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Cabraal: Govt. about to start many investment projects especially related to Colombo Port City, Hambantota 

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By Saman Indrajith

State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Parliament, on Friday, that Sri Lanka’s growth prospects were positive, underscored by a stable currency and sound debt repayment capacity.

 Participating in an adjournment debate on the prevailing situation in the country, the Minister said that the government was readying to start investment projects with construction permits and other such support to revive key sectors. 

The Minister said that the government was in the process of putting delayed investment projects on track and construction permits would be given soon to revive the sector. Among the key projects would be the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port ventures as well as hundreds of multilateral funded projects that had been delayed over the past few years. 

Sri Lanka was in a comfortable position with regards to its debt repayment ability and would not default on its payments, at all, the State Minister said, adding that the external sector had been revised quite substantially over the last one year and the trade balance had also improved largely due to import restrictions that have been in place by the government since early 2020. 

“We are comfortable about our debt payments, and even though there were instances where the rating agencies made remarks which are not complimentary, they have been able to come back and say Sri Lanka would probably be able to maintain an impeccable position vis-à-vis the debt repayment ability.”

The Minister said the government was working out a SWAP arrangement with the Central Bank of another country, which would provide the standby arrangement ensuring that the rupee would stay stable even in the longer term. 

Minister Cabraal said that the country had managed to achieve a positive economic growth of 1.5% during the third quarter of last year despite the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We see the rupee has become stable. It was depreciating at the average rate of 6.8 % for the five years under the last government but we have been able to control it effectively and as a result, the depreciation has been limited to just 2.8%, and if not for COVID, we would have seen an appreciation of our currency.”

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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