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Govt. planning to hand over agrochemical trade to two multinational companies: Ex-Governor



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The government was now trying to hand over the import of fertiliser to two multinational companies, former Governor of the Uva and Southern provinces, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon claimed yesterday.

The one-time polls monitor alleged that the government had engineered a fertiliser shortage, destroyed enthusiasm for organic agriculture and created an atmosphere where people would accept any fertiliser.

“Now, the demand for agrochemicals among farmers is at an all-time high. It’s now harder than ever to go green because people are convinced that this is an unsustainable form of agriculture. Recently, Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture claimed that they would repeal the ban on agrochemicals import. I am also aware that an agent for a multinational company is preparing a list of agrochemicals to be imported,” Tennakoon said.

The agrochemicals to be imported would be distributed through Agrarian Service Centres, he said. These centres were a place where farmers could access resources at a reasonable price, but the government was planning to sell fertiliser imported by companies at high prices Tennakoon said.

“I was surprised when I saw some academics, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, claimed they support organic agriculture because I know what their interests are. Now, it’s clear that they were just trying to give several companies the right to import agrochemicals. The Ministry will repeal the ban soon in a way that benefits two companies. I think it’s time that the President ends this fake organic agriculture campaign,” Tennakoon said.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture has said that the Gazette banning the import of chemical fertilizers was issued on wrong advice. Prof. Jayasinghe said that instead of banning agro-chemicals, the importation of high-quality eco-friendly plant nutrients should be encouraged.

Prof. Jayasinghe was not immediately available for comment.

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Lanka’s poor surge by 4 Mn to 31-pct of population: Survey



ECONOMYNEXTSri Lanka’s poor has surged by 4 million to 7 million since 2019 to 31 percent of the population in 2023, a survey has found as the country was hit by the worst currency crisis in the history of its central bank.

A 10,000 person survey by LirneAsia, a regional policy research organization, found that 33 percent of the respondents had skipped a meal and 47 percent reduced their meal sizes, after the currency crisis.About 27 percent of adults restricted their meals to feed children. The survey was conducted from October 10, 2022 to May 12, 2023.

Sri Lanka started an output gap targeting exercise (Keynesian stimulus) printing large volumes of money and a so-called flexible exchange rate backed by inconsistent policy collapsed in 2022 from 200 to 360 to the US dollar, tearing apart the monetary foundations of families, destroying real salaries and jobs.

Food prices soared partly due to a global commodity bubble fired by the Federal Reserve and also import restrictions from forex shortages and disruption to agriculture from a fertilizer ban.

Agro-chemicals were bannd to ‘save’ 300 to 400 million dollars in foreign exchange, the government said at the time.Rohan Samarajiva Chair of LirneAsia said he searched for historical data and found a thesis done by one M Salgado, which estimated gross domestic product during the Great Depression.

“He talked about the Great Depression affecting Sri Lanka and how our per capita income, which was about 80 dollars, went down by about half over a period of four years,” Samarajiva told a forum where research findings was released.

The Great Depression was a ‘deflationary collapse’ during the 1930s came in the wake of the Federal Reserve firing the ‘roaring 20s bubble’ after accidentally inventing the policy rate giving power to economists to mis-target interest rates, analysts have said.

Sri Lanka at the time however did not have a central bank to trigger a currency collapse. Food prices fell steeply during the Great depression. In a central bank currency crisis, the worst hit are wage earners whose salaries do not go up as prices rise with a collapse of the value of domestic money.

From March 2023, Sri Lanka central bank has appreciated the currency with deflationary policy, allowing food prices to fall.

In Sri Lanka poverty among Sri Lanka’s plantation worker families was already high at 31 percent by 2019, based on a household income and expenditure survey (HIES 2019) of the state statistics office.

“This has worsened in 2023. Now more than half our estate workers are living below the poverty line,” Tharaka Amarsinghe, a researcher at LIRNEasia said.

“Now more than half our estate workers are living below the poverty line.”

In the rest of rural Sri Lanka poverty has doubled from 15 to 32 percent from 2019 to 2023.In urban areas, which are densely populated, poverty tripled to 6 to 18 percent.About 32 percent of families had sold household assets and 50 percent had run down their savings.

Another 6 percent did not send their children to school, indicating that 203,000 children did not attend school. Parents had mentioned that they did not have exercise books and had to make up books from empty pages of old books, according to a panelist.Sri Lanka has a number of government income support programs, chief among them known as Samurdhi.

The survey found that 1.7 million families got Samurdhi benefits but only 40 percent were poor or below the official poverty line Gayani Hurrulle, Senior Research Manager at LirneAsia said. About 4 percent were in the richest income decile, 5 percent were in the next.

Only 17 percent who were on Samurdhi benefits have exited the program. Opaque criteria including attending political meetings were used by Samurdhi officials to admit new applicants, respondents to the survey had said.

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Institute of Analytics UK launches in Lanka, paving way for Data-Driven Innovation



The Institute of Analytics UK was officially launched at Courtyard by Marriot, Colombo City Center last week (5). The event marked a significant milestone in the country’s journey towards harnessing the power of data analytics to drive innovation, growth, and societal progress, said a press release.

It said: Imperial College of Business Studies, one of the robust higher education institutions in the higher education domain in Sri Lanka having its undergraduate and postgraduate campuses in both Colombo and Kandy, with their strong established connections with IOA and their partners in India, supported with the initial inauguration of IOA-UK, Sri Lanka Launch.

The inauguration ceremony brought together distinguished guests, Senior members from State and non-state universities, Senior leadership of both local and international professional bodies offering qualifications in Sri Lanka, Heads of private higher education institutions, academics, and senior government officials, all eager to witness the birth of a new era in Sri Lanka’s analytics landscape. The atmosphere was filled with anticipation and excitement as the institute’s vision and commitment to excellence were unveiled. The Chief Guest of the event was UGC Chairman Snr Professor Sampath Amaratunga. Dr. Clair Walsh Director of Education, Institute of Analytics and Lara Millmow, Head of Membership IOA were also present.

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Sinhala translation of the Quran presented to the Tunisian Ambassador in New Delhi



Continuing his dialogue with Heads of Mission of Islamic countries in New Delhi who are concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India Milinda Moragoda presented a copy of the Sinhala translation of the Holy Quran to the Ambassador of Tunisia to India Hayet Talbi Bilel, his New Delhi office said.

The presentation was made last week at the Tunisian Embassy in New Delhi. The Sinhala translation of the Holy Quran presented to the Tunisian Ambassador has been published by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) of Sri Lanka.

Previously, High Commissioner Moragoda had presented copies of the Sinhala Quran to the Jama Masjid of Delhi, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (Council of Muslim Theologians of India) as well as to the Ambassadors of Morocco, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and the High Commissioner of Nigeria in New Delhi.

The High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi has been promoting dialogue with all major religions in India, in keeping with the policy roadmap “Integrated Country Strategy for Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions in India.” the high commission news release said.

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