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Saturday April 20th, 2024

Younger MPs will get more responsibility in an SLPP government – Tharaka Balasuriya

ECONOMYNEXT – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will encourage younger, first-time Members of Parliament to take more responsibility, says the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate for Kegalle District Tharaka Balasuriya.

He told EconomyNext in an interview that usually first time MPs like himself would never be given a Ministerial post in their first term, but he and several others were given State Minister positions in the caretaker government.

“Usually that kind of position would go to a second-term MP,” he told EconomyNext in an interview. “It’s good to get positions of responsibility when you have the energy and the enthusiasm,” he said.

“Sometimes when you are older, you may have lost the energy and the enthusiasm to make changes,” he said.

Balasuriya was also of the view that it has been a mistake for the government to declare victory over the COVID pandemic.

“We know from history that these pandemics come in waves,,” he said.

However he is optimistic that the world would find a cure and a vaccine as “an unprecedented amount of time and resources are being poured into the effort.”

Balasuriya says in reaching out to younger voters, particularly the first time voters, you need to understand them. “They are not in pursuit of vehicles or property, they are more interested in experiences.”

The former MP, whose grandfather, father and mother were in politics, believes that the import restrictions that are in place are important for the country to recover from the current economic crisis.

“It may be a blessing in disguise because it will activate the local economy, encouraging people to produce certain goods,” he says.

He is quick to say that this does not mean going back to the economic planning of the period 1970 to 1977 when there were severe restrictions and widespread shortages.

“There are things we need to import like heavy machinery. But on the other hand, we saw last month for the first time in many years our exports have surpassed out imports,” he pointed out.

“It will also be hard for the government to raise cash from foreign sources, so it will be a very challenging time for whichever party comes to power,” he said.

The 47-year old who was educated in the United States and Europe is keen to develop Kegalle. He is concerned that after the Central Highway becomes operational his constituency will become “more isolated. We have addressed this issue with the President,” he said

Balasuriya says the poverty levels in Kegalle are high because it is mainly an agri-based economy.  “When the last government introduced re-exports many people here lost their livelihood,” he said.

He also said that Kegalle has a high level of education, one of the highest in the country, and because of that there is a lot of migration to the Western Province which has the jobs.

Balasuriya also sees an opportunity for developing tourism in the district. The Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela attracts many visitors and Kitulgala is also a popular place for white water rafting and cycle tours.

“If we can develop these areas so that we get overnight tourists, then there will be dollar revenue for Kegalle,” he says.

Balasuriya is candid about the “Sinhala Buddhist identity” of his party. He says he believes “every country must have an identity.”

He gave the example of Singapore, which he said has built a nation based on shared values and Confucianism. “It is all right to have an identity but it should not be used to discriminate against any community or push them down.”

He said one community that needs to be helped urgently is the Estate Tamil population. “There are still places where two or three families are living together in a ten-by-ten room. This is extreme poverty and it cannot be tolerated in this age,” he said.

He said that the Yahapalana government talked at length about reconciliation, but he asked whether at the end of the five years whether the minorities had a better life. “Everybody was made to think that people will be holding hands and singing ‘Kumbiah,’ but that did not happen.”

Balasuriya says that the inalienable rights of all communities need to be safeguarded. “That is also something that goes beyond the power of government. We will oppose any attempt to take away the rights of any people.” (Colombo, July 28, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana



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Sri Lanka discussing giving extra land, water for Chinese oil refinery

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in discussions with China’s Sinopec to give extra land and assure water supplies after the company decided to expand the capacity of a planned oil refinery in Hambantota, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“There are concerns on how the water supply is going to be provided for the refinery,” Minister Wijesekera told reporters Friday.

The refinery will need more land and also revise conditions in a Board of Investment agreement, he said.

Read more
Sinopec to double capacity of new refinery in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota

Recommendations and decisions from Sri Lanka’s side had already been sent and Sinopec is expected to revert back in May.

“We are hoping to sign the agreement once everyone has agreed,” Wijesekara said.

The principle agreements are expected to be signed by June, he said.

The refinery could sell up to 10 percent of its output in the domestic market.

“There is no commitment by the government to purchase anything,” Minister Wijesekera said. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 302.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 302.00/50 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Friday, down from 301.50/302.00 a day earlier, dealers said.

There was increased demand for dollars after the central bank bought 715 million dollars from forex markets. In the previous two months it was buying on average about 200 million US dollars, leaving market participants and bank in a ‘oversold’ position.

There were some official dollars sales Friday dealers said.

READ Sri Lanka rupee quoted wide to US dollar as peg inconsistencies flare up

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 11.30/40 percent down from 11.35/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.95/12.05 percent up from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed stable at 12.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.30/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed stable at 12.40/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down, banks trade down

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed down 0.38 percent, or 44.80 points, at 11,753; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.53 percent, or 18.46 points, at 3,456.

Turnover was at 1.4 billion. The diversified financials (Rs366mn) and banks (Rs266mn) sectors continued to see selling pressure.

“This was possibly due to uncertainty around the bond discussions,” market participants said.

With the exception of Sampath Bank Plc (up at 77.50) all other banks traded down in the day. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc was down at 104.50, Hatton National Bank Plc was down at 188.50, and DFCC Bank Plc was down at 77.00.

LOLC Finance Plc saw the most trades and closed up at 6.40. Another LOLC company, Browns Investments Plc, also saw high traded volumes and closed up at 5.60.

Softlogic Capital Plc was up at 7.00, and Softlogic Holdings Plc was up at 11.20. A trading suspension imposed on SHL.N0000 was lifted effective today as the company submitted the annual report for the year ended 31st March 2023.

However, shares of the Company will remain in the Watch List “due to Qualified Audit Opinion and Emphasis of matter on going concern in the Independent Auditor’s Report in the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st March 2022.”

Dialog Axiata Plc, which announced its merger with Bharti Airtel Thursday, saw its share price close up at 11.90.

“There was some traction on index heavyweights,” market participants pointed out.

Top contributors to the APSI included Aitken Spence Plc (up at 134.50), Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (up at 1,245.25, and Lion Brewery (Ceylon) Plc (up at 1,048.50).

There was a net foreign inflow of 5 million. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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