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Cabraal says due to sin of floating rupee country has to pay extra Rs 1,155 bn in settling foreign debt

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By Saman Indrajith

Sri Lanka would have to pay an additional Rs. 1,155 billion as its loan settlements in the years from 2020 to 2024 due to the floating of the rupee value, Parliament was told yesterday.

State Minister for Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that while he was the Governor of the Central Bank from 2012 to 2014 the highest priority had been given to maintaining the rupee at a stable rate. “Some economic experts came up with the idea of free floating. Later, it was implemented and we got floating currency value. Now, we see the results.”

Minister Cabraal said so responding to a question by SJB Colombo District MP S. M. Marikkar, who asked the Minister to inform the House of the amounts of money which the government had to pay back as local and foreign debts between 2020 to 2024, separately in respect of each year.

The Minister said that Sri Lanka had to settle foreign debt worth USD 4,095 million (Rs 760 billion) in 2020, USD 3,910 million (Rs 726 billions) in 2021, USD 4,481 million (Rs 832 billion) in 2022, USD 4,242 million (Rs 787 billion) in 2023 and USD 4,404 million (Rs 817 billion) in 2024.

Domestic debt that had to be settled in 2020 amounted Rs. 1,230 billion, the minister said, adding that the amount was Rs 1,557 billion for 2021. The local debt to be settled in 2022 was Rs 1,128 billion; Rs 1,120 billion for 2023 and was Rs 899 billion for 2024.

MP Marikkar asked whether Sri Lanka would obtain more foreign loans to settle its debt. “The amount of debt burden is increasing and the value of rupee is depreciating. Today, the value of a US dollar is 196 rupees. What is the government planning to do about this?”

Minister Cabraal said that the amounts to be settled as foreign debt would have had a different rupee value if his successors as the Governors of the Central Bank had taken action to maintain a fixed rupee value the way he had done. “We maintained a fixed rupee value at Rs 131 against the US dollar. Later, it was changed and let the rupee value float. No, we see the results. The amount of foreign debt to be settled in 2021 in rupees is 726 billion. It would have been Rs 536 billion instead had the rupee value been fixed. The amount of foreign debt to be settled in 2022 is Rs. 832 billion and it would have been Rs 587 billion instead. Similarly, the amount of foreign debt for the years 2023 and 2024 are Rs 787 billion and Rs 817 billion respectively. It would have been Rs 555 billion and Rs 577 billion instead.”

 “The value of the debt has arisen since the exchange rate of the rupee was not maintained,” Minister Cabraal said, noting that since the new government came to power efforts had been mae to maintain the rupee value. “There have been occasions where we faced pressure but during the last several days of the year, the rupee value increased against some currencies. That is a positive sign.”



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About 232 out of 500 escapees from K’kadu Drug Rehab Centre arrested

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Two hundred and thirty two inmates out of the 500, who escaped from the Kandakadu Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, yesterday morning, following a clash with soldiers guarding the facility, had been arrested, Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commissioner General – Rehabilitation, said.

Hettiarachchi denied allegations from certain quarters that they had allowed inmates to escape to divert public attention away from the burning economic issues, and crippling fuel shortages.

He said an impartial inquiry would be conducted into the death of an inmate.

Hettiarachchi said that they were confident that other escapees too would be arrested soon.

Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said a 36-year-old inmate had died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday. The deceased was a resident of Mutwal. The death of the inmate had been reported to the Welikanda police, he said.

The Police Spokesman added that a team of policemen from Welikanda had visited the Rehabilitation Centre. However, a large number of inmates had surrounded the body and did not allow anyone near it and that had led to a clash between inmates and the military personnel at the centre.

At around 8 am yesterday, a large group of inmates had broken the two main gates and escaped, he added.

The Police Spokesman said that the police and Army had brought the situation under control, after several hours.

They have also launched a joint operation to arrest the inmates, who are still at large.

There are around 1,000 drug addicts being rehabilitated at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Center at any given time.

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Women parliamentarians’ Caucus calls for greater accountability and transparency

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International Day of Parliamentarism

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system have become vital issues as the country makrs the International Day of Parliamentarism today (30).

