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A/L postponement inevitable but no official statement so far

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Vaccination of students yet to begin

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Reforms, Open Universities and Distance Learning Promotion State Minister Susil Premjayanth recently told Parliament that the GCE Advanced Level Examination would be put off, but the Education Ministry has not yet made an official statement to that effect.

Lawmaker Premjayanth made the declaration in Parliament on 07 Oct. following consultations with Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Both ministries yesterday (12) said that an official announcement as regards the examination hadn’t been issued so far when The Island sought a clarification whether they could confirm the postponement of the examination scheduled to commence on Nov. 15.

Sources said that an official statement was likely once a section of the schools would be re-opened on 21 Oct.

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena swapped their ministries on 16 Aug. Prof. Peiris on July 19 announced the AL examination would be held from Nov 15 to Dec 10.

Secretary to the Education Ministry Prof. Kapila Perera was not immediately available for comment.

Commissioner General of Examination Sanath Pujitha told The Island that as the majority of those scheduled to sit the examination hadn’t been able to finish their studies due to the pandemic and teachers’ strike it wouldn’t be fair to conduct the GCE AL as scheduled.

According to him, the postponement of the examination was inevitable and there is a need to work out a proper plan to ensure the students wouldn’t be deprived of an opportunity to prepare for the examination. Responding to another query, Pujitha asserted that they would have to take into consideration the continuing salary issue.

The Examination Department head noted that the issue hadn’t been resolved yet in spite of various interventions. Pujitha asserted that as much as 60 percent of the total number of those slated to sit the examination hadn’t been able to complete the required lessons. He asserted that fresh dates would have to be announced after consultations with all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the inoculation of AL students with Pfizer hadn’t commenced yet though various government spokesmen assured completion of the vaccination ahead of the examination. Sources said that though the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) declared about a month ago that the vaccination of the student community should take place at government hospitals under the supervision of medical specialists, the government subsequently announced the vaccination would take place in schools.

The second dose of Pfizer recommended for the student community should be administered in four weeks. Sources pointed out that even if vaccination commenced at schools on 21 Oct., as planned the second jab couldn’t be administered until the third week of Nov.

Top GMOA spokesperson Dr. Nalinda Herath expressed serious concerns over the developments though the situation seemed to be improving. Dr. Herath said that vaccination of A/L candidates should have been done ahead of the scheduled date for the examination to begin. Regardless of various reports pertaining to the conduct of GCE A/L and GCE O/L, those in authority were yet to make the official position clear.



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Central Bank looking at proposal to permit dollar-paid vehicle imports

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Duty too must be paid in hard currency

The central bank is looking at a proposal to allow persons who can pay in foreign exchange to import vehicles and pay taxes in hard currency, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said last week.

He said that this was a proposal made by certain parties whom he did not identify making clear it was at a proposal stage with no decision taken. But it was under examination.

Asked whether Non-Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) account holders – now called Personal Foreign Currency Accounts – would be permitted to use their resources to import a vehicle provided they would pay the applicable duty in hard currency, he said that he did not see why not.

“If the vehicle is paid for in hard currency and not converted rupees, and the duty also accrues to the government in hard currency, I don’t see any harm, in fact it would be good,” he said.

It would also mean that there’s are new vehicles coming into the country not paid for by rupees converted into hard currency plus a hard currency duty stream, an analyst said.

Banning vehicle imports on account of the present foreign exchange crunch has cost the government an immense revenue stream.

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Forex pressure eases – CB

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The Central Bank says that pressure caused by shortage of foreign exchange is easing gradually towards better.

“Earnings from exports marked a notable improvement and recorded over US dollars 1 billion for the third consecutive month in August 2021. Expenditure on imports has also increased, partly reflecting the surge in global commodity prices, resulting in an expansion in the trade deficit during the eight months ending August 2021, over the corresponding period of last year. Outlook for tourism improved with the easing of travel restrictions globally and the successful vaccination drive domestically. Despite the moderation of workers’ remittances observed in recent months, a rebound is expected in the period ahead with the improved growth outlook for major foreign employment source countries and greater stability in the domestic foreign exchange market. The realisation of foreign investments in the real sector and the timely adoption of remedial measures by the Central Bank as enunciated in ‘The Six-month Road Map for Ensuring Macroeconomic and Financial System Stability’ are gradually easing pressures in the domestic foreign exchange market,” the Central Bank says.

The CBSL said that it continued to intervene in the foreign exchange market to provide liquidity for essential imports, including fuel. The depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar is recorded at 6.8 per cent thus far in 2021.

It said that the gross official reserves were estimated at US dollars 2.6 billion by end September 2021. This, however, does not include the bilateral currency swap facility with the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of CNY 10 billion (equivalent to approximately US dollars 1.5 billion). Gross official reserves are expected to improve with the measures that are being pursued by the Government and the Central Bank to attract fresh foreign exchange inflows, as outlined in the Six-month Road Map, thereby reinforcing the stability of the external sector in the period ahead.

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Samarasinha to promote ‘Commercial Diplomacy” among German states

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Nihal S. Samarasinha has been appointed as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for three Federal States in Germany, which includes Hessen, Rheinland Palatinate and Saarland.

He would be mainly promoting commecial diplomacy in the three states.

He presented his credentials to State Minister Axel Wintermeyer along with 18 other Consuls General and Honorary Consuls at the official State Residence Villa of the Minister President of Hessen.

Samarasinha, born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Germany in 1972 is the Chairman and Managing Director of Millennium Hospitality Advisory Company providing advisory services and managing and operating hotels of several international hotel brands based in Frankfurt am Main. He is an alumni of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and graduated from the Heidelberg Hotel School, Germany, American Hotel and Motel Association, Michigan USA; Holiday Inn University, Atlanta USA and from the Ramada International University, New York.

His focus in Finance throughout his career made him a proven financial expert with vast analytical skills.

 Samarasinha has held senior management positions in organisations such as Holiday Inn WorldWide (Europe) as Director of Finance; Canadian Pacific Hotels – Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) as Regional Comptroller and Ramada International Hotels and Resorts as Vice-President of Finance and Internal Audit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), India and Sri Lanka. He has been engaged in the hospitality industry since 1972 with remarkable success.

Over the years Samarasinha has developed strong bonds with Sri Lankans in all parts of Germany and had assisted them in numerous ways long before he was first appointed Honorary Consul for the Federal state of Rheinland Palatinate in 2010.

He is a co-founder of the Diplomatic Council in Frankfurt along with the former Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Frankfurt Buddhi Athauda, The Diplomatic Council acted as a springboard to promote Sri Lanka Tourism, Trade and Culture in an environment of commercial diplomacy.

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