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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

Women nominees: Poor showing from major parties in run-up to Sri Lanka’s polls

ECONOMYNEXT – Since Sri Lanka produced the first-ever woman Prime Minister of the world in 1960 with Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s landslide victory, and one the world’s first women Presidents representation in Sri Lankan politics has taken a hit, to say the least.

With nominations being concluded for the upcoming parliamentary election, questions have been raised as to whether women are adequately represented in the nomination lists of major parties vying for power. As of now, the cabinet in operation led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa only has one female minister among 15 men.

In the eighth Sri Lankan parliament from 2015-2020, only 5.7% of members were female. Trends prove to be rather disappointing in the upcoming election as well, with less than the optimal number of females being nominated.

From the Colombo electoral district, the United National Party (UNP) leads the way in female representations with three women out of 22 nominees; namely, Sunethra Ranasinghe, Chandima Wijegunawardena and Ajantha Perera.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led Jathika Jana Balavegaya or National People’s Power (NPP) nominated two women out of 22 nominations for Colombo, deeming Samanmalee Gurusinghe and Niroopa Serasinghe eligible to contest.

However, there seems to be lamentable progress within the ruling party and the anticipated opposition.

The Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP)led by Rajapaksa and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa both nominated just one female each from the Colombo electoral district: Kariyawasam Haputhanthri Gamage Kanthi Kodikara and Hirunika Eranjalee Premachandra respectively.

In the Kandy district of the Central Province, only three female politicians have been nominated from the main parties. Shrima Shiranthee Kongahage from the UNP, Mangalika Samanmali Jayasekara from the  NPP  and Chandrika Senaratne from SLPP have been awarded nominations. Regrettably, the SJB has failed to nominate a female candidate for the district. The nominations of each party tolled up to 22.

The situation in the Galle and Matara districts in the Southern province is much similar to the figures observed in Kandy.

In Galle, the UNP and SJB failed to nominate any female candidates while the NPP led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake nominated two female candidates: Champa Sumudu Kumari and Wilegoda Mudalige Susan Weera Kumara. The SLPP managed to nominate one female candidate: Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasingha. The total number of candidates nominated by each party was 12.

In the Matara district, only the NPP succeeded in nominating a woman candidate; namely, Saroja Saavithri Polraj. The SLPP, UNP, SJB all failed to follow the NPP’s lead. The total number of nominations handed out by each party in this electorate was 12.

The Badulla electorate of the Uva Province showed similar figures, with only the SLPP nominating a single female candidate: Oshadi Hewamadduma from a total of 12 nominations. The UNP, SJB and NPP all failed to nominate female candidates for this constituency while each party put forth 12 candidates each to contest in the elections.

The district of Ratnapura in the Sabaragamuwa Province produced somewhat better results compared to the Uva Province, with four female candidates being eligible to contest. The UNP nominated Ruwini Thakshila Abemanna out of 12 nominations. The NPP, however, failed to nominate any female contenders, while the SLPP included two women in their list – current Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Muditha Prishanthi – in their 12 nominations. The SJB included former minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Thalatha Athukorala in their list of 12 contenders.

In the Anuradhapura district of North Central Province, the UNP and SJB nominated Kusum Rathnayaka and former minister Chandrani Bandara respectively. No other major political party has nominated a single female candidate. The total number of candidates nominated by each party is 12.

In Jaffna, two female candidates were deemed eligible: Vijayakala Maheswaran from the UNP and Bawadharani Rajasingham from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Disappointingly, no female contenders have been nominated by any major political party for the Batticaloa district in the Eastern Province. Only the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pilukal (TMVP) has nominated one female candidate, Mangaleshawari Shankar.

The numbers reveal a dire situation indeed. It is unfortunate that a once-progressive democracy appears to be going back in time when it comes to women’s empowerment and representation. It is time the public – over 50 % of whom are women – took note. (Colombo/Jul24/2020)



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Sri Lanka shares down for 2nd day as tax hike, delay in Chinese debt assurance weigh

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged down on Tuesday as worries over delay in financial assurances from China which is mandatory for a $2.9 billion dollar IMF loan and rise in protests against tax hike kept investors in check, analysts said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged down by 0.28 percent or 24.62 points to 8,865.05. It fell for the second session after hitting more than three-month high.

