Domestic debt restructuring: Harsha insists money belonging to EPF members must be safeguarded
Opposition MP Dr. Harsha de Silva has highlighted the critical considerations surrounding Domestic Debt Optimisation and its impact on the members of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, recently, de Silva emphasised the need to prioritize the interests of EPF pension fund members in any decision-making process.
“Our foremost concern should be securing the retirement benefits of the hardworking people of Sri Lanka,” de Silva stated. “The EPF, as a pension fund, plays a crucial role in ensuring a financially secure future for its members upon retirement. We cannot allow the government’s pursuit of cheap money to jeopardize the interests of EPF pensioners.”
Referring to the EPF Act, de Silva underscored the obligation for a parliamentary resolution to ensure the EPF receives sufficient funds from the Treasury to meet minimum payment requirements if it is unable to do so. He further emphasized the importance of gradually settling any resulting loans over time. “We must protect the EPF pension fund from being subjugated to the government’s needs at the expense of pensioners. The negative 47 percent real return to EPF in 2022 has severely eroded the value of the fund, and we cannot disregard this significant loss,” de Silva added.
Discussing the risks associated with domestic debt optimization, de Silva highlighted the concept of opportunity cost. “Subjecting the EPF pension fund to this optimization may result in a loss of potential reinvestment opportunities,” he explained. “For instance, if the EPF currently holds bonds maturing within the next one or two years, they have the potential to be reinvested at higher rates, ensuring better returns for pensioners. However, if these bonds’ maturity dates are extended beyond 2027 at lower rates that will have a high opportunity cost to EPF members.”
Clarifying the EPF pension fund’s overall financial position, de Silva reassured the public that the EPF is not facing immediate trouble. “The EPF pension fund maintains a positive cash flow, with contributions consistently exceeding pension payouts by approximately 30 billion rupees in recent years,” he stated. “This ensures the EPF’s ability to meet its pension obligations. However, we must acknowledge that returns on investments may decrease.”
Concluding his remarks, de Silva firmly stated that “Considering the negative real interest rate the EPF pension fund has already experienced, it is unjust to overburden it further with large opportunity costs due to domestic debt optimization. We must prioritize the interests of EPF members and strike a balance between preserving reasonable returns to the members while providing debt relief to the government. The long-term financial security of Sri Lanka’s workforce cannot be jeopardized.”
High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka meets with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament & Secretary-General of Parliament
Michael Appelton, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka, accompanied by Andrew Traveller, Deputy High Commissioner, met with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle MP, and Secretary-General of Parliament, Kushani Rohanadeera, recently.
During the meeting, the Ambassador emphasized that gender equality in politics is vital for the achievement of peaceful societies, the realization of full human potential, and sustainable development. He also stated that they have taken several initiatives to ensure equal women’s participation in the New Zealand Parliament.
Dr. Fernandopulle, MP, shared her concerns regarding the lack of gender sensitivity in Sri Lankan politics. She drew attention to the urgent need for a more inclusive political framework that ensures equal representation and participation for women.
The Secretary-General of Parliament affirmed that Parliament has taken actions to increase youth and women’s representation in committees and is currently working on improving disability access to Parliament.
Climate Change University to be launched next year
At the briefing on the progress of Climate Change and Green Growth held on Wednesday (31) at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials of the Climate Change Secretariat led by President’s Adviser on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene it was revealed that the Climate Change University would be launched next year and that the University Grants Commission had identified approximately 130 scientists who have gained international recognition for their research on climate change who, together with their international affiliations would be brought together as part of the initiative.
President Wickremesinghe expressing his perspective on the International Climate Change University, emphasized that it should be a post-graduate institution solely focused on research which does not offer undergraduate courses. Any country or organization that contributes to the university becomes a stakeholder and gains membership on the Board of Governance. The Korean Exim Bank has expressed interest in partnering with the university and negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Korea Exim Bank, led by the External Resource Department have concluded successfully. The President said that prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT have also expressed interest in collaboration.
The discussions also revolved around inviting a group of international experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tentatively scheduled for July/August to engage in policy conversations, addressing global issues, and exploring potential research projects that could be derived from these policy dialogues.
President Wickremesinghe emphasized that all future research in the field of climate change should be conducted at this institution.
IUSF threatens showdown
By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon
The university system is facing a grave crisis as around 40 percent of the lecturers have left the state education system, says the Convenor of the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Madushan Chandrajith.
Chandrajith said the ‘exodus’ of top academics would lead to a massive drop in the quality of education as most of those who have left are among the cream of scholars.Chandrajith said that about one-third of students in state universities, eligible for hostel facilities, did not have access to them.He warned that the IUSF will organise massive protests, in the coming weeks, if steps are not taken to resolve the many issues in the University system.
While the Mahapola scholarship has not been increased, the prices of food in the hostels have risen dramatically, he said.
“About 2,500 students in Kelaniya, 4,000 students in Rajarata and 6,000 in Peradeniya do not have hostel accommodation,” he went on to say..According to Chandrajith, a student needs about Rs 20,000 a month to meet basic needs.
“One requires about Rs 12,000 a month for food alone,” he said.
A senior official at the Ministry of Public Administration told The Island that some lecturers and doctors had a 100 percent attendance record but they avoided work.
“They are responsible for the attendance registry and they cook up the books to have full attendance. They take a lot of OT payments by doing this. We are looking at introducing a digital mechanism to mark attendance at universities and hospitals,” he said.
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