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Govt. to hear out CEB unions before embarking on urgently needed reforms



By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) and other CEB trade unions would be given an opportunity to make representations once the Reform Office was set up shortly, a senior engineer said yesterday.

Responding to queries, CEBEU Vice President Dhanushka Parakramasinghe told The Island that the Restructuring of the CEB by the ‘Reform Office’ would take place once necessary laws were made, and unions would be part and parcel of it.

Parakramasinghe said that the unions had met Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera on Sunday.

While agreeing to four of the five demands of the CEBEU, Minister Wijesekera stated that when it came to tax reforms, it was beyond his control, but he requested the unions to continue power supply today –March 14- without any interruptions due to the planned protest campaign.

The CEB unions are against the increase in personal income tax.

The government has raised taxes up to a maximum of 36%.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has, in his capacity as the finance minister, raised corporate taxes to 30 percent from 24 from this year, after almost doubling the value added tax (VAT) last year.

The higher taxes come as the inflation is hovering around 57 percent while borrowing cost is running around 30 percent.

In addition, the collective agreement with the CEB trade unions, electricity tariffs, the government’s tax policy, and other related matters were taken up for discussion during the meeting.

The progress of the CEB restructuring programme was reviewed last Friday.

Assistance will be obtained for financial audits, human resource audits, assets audits and legal expertise under the assistance offered by donor banks / agencies.

Roadmap and timeline will be submitted to the Cabinet on the process, Minister Wijesekera said, adding that the reforms that can be implemented before the final Act, will be initiated next week.

As part of the reforms, the existing collective agreements will be terminated and new policy decisions related to management of CEB accounts to reduce cost taken, the minister said.


GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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