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Govt to discuss with banks and leasing companies extending grace period

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By Saman Indrajith

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane told Parliament yesterday that the government would discuss with the leasing companies and banks the need to extend the grace period for repayments in view of the pandemic.

He said that Sri Lanka as well as the entire world had been affected in an unprecedented manner by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government would grant more relief to people through the upcoming Budget.

He said that the government would not allow middlemen to control the prices of commodities unlike in the past.

 Responding to a question by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Minister Gunawardane said that he would agree with the latter that the country’s economy was in bad shape. The economy of the country had been below USD 20 billion each year since Independence until Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President in 2005. After the terrorism was defeated, the economy had developed and reached USD 79.3 billion when the reins of government were handed over to the UNP in 2015. The economic growth rate was at seven percent at that time. 

Minister Gunawardane said that the economic growth rate dropped to 2.3 percent gradually during the last five years under the yahapalana regime.    

He said that as the imports were allowed without any restrictions during that period, the rupee had dropped drastically against the US dollar from Rs 131.00 to Rs 180.00. The incumbent government had been compelled to restrict imports to protect the local producers.

Gunawardane said a government could not protect producers, consumers and the middlemen at the same time. He said that the government could ensure the protection of the producers and let the consumers access the products at a reasonable rate. “If the cost of a coconut is Rs 30, the government cannot sell it at Rs 150 unlike during the UNP regime,” Minister Gunawardane said.  “The government cannot allow the middlemen to control the price of commodities at their whims and fancies earning exorbitant profits like during UNP government tenure by controlling the judiciary. It is at this point where the UNP went wrong and that was why none of the UNP candidates had got elected to Parliament.”

Minister Gunawardena said that a standard facemask was Rs 50 or 60. However, the same standard face mask by a local producer was sold at Rs 20 at the Cooperative shops and Sathosa. He added that in such a manner the government controlled prices to provide relief to the consumers. 



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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