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Champika: Pandemic has become beggar’s sore for inefficient govt.

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“The government is citing the COVID-19 as the reason for all its failures today”

 

By Saman Indrajith

Statistical lies would not help the government hide the mega financial crisis, foreign debt and recession in the country, former Minister SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka said on Monday evening.

Addressing the media at the SJB Headquarters in Pitakotte, MP Ranawaka said the incumbent government soon before the advent of COVID-19 crisis, had given a neoliberal tax relief to the rich and that had boomeranged. “That tax relief yielded no positive result for the economy.

MP Ranawaka said that the incumbent government had made two main election pledges. One was to ensure national security and the other to usher in development. “Have they been able to fulfil those two promises or are there any signs that they will do so during the remaining time of their term?”

MP Ranawaka said that two main accusations that led to the end of the yahapalana government were the Bond Scams and its failure to prevent Eastern Sunday carnage. “Those allegations had some sort of base and rationale but other accusations such as MCC deal, Dr Shabdeen episode, and allowing Hizbullah to promote Islam extremism were baseless. Now, the President says that he can solve problems of national security but not so the problems pertaining to other crises such as COVID-19. What about the unfulfilled election pledges? What about Arjun Mahendran? They promised to get the former Central Bank Governor extradited to stand trial. One year has passed sine but nothing has been done to deliver those promises. They could not even bring him down but also failed even to land Arjun Aloysius and others in prison. There are reports that Zahran Hashim had the support of two powerful leaders of the incumbent government. Will the government take those politicians into custody? Dr Jayaruwan Bandara said that the government would not be able to control COVID-19 in Colombo city and he was sacked for that. The current crisis cannot be solved with the help of media circuses. There should be a scientific approach to these problems. The government blames the COVID-19 for all its failures. Reserves are fast dwindling. The government is producing contradictory reports and statistics about the economy. So, the Department of Census and Statistics is not able to present figures related to economic development in the second and third quarters of this year. While the Central Bank has predicted a minus 1.7 economic growth for this year, the Finance Ministry has submitted reports to Parliament, claiming a positive economic growth. It’s high time the government learned that these statistical gimmicks would not help solve the burning problems.”



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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