7mmn a month

ECONOMYNEXT – A shortage of jet fuel in the country due to forex shortages is costing the state-run SriLankan Airlines an extra 7 million US dollars a month, though the airline is operating most of its schedule, an official said.

“Now we are running 90 percent of our flights even though there is no fuel in the country which is costing us about 7 million US dollars per month in extra and lost revenue,” Richard Nuttall, the Chief Commercial Officer of SriLanka Airlines told Economy Next at the sidelines of a media brief.

“To carry the extra fuel, we can’t carry all the freight we like to into the country.”

SriLankan Airlines was stopping at third countries like India to load up on fuel for long haul destinations.

Carrying fuel for the return journey, a tactic known as tinkering, forces an airline to cut down freight

The hit from fuel came after the airline SriLankan reported a profit of 1.7 million US dollars in the March 2022 quarter for the first time since 2006, after cutting costs such as staff costs and overheads; renegotiating supplier contracts and increasing cargo revenue.

Nuttall said few months ago they were not sure of even operating 30-40 percent of the flights due to lack of sufficient jet fuel in the country.

The state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation could not import enough jet fuel due to forex shortages coming from a broken soft-peg. Sri Lanka is currently undergoing the worst currency crises in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank.

The Ministry of Energy has said it had appointed a third party to import jet fuel.

“Its not sustainable but we have maintained operations,” Nuttall said. “We understand we will be getting jet fuel very soon.”

The currency collapse had reduced the spending power of holiday makers in Sri Lanka while tourists were also put off by fuel shortages and popular protests.

“While the tourist numbers are not that great there’s demand from Sri Lanka diaspora, Indians,” Nuttall said.

He says being a small airline has allowed them to be nimble and shift capacity.

“If we are getting more demand from one destination, we will put more flights there.”

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices continue to climb

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s average coconut prices grew 3.7 percent to 64,618.23 rupees for 1,000 nuts at the last auction held on Friday August 12, official data showed.

The highest price was 62,900 rupees for 1,000 nuts, while the lowest was 57,000 rupees at the auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority.

Buyers offered 1,019,395 nuts at the auction and sold 576,906.

Exports of coconut-based products have risen by 12 percent in January to June to 434.48 million dollars from a year earlier, data show. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Chinese tracking vessel cleared to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given the green light to Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5 to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22.

Sri Lankan authorities had first given clearance to the Chinese vessel on July 12, to make a port call at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17​ for replenishment purposes.

However, following a diplomatic standoff after concern about the tracking vessel’s anticipated arrival were reportedly raised by the US and India, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested China to defer the port call until “further consultations”.

A report by Sri Lanka’s privately owned Times Online news website said Saturday August 13 morning that the foreign ministry has authorised the docking of the ship.


Sri Lanka permits entry to controversial Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5

The ministry’s official statement released Saturday evening confirmed that the ship has been given clearance to dock at the Hambantota Port for the new dates August 16 to 22.

“The Ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people,” the ministry said, without naming the stakeholder countries. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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