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Ex-BASL chief: SL loses USD 2 bn annually due to its failure to set up foreign universities



One-time President of the Bar Association Upul Jayasuriya, PC, says the country lost about USD 2 bn a year due to the failure on the part of successive governments to allow the setting up of foreign universities here. Referring to the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Jayasuriya, who once headed the BoI said that foreign universities attracted Sri Lankan students at a tremendous expense to the national economy. At any given time, there were more than 70,000 Sri Lankan students studying overseas.

Jayasuriya said so delivering the Daya Wettasinha memorial oration organised by the Sri Lanka-Japan Friendship Society backed by the Sri Lanka-Japan Business Council, at the Sasakawa Hall.

Jayasuriya faulted successive governments for having given in to pressure from the GMOA.

Several universities had been interested in setting up universities here. The PC said: “There was a famous British university that has been allocated 20 acres of land in the Mirigama Zone. They refused to start off. There was Manipal University and Deakin University that were extremely enthusiastic in starting their universities in Sri Lanka. They were all traumatised with the actions of this Trade Union that is a law unto itself in opposing SAITM. At the moment Sri Lanka has no hope of such educational institutes starting in Sri Lanka. This would have averted the dollar drain but we could have also earned much needed foreign investments and the inflow of dollars from prospective foreign students, particularly from India. It is vital as India has no international universities granting foreign degrees. If Sri Lanka can offer these foreign degrees, Indian parents would be so happy to send their children to Sri Lanka, rather than to European destinations particularly Australia where some of them are getting brutally assaulted and undergo cultural disparities.”

Referring to the then Sri Lankan Finance Minister JRJ’s famous San Francisco speech in 1951 in support of Japan, Jayasuriya emphasised Sri Lanka had received1.35 Trillion yen loan, approximately Rs. 270 Billion as grant aid, 108 Billion Technical Cooperation in addition to about 130 Japanese investments here. Daya Wettasinha, lawyer, businessman and more than anything else was a great human being. Wettasinghe was one of the select group of Sri Lankans to receive The Order of the Rising Sun. It is the third highest order bestowed by the Japanese government.

Commenting on current crises, Jayasuriya said that though Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009, the country wasn’t able to achieve its true potential.

“For some people, with numerous personal bodyguards round the clock, fancy vehicles acquired with public funds whisking through crowded streets… probably now they fly about in helicopters or now in private Jets….and all other unimaginable means of luxurious living. People have entered a rat race with an insatiable greed for money and power. People are also self-indulgent and revel in false valour at the expense of the innocent peasantry, who perpetually struggle to make ends meet. Some get a sadistic delight displaying their prowess and money power. Those with Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, and Porsches have no qualms about displaying their wealth, and of course we have those who purchase iconic fashion merchandise such as, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Giorgio Armani, while bare footed children walk their way to school in the hot sun. There are those who are without furniture, toilets or even water in the school. They can barely afford their meals. Where is our development, where are we heading?”

“Where have we failed? Let’s go back a few decades. We have had an excellent civil administration, highly commendable Judiciary, Police and Public service and a top tier education system. These we inherited from our colonial forefathers. Of course we could be proud of what we inherited. But where are we today? Is it that the systems have failed or the people have failed? I would say that the systems have deteriorated and failed the people. Our values have failed. Our expectations have failed, our attitudes have failed. In short, we have failed. I don’t blame anyone but ourselves. We are all to blame for it. ‘Mea culpa!’ ‘Mea maxima culpa’ Where is the problem? How do we resolve it?”

Jayasuriya also discussed how foreign capital could be attracted by offering resident visas to those interested in spending US$ 500,000 to make Sri Lanka a second home. Similar schemes were already practiced in Malaysia with US$ 80,000 whereas earlier it was only US$30,000. Similar facilities were available in many countries in the West and East, the PC said (SF)

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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients



The Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) has disclosed that Rs. 6,259 million worth of drugs faced a quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage. The COPA report has further revealed that 99% of such drugs had already been dispensed to patients when the condition was brought to attention. In that situation, it was not possible to recover the cost of substandard drugs from the suppliers, the Parliament said.

The Committee on Public Accounts has directed the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to expedite the process of facilitating better storage of drugs to ensure their safety.

It has also been observed that the temperature in the warehouses, owned by the Medical Supplies Division, is maintained properly and that the medical supplies are stored in the corridors of the central drug warehouses and hospitals.

