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Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Worsening period poverty in Sri Lanka threatens to keep female students home: MP

ECONOMYNEXT – Fifty-percent of Sri Lanka’s female student population is hesitant to go to school during their period, with the country’s prevailing currency crisis worsening the already debilitating effects of period poverty, an opposition legislator said.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne said in a Twitter Space discussion on Wednesday September 21 that more families have been affected in the last seven months.

‘Period poverty’ refers to difficulties faced by low-income women and girls in accessing menstrual products. Citing a recent study, Kavirante said in the discussion, organised by Sri Lanka parliament’s communications unit, that many students are missing school due to their inability to acquire proper sanitary napkins.

The prices of sanitary napkins skyrocketed from March to September of 2022 with the country facing a severe currency crisis amid tax hikes on imported products. As of September, the price of a 15-napkin pack ranges from 350 to 800 rupees in the market.

“If we take households with females between 12 and 49 years of age, 50 percent of those families are affected by period poverty,” said Kaviratne.

Also taking part in the Twitter Space was Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who in the same discussion justified the higher tax on sanitary pads claiming that it incentivised local manufacturers.

Related:

Sri Lanka’s health minister justifies high taxes for women’s sanitary pads

Kaviratne said the average price of a sanitary napkin pack is around 500 rupees, which is equal to the price of two kilos of rice, forcing families to sacrifice women’s hygiene for more food.

“On average, one female needs around two packs a month, roughly costing around 1,000, rupees, which is equal to four kilos of rice. In a crisis like this, families have to prioritise,” she said.

President Ranil Wickremeseinghe has already instructed the authorities to provide sanitary napkins to female children in schools free of charge, said the MP, requesting the health minister to see that the directive is implemented.

Responding to the minister’s remarks on the higher tax, the SJB MP said more brands should be imported into the country in order to create a competitive market, providing the advantage to the consumer and the ability to purchase sanitary products at a reasonable price.

“We have a limited number of sanitary napkins that we import. We need more brands to be imported in order to create competition in the market.

“The same goes for the locally manufactured products,” she said.

Minister Rambukwella, meanwhile, said proposals have been made by several interested parties to launch a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing process in Sri Lanka, similar to what was initiated in Tamil Nadu by inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham of ‘Pad Man’ fame. Such a project could also bring income to low-income families, he said.

“Some ladies also came and met me. I asked my two daughters to meet them and discuss it, and we are trying to see whether we can do it here and produce cheap but very effective sanitary napkins. I too think we must discuss this openly and use alternative arrangements that are even more sophisticated,” he said. (Colombo/Sep22/2022)

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India supports Sri Lanka Coast Guard to boost maritime security

ECONOMYNEXT – India has given 1.2 million US dollars’ worth spare parts to Sri Lanka’s Coast Guard to be used in a vessel also gifted to the Indian Ocean Island on an earlier occasion, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“Handing over of the large consignment of spares symbolizes India’s commitment to support capability building towards addressing the shared challenges of Maritime Security in the region,” the Indian High Commission said

The spare parts were brought to Sri Lanka on the Indian Coast Guard Ship Sachet, an offshore patrol vessel that was on a two-day visit to the island.

The spares were formally handed over to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha which was gifted to Sri Lanka in October 2017 by India.

India has gifted spare parts for the ship in June 2021 and April 2022 and also provided assistance in refilling of Halon cylinders in January 2024. (Colombo/June23/2024)

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Sri Lanka Water Board makes profits, tax-payers inject Rs28bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run National Water Supply and Drainage Board has made a profit of 5.2 billion rupees in the year to December 2023, after a tariff increase despite not getting money for 25 percent of its water it pumps out.

Total revenues went up to 61.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 35.4 billion rupees, a Finance Ministry report said.

Water revenue surged to 58.5 billion rupees from 33.1 billion rupees, cost of sales also went up to 32.8 billion rupees from 23.14 billion rupees, helping boost gross profits from 12.3 billion rupees to 29.0 billion rupees.

Finance costs surged to 14.9 billion rupees from 3.9 billion rupees,

NSWD reported net profits of 5.2 billion rupees for the year, against a loss of 2.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

The Treasury had given 28 billion rupees from tax payer money to settle loans.

During the Rajapaksa administration, macroeconomists who ran the Finance Ministry made state enterprises borrow money from banks through Treasury guarantees listing them as ‘contingent liabilities’, claiming they were ‘off balance sheet’.

The Road Development Authority, which had no revenues to speak of borrowed large amounts of money from banks which were listed as ‘contingent liabilities’ though they were a responsibility of the state from day one, allowing macroeconomists to understate both the budget deficit and national debt, critics say.

The water tariffs were raised by 81 percent after macroeconomists printed money to supress interest rates for flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting. The currency collapsed after macroeconomists tried to float the rupee with a surrender rule in place.

Non-revenue water for which no money is collected was 25.2 percent. The agency was supposed to reduce non-revenue water. In some districts religious establishments are responsible for non-revenue water, according to an official who said it on condition of anonymity.

The water board is also unable to collect money from some services like common toilets for underserved communities. (Colombo/June23/2024 – Update II)

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Sri Lanka will expedite Indian projects: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will expedite Indian-backed projects in the island, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Indian business people after a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Modi the need to accelerate the joint program that we have decided, agreed on. So the major ones are identified, and Foreign Minister Jaishankar came down today [20] to have a discussion. Now this will show the new path we are taking,” president Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“It won’t be individual projects. We’ve discussed a fair number of them. First is the grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India, so that sustainable energy can be transmitted to India.

“We have the Sampur solar power project, which is a Government to Government (G2G) project, and a three island project, which is where we hope the ground breaking can take place in July,” he told Indian business people at the 31st All India Partner’s Meet 2024 (AIPM 2024), held at ICT Ratnadipa in Colombo.

The AIPM 2024 which was organised by KPGM Sri Lanka and India provided a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to collaborative projects that promise to redefine bilateral relations and propel socio-economic growth.

“It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to have you in Sri Lanka, in Colombo, holding this meeting. It shows on one hand the close friendship that our two countries have, and on the other hand, the confidence that you have in Sri Lanka.

“Having now survived two difficult years, I must acknowledge that this was possible because India gave us a loan of $3.5 billion. All that will be repaid.”

Cooperation between the two nations needed to be enhanced, particularly in the energy sector, aiming to foster new development for the Northern region, Wickremesinghe said.

“We are looking at developing Palk Straight for wind energy and solar energy, both countries to get together and have a large farm for solar energy, for renewable energy. It also means that we will have a new economy for the northern province, which was worst affected by the war.”

Several Indian-backed projects in Sri Lanka have stalled due to protests from some parties, with some going to courts.

India is helping expand the Kankesanturai port, and is discussing development of the Palali and Colombo airports.

The National Livestock Development Board of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with India’s Amul Dairy Company, is involved in a project to enhance liquid milk production in the country.

The two nations are also considering establishing land connectivity.

Discussions have also taken place regarding expediting the Trincomalee Development Project, which encompasses industrial investment zones and tourist areas.

“Plans are underway to construct a multi-product oil pipeline from Nagapatnam to Trincomalee, pending the final observation report. Trincomalee is poised to become a hub for oil refining, with the development of ports and investment zones, transforming Trincomalee Port into a significant hub on the Bay of Bengal.

“Today, the entire East Coast is being opened up for tourism, with additional land earmarked for hotels in Galle and southern areas. Moreover, there are plans to establish more investment zones across the country, alongside expanding our professional training programs. In these endeavours, we are collaborating closely with India.” (Colombo/Jun22/2024)

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