“The market is looking for more macro cues because of faster Chinese debt assurance was expected. The market is also hit by fall in corporate earnings due to high taxes,” an analyst said.

China has given an initial response on debt re-structuring to Sri Lanka though analysts familiar with the process say it is not a ‘hard assurance’ sufficient for the IMF program to go through.

The International Monetary Fund is working with China on extending maturities of Chinese loans to defaulted countries like Sri Lanka, as there is resistance to hair-cuts, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters on January 14.
The earnings for first quarter are expected to be negative for many corporates with higher taxes and rising costs. However, investors had not expected earnings to be low in the December quarter because of year end pick ups on heavy counters, the analyst said.
Earnings in the second quarter of 2023 are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

However, the central bank said the IMF deal is likely in the first quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 dropped by 0.64 percent or 17.74 points to 2,764.51 points.

The central bank has said it could cut interest rates in future when the country sees fall in inflation, which has already started decelerating.

The market saw a turnover of 1.7 billion rupees, slightly lower than the month’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees and while being significantly lower than 2022’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The bourse saw a net foreign inflow (NFI) of 93 million rupees extending the net offshore buying to 413 million rupees so far this year.

Top losers were LOLC, Royal Ceramics Limited and Hayleys. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka exports fall in December as global recession weighs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports earnings fell 9.7 percent in December year-on-year as the island nation saw a drop in buying from its key export destinations which are facing a looming recession after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The earnings from the merchandise exports recorded $1.04 billion  in December 2022 compared to the same month in the previous year as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, and Coconut based Products, Food & Beverages, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries products,” the Export Development Board (EDB) said in a statement.

“The reason for this decline was due to the ongoing recession in major markets due to rising cost of production, energy etc. Imports declined sharply due to inflation and demand for goods and services are reduced.”

However, Sri Lanka saw a record export earning of $13.1 billion in 2022 due to increased demand in the key exports throughout the year

Earnings from all major product sectors except Electrical & Electronic components as well as Diamonds, Gems & Jewellery fell in December.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles decreased by 9.6 percent to $480.3 million in December 2022.  Export earnings from Tea fell by 3 percent to $107.3 million, Rubber and Rubber Finished products dropped 20.3 percent to $74.5 million,

However, export earnings from the Electrical & Electronics Components increased by 16.18 percent to $42.9 million in December 2022, while Diamond, Gems & Jewelry jumped 35.7 percent to $30.8 million. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka records over 6,000 dengue cases in first three weeks of January

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded over than 6,000 dengue cases in the first three weeks of January 2023 after a spell of heavy monsoon rain though a drop in cases is likely from February, officials said.

Health officials identified 6,204 dengue patients by January 22, up from 5,793 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

“A rise in cases can be observed in the November-January period with the heavy rain due to the northeast monsoon,” an official from the National Dengue Control Unit told EconomyNext.

Of all reported cases, 46.3 percent were from the Western Province, official reports showed.

Akuressa, Batticaloa, Eravur, Trincomalee, Madampe, Badulla, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kalmunai North and Alayadivembu MOH areas were identified as high-risk areas for dengue during the third week of January by the health officials.

“We are expecting a decline in dengue cases soon. The Western province is always in the top position with the highest number of dengue cases. Apart from that, we are seeing a higher number of cases during this period in areas like Puttalam, Jaffna districts. A certain number of cases have also been recorded in the Kandy district,” the official said.

“Usually the cases peak in December, but they decline by February. This year, too, we are facing this scenario. There is an increase of dengue during the months of November, December and January”.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in an earlier report said, diesel and pesticides are not being provided by the ministry.

However, rejecting the allegation, the official from the NDCU said the government has provided enough funds for get the necessary pesticides but it is being used according to a scientific method to avoid building a resistance in the dengue mosquito.

“The recommendation is to do the fogging if there is a dengue outbreak or if there are few patients reported from the same locality.

“If you use this pesticide haphazardly, the mosquitos will develop resistance against it,” the official said, adding that there are adequate stocks of the chemical available. (Colombo/ Jan 31/2023)

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