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Government imported Rapid Antigen test kits on epidemiologists’ recommendation – State Minister



by Imesh Ranasinghe

The government chose to use an emergency tender process to import the Rapid Antigen test kits to Sri Lanka to cover the need of 1.25 million test kits required for the next three months on the recommendation of the Epidemiology Unit, the State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals told Parliament on Friday.

State Minister Prof Channa Jayasumana said the Epidemiology Unit has asked the Director-General of Medical Supplies Division on with the current level of Covid 19 reporting in Sri Lanka the estimated quantity will be 250,000 tests per month.

“In this context, the requirement for next three months along with the two months buffer stocks would be 1.25 million tests, this forecasting is based on the current state of the disease in the country in case of a change in the disease pattern that needs to reverse the estimate will be informed in due course,” Epidemiology unit said.

“When the WHO has pre-validated and pre-qualified these test kits to the whole world this is the first country in which the opposition has challenged that,” he said.

Jayasumana said that the recommendation to use these test kits by the state sector was given by the Epidemiology Unit on October 27.

Based on the recommendation he said, the Secretary to the Ministry of Health in various occasions held discussion with the WHO and came to an agreement to get some test kits, but WHO has informed that it will take two weeks to send those test kits.

“So the Health Secretary through the WHO office in India was able to get 200,000 rapid antigen test kits and through the Asian Development Bank, we were able to get another 300,000 test kits, So in order to get the remaining amount a tender process was started through the private sector,” Jayasumana said.

He added that Medical Supplies Division informed State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) to call for emergency tenders for emergency buying as the normal tender process would take weeks.

Moreover, he said that tender was not carried our secretly as the members of the Medicine and Medical Suppliers Association was informed about the tender while the SPC in its official website has published about the tender.

He added that SPC has not done any mistake In the tender process but as the opposition is challenging the decision of the WHO it will only make the process late.


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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



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



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



… 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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