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Chinese Ambassador urges sincere unity and cooperation among regional nations given gravity of pandemic

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Given the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries in the region must cooperate with each other sincerely, Qi Zhenhong, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka said yesterday issuing a statement. With this aim in mind China works with Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh to provide pandemic support, he said.

“As of early September, China has provided a total of about 120 million doses of vaccines to South Asian countries through various channels. Among them, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal have received 70 million, 22 million, 19 million, and 7.4 million doses respectively, and Pakistan and Bangladesh also have started local vaccine production with China’s support,” Zhenhong said.

Given below is the statement in full: “Since April this year, South Asia is facing a new round of COVID-19 pandemic, and Sri Lanka has been suffering the most serious impact than ever. In times of adversity, it is even more necessary for people in the same boat to help each other, and more urgently for countries in the region to cooperate sincerely. On April 27th, China established a response mechanism with Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh the first time. The foreign ministers of the six countries held a visual conference to discuss joint efforts to fight the pandemic and revive the economy, and achieved important outcomes, including the announcement to establish the China-South Asia Emergency Supplies Reserve and the China-South Asia Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center. In early July, these two important platforms were officially launched in Chongqing and Chengdu of China, and achieved great outcomes quickly. During the past two months, numerous vaccines and medical supplies have been unhinderedly sent to South Asian countries including, which have strongly supported the fight against pandemic in the region. In this process, we further realize that: Firstly, unity and cooperation is the only correct choice to overcome the pandemic. While facing great pressure on its own pandemic prevention and control, China established and launched the China-South Asia Emergency Supplies Reserve in just 70 days, only was to provide a new and important platform as well as the firmest and strongest support for regional countries to join hands in the fight against the pandemic and emergency cooperation as soon as possible. This fully demonstrates “China’s speed” and “China’s sincerity” in further promoting cooperation with South Asian countries. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, “The Covid-19 pandemic warned the world in a special form that human beings are a community of shared future, honor and disgrace. No country can be immune to major crises, and unity and cooperation are the correct way for the world.”

“Secondly, vaccine cooperation is a key weapon to defeat COVID-19. The six foreign ministers have repeatedly emphasized the key role of vaccines in the fight against the pandemic. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also stressed that only vaccines could stop the pandemic. As of early September, China has provided a total of about 120 million doses of vaccines to South Asian countries through various channels. Among them, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal have received 70 million, 22 million, 19 million, and 7.4 million doses respectively, and Pakistan and Bangladesh also have started local vaccine production with China’s support. On September 9th, President Xi Jinping announced at the BRICS Summit that on top of the 100 million U.S. dollars donation to COVAX, China will donate an additional 100 million doses of vaccines to fellow developing countries within this year. As a friendly neighbor of China, South Asia will undoubtedly benefit a lot.

“Thirdly, focusing on livelihood is a matter of urgent priority. In order to address the prominent challenges facing South Asian countries in the field of poverty reduction and development in the COVID-19 pandemic, China initiated the China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center. The successful launching and operation of the center will play an effective role in gathering strength, pooling resources and promoting experience exchanges, thereby supporting the South Asian countries to improve economy and livelihood. It will promote poverty reduction and eradication, as well as enhance the well-being of the people of the region. The Foreign Ministers have also agreed to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, secure the industrial and supply chains, and strengthen collaboration in poverty reduction, food security and other fields. We will continue to actively put the above-mentioned outcomes into effect, while further enhancing the quality of the cooperation mechanism among us, to expand the areas of cooperation, achieve more visible results and better benefit our people.

“This Six Countries FMs’ Meeting Mechanism, as a new initiative, is open, inclusive, and mutually beneficial in its nature. Therefore, it always welcomes new members from the region. China hopes and believes that countries of the region will work together to develop, safeguard and fully utilize this mechanism. China firmly stands with the people of South Asia and always provides as much assistance as possible within its capacity. In July, President Xi Jinping in his speech at the APEC Informal Economic Leaders’ Retreat promised that China will provide another $3 billion international aid over the next three years to support the COVID-19 response and economic and social recovery in other developing countries. As long as the COVID-19 pandemic is haunting the world, China will not halt its efforts and assistance for global cooperation in defeating the pandemic.

“We are delighted to see that under the strong leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and with the joint efforts of its people of all ethnic groups, Sri Lanka has made world-renowned achievements in vaccination. We are also expecting the pandemic situation to improve in following days. China-Sri Lanka cooperation, being important part of China-South Asian cooperation, will certainly benefit from the regional cooperation. The Port City Colombo and the Hambantota Port and Industrial Park have attracted high interests from other South Asian countries including a Maldivian company to build yachts in Hambantota Port. More and more regional cooperative projects will be established in the future. China looks forward to joining hands with Sri Lanka and other regional countries in confronting and overcoming challenges, defeating COVID-19 pandemic and achieving greater and better development in this region.”



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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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