In a statement issued to the media by the Caucus, Dr Fernandopulle said: International Day of Parliamentarism, which recognises the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels. This Day was first established by the UN General Assembly through a resolution adopted in 2018 which also marked the 129th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU, which was first established on the same day in the year 1889, is a global organization that works to promote ‘democratic governance, human representation, democratic values, and the civil aspirations of a society’.

This Day further solidifies the unique and enduring system of parliamentary democracy as the standard for political representation. Last year, in 2021, the Day focused on “Youth Empowerment” in Parliament whereas the theme for the International Day of Parliamentarism 2022 is “Public Engagement”. Conspicuously, the word ‘parliament’ originates from the French word ‘parler,’ which means ‘to talk.’ Thus, public discourse and engagement lay the very foundation of the parliamentary system of governance.

At a juncture where public engagement in the democratic process is at an all-time high, the theme for International Day of Parliamentarism aptly suits the current democratic and economic discourse taking place in society.

The Parliament is a cornerstone of any democracy as it must fulfill its fundamental role of providing a voice to the voiceless. The main responsibilities of a Parliament include the formulation, enactment and overseeing of the implementation of laws and policies that are sustainable and crucial for the progression and stability of the country. The Parliament also has a duty to hold the Executive or Government of the country accountable. Accordingly, representing the interests of the public, it must also fulfill the role of acting as a “check” to “balance” the power that the executive holds.

The Parliament must also perform “checks” and “balances” on Government expenditure as it has the responsibility of approving budgets for Government expenditure. Thus, during this economic crisis, the Parliament of Sri Lanka has a crucial role to play and effectively realize such roles and responsibilities. To do so meaningfully, public engagement is a necessity.

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said: “I believe we should make this Day an occasion to remember the importance of accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system. The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus recognizes that it has a role to play in initiating a conversation towards realizing a process by which the Parliament can conduct self-evaluation utilising the feedback received by the public discourse. This would be vital in order to gauge the progress the Parliament has made and identify challenges and devise strategies and mechanisms to overcome such challenges to be more representative of the voices of people.”

MP Thalatha Atukorale said: “In the face of crisis, if our parliamentary system fails to realize its purpose, then we must re-evaluate the practices of our Parliament. Therefore, I believe that this Day should be used as an opportunity to formulate an effective strategy to improve transparency and accountability of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.”

MP Diana Gamage said: “On this Day, I pledge to be a voice to the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the more vulnerable, and play my role in initiating mechanisms and formulating laws that reflect the current needs of the people of Sri Lanka whom we are representing in Parliament”.

Parliament is the bedrock of a functioning democracy. In Sri Lanka, let us realise this goal for all Sri Lankans, leaving no stone unturned to ensure quality of political representation, which means gender equality and social inclusion too.

MP Manjula Dissanayake said: “To be effective and successful, the Parliamentary system must encourage public engagement and must also be based on principles of equality and inclusivity in order to better comprehend and prioritise the needs of the public”.

Vice-Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne said: “The parliamentary system is founded upon the sovereignty of people. Therefore, the success of the parliamentary system depends on public engagement in the democratic process and how well the parliamentary system responds to such public engagement.”

MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya said: “We as Parliamentarians must not be oblivious to the fact that the public has lost confidence in the Sri Lankan Parliament and by extension, the Parliamentarians. A strong contention can be and is being made that the Parliament of Sri Lanka falls short of effectively realizing one of its main purposes: to formulate and implement policies and laws that benefits ALL people, particularly the more vulnerable. To meet that end, we must harness public discourse and engagement.”

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CHOGM briefed on Lanka’s difficulties

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris explained the current economic-political-social crisis and immense difficulties experienced by Sri Lanka’s population when he addressed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Ruwanda.

Prof. Peiris represented President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at CHOGM held from 23 to 25 June.

Addressing the sessions, Prof. Peiris highlighted the importance of robust institutions in recovering from the economic difficulties that the world is currently experiencing. Describing the current shortages of fuel, food and medicine, etc., as one of the most difficult situations faced by Sri Lanka since independence,

Minister Peiris thanked all the nations that have aided the country at this critical juncture. Minister Peiris stated that apart from economic reforms, Sri Lanka was resolved to undertake the necessary political reforms, particularly to incorporate the voices of youth into the governance and parliamentary process.

The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be hosted by Samoa in 2024. On the sidelines of the CHOGM meeting, Minister Peiris held a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from several Commonwealth nations.

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