Furthermore, the Secretary to the Ministry has pointed out that if there is a system to detect the failure of drugs as soon as they are received, the loss can be recovered from the suppliers and if the quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation, this situation can be avoided to some extent.

These concerns and observations were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

The report contains information about the investigations of seven state institutions summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts and one Special Audit Report during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021.

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CBSL Chief: Economy could be stabilised in year or so if …



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The prevailing Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis could lead to a major social crisis as the available foreign reserves were only sufficient for a few weeks’ imports, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Monday.

“The economy can be stabilised in the next 12 month if the IMF negotiations and debt restructuring are finalised within the next seven to eight months. Until then we have to support the poor people,” Dr. Weerasinghe said, addressing a seminar on the “State of the Economy and Talks with the IMF”. It was organised by the Press Club, together with the Press Institute, at Colombo Hilton.

The CB Governor said the current BoP crisis would worsen and, therefore the economic pain could only be minimised if essential policies and measures were implemented in an expeditious manner. But “IMF technical level virtual meetings are likely to conclude this week, and thereafter further discussion will take place to finalise everything,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Dr. Weerasinghe suggested that the monetary and fiscal authorities tighten the monetary policy by higher margins and fiscal policy by restoring tax rates to pre-2020 levels.

The Governor said, “We have three categories of creditors namely International Sovereign Bonds, which raise short term funds from global markets, which account for 35 percent of the government debt, while other two creditors are Paris Club and non-Paris Club (India and China).

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the country’s debt needed to be brought to a sustainable level. “For that purpose a debt sustainability analysis needs to be drafted with a fiscal policy for the IMF bailout”, he said.

Speaking about the country’s worsening economic fundamentals, Dr. Weerasinghe said: “The nation is currently experiencing a historically low economic growth and falling trend of per capita GDP since 2017 with rising levels of poverty. It is also running the highest fiscal deficits since 1988 with the lowest ever government revenue as a percent of GDP.

“Amid those developments Sri Lanka’ poverty level will increase, unemployment level soar and local industries will have to shut down due to restriction of importation of raw material. Therefore, we have to seek humanitarian assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral agencies”, the Governor said.

“We are seeking short-term bridging facilities from official creditors until an agreement is reached with creditors on restructuring,” he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Weerasinghe analysed the links between banking and the currency crises. He pointed out that the problems in the banking sector typically precede a currency crisis with the currency crisis deepening the banking crisis, thus activating a vicious spiral.

Sri Lanka also had the highest-ever government debt which was unsustainable at the moment. Debt dynamics might be worsening in the next few years unless the debt was restructured, he said.

Sri Lanka also recorded the highest rate of inflation in 12 years which was increasing sharply and was experiencing the highest-ever levels of money printing by the CBSL, he added

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Dragonfly thought to be extinct found again



By Ifham Nizam

Scientists have rediscovered Sri Lankan Clubtail (Anisogomphus ceylonicus), one of the rarest species of dragonflies in the country. The team that made the discovery comprised Amila Sumanapala of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, T. Ranasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, and D. Sumanapala of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. According to lead scientist Amila Sumanapala Sri Lankan Clubtail is one of the rarest species of dragonflies.

First collected in 1859, it was only known from the original collection and another collection record made a century after in 1962. This species had not been found anywhere in Sri Lanka for close to 60 years until the team encountered a larva during a survey conducted in 2021.

Anisogomphus ceylonicus is one of the few Odonates of Sri Lanka with no photographic records of a living specimen available hitherto.

The present observation provides the first photographs of a live A. ceylonicus larva and the most recent documentation of the species. These observations, coupled with previous work (Lieftinck 1971, Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013), provide an improved understanding of the species, which might enable further targeted surveys to be made

It was first discovered from Ramboda over 140 years ago based on a female specimen, which was originally described as Gomphus ceylonicus and later assigned to the genus Heliogomphus by F.C. Fraser (Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013). Almost a century later, Lieftinck (1971) collected an immature male and its exuvia of a clubtail dragonfly from Rambukpath Oya, 10 miles northwest of Hatton in 1962 and described it as Anisogomphus solitaris. However, Bedjanič & van der Poorten (2013) recognized that H. ceylonicus is conspecific with A. solitaris, and thus reassigned it to the genus Anisogomphus. Since the discovery of the species, only these two records have ever been documented (Bedjanič et al. 2014), despite odonatological surveys and numerous biodiversity explorations conducted countrywide.

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