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Average life expectancy of Sri Lankans will drop unless NCDs are controlled



A community walk against NCDs and fitness programmes organized by a hospital in Jaffna. Photo: Jana Dharma

By Nimal Bandara Herath

There will be a drastic reduction in the average life expectancy of Sri Lankans by 2045 if steps are not taken to control Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Dr. Sunil Bowattage, consultant physician, Kandy General Hospital, told The Island on Friday.He added that until a few decades ago the world was struggling to contain communicable diseases.

“If you look at Sri Lanka, many died of cholera, smallpox, etc. However, with the advances in medical sciences we have been able to reduce the deaths, by communicable diseases, significantly. This is a main reason why life expectancy went up in the 20th century,” he said.

Dr. Bowattage added that in the past few decades, NCDs have become the main cause of deaths. Due to the prevalence of NCDs, life expectancy, in certain countries, has dropped, he said.

“However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), we can prevent 2/3 of NCD deaths by taking necessary action.”

Dr. Bowattage said a massive campaign must be carried out by those in power, with the help of the media, to educate the public on NCDs, how to avoid them and how to control them.

“We see many people with heart issues, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and cancers. We must not be afraid of these. Modern science can address most of these. Bad food habits, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, etc., are the main reasons why people get NCDs. A lot can be achieved with behavioral changes,” he said.

Non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, strokes and cancers, account for nearly 90 percent of the disease burden in Sri Lanka, according to the World Bank.

A large number of persons, with NCD, are not taking prescribed medicines, due to economic difficulties, and thus hospitals are filling up due to complications, Dr. Palitha Rajapaksha, the assistant secretary of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) says.

There were about three million people, over 60 years, and they were the most affected by NCDs, Dr. Rajapaksha said, adding that Sri Lanka had very weak social safety nets and many were at the risk of being reduced to poverty.

Dr. Rajapaksha added that he was attached to the Provincial General Hospital, Badulla, and that all wards there were full of patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, etc.

“All wards are full. I don’t know what we would do if the number of dengue cases go up. I have been a doctor for many years, but I have never seen such a large number of patients, with NCDs, in hospitals,” he said.


GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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