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Monday February 6th, 2023

UNP agreeable for Election after Feb 15 – Kiriella

The United National Party Parliamentary Group is not agreeable to support the dissolution of Parliament immediately but will consider it only if the date of the General Election is fixed on or after February 15, the Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella told RepublicNext.

Kiriella said the dates of the election would be discussed in the next few days and that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is due to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tomorrow. The PM will inform the President that “we are prepared to hand over government at any time,” he added.

Kiriella who told us the PM will resign within 24 hours said that this may get delayed as Wickremesinghe hasn’t yet been given a time to meet the President.

A majority of the MPs at a Parliamentary Group meeting held last evening say they are willing to give up their posts and sit in Opposition anytime.

 “We have all decided to resign our posts and sit in the opposition and allow the President to appoint a government,” Kiriella said.

 He recalled that the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa had done the same thing when the United National Front won the Presidency in 2015. “We formed a government with just 40 MPs,” he said.  

Under the 19th Amendment, the President can dissolve Parliament only 4.5 years after its first sitting which was on Sept 1, 2015. Rajapaksa has that power from March 1, 2020, onwards.

The only other way for Parliament to be dissolved is for the MPs to pass a resolution to do so by a two-thirds majority for which the MPs supporting the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna would need the support of the UNP.

“There is also a Party Leaders meeting to be held in the next few days at which some of these decisions will be discussed,” Kiriella said.

There are 89 days from today to February 15 and that will give the beleaguered UNP time to recoup after the drubbing they received at the Presidential poll. Many of the Cabinet Ministers lost their electoral districts as Sajith Premadasa was decimated in the Deep South.

The MPs meeting was reportedly stormy with acrimonious exchanges between MPs supporting Premadasa and the others. Premadasa, however, did not attend today’s meeting, sources told RepublicNext.

Kiriella also said that Wickremesinghe will take up the issue that UNP supporters are being attacked and harassed in all parts of the country with the President.

He also dispelled rumours that the UNP was going to split.

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Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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