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Hand over economic management to independent technocrats: SJB MP

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Patali Champika Ranawaka said in Colombo recently that managing the economy of the country should be handed over to a group of independent technocrats.

“The general public and the business people are growing increasingly less confident about the capacity of the political leadership to pull the country out of the current economic crisis. So, the situation calls for the government to turn over the management of the economy to a group chosen through a process that emphasises their relevant skills and proven performance to put the economy back in shape,” Ranawaka said.

The MP said that such technocrats needed to be truly independent and need not just serve the interests of popular politics because if a sovereign default happens, all Sri Lankans, those who voted for the government and those who didn’t, would have to face grave repercussions.

Ranawaka made these comments at an Advocata forum themed, “A National Consensus for Economic Reforms.

Ranawaka said that Sri Lanka has got into a precarious financial situation today where it can’t raise enough capital either in the domestic market or in the international capital market.

“In the next eight months, we have to honour commitments on International Sovereign Bonds and Sri Lanka Development Bonds worth nearly USD $ 3 billion with only USD $ 1.5 billion cash in hand. In this backdrop, Sri Lanka runs the risk of a default and potential bankruptcy at some point. Even if the authorities begin talks on renegotiating and rescheduling of our foreign loans, that would technically mean declaring bankruptcy. When Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the government of India to postpone Sri Lanka’s debt by three years, that also tantamount to acknowledging bankruptcy. If the country hits bankruptcy, it will have a negative impact across the board. It won’t be easy recovering after a default and bankruptcy. It could lead to multiple defaults. Defaults by Argentina on its foreign debt as well as the debt crisis in Greece led to a loss of confidence in their economies. They haven’t recovered fully. They may recover for some time and they falter again. Elections were held in Greece from time to time to resolve the economic issue. Masses elected leaders from the left, centre and right in the political spectrum, but nothing has worked meaningfully. The economic malaise has dragged on for 10 years in Greece. Argentina is no different. If a sovereign debt default occurs in Sri Lanka, we may face a similar situation. It would be unwise to think that when the situation aggravates, it would help the Opposition to come to power. Whoever comes to power, would have to bear the same pain and pressure, so a sovereign default must be averted,” he said.

He said that the government is still not serious about this serious situation.

“Our concern is whether political leaders and responsible authorities are paying the issue the attention it deserves. This crisis can’t be solved by providing each Grama Niladhari division with Rs. 3 million to spend on building rural infrastructure. If a default happens, its negative spillover could see the loss of thousands of jobs triggering a social explosion. The racial and religious tensions which are under wraps could flare up again and foreign investors would try to capitalise on the situation. A fine example for this is; about six months ago the Urban Development Authority put up more than 50 strategic national properties for sale under what was called ‘Selendiva’. It was said that USD 5 billion would be raised from its proceeds. Nevertheless no buyer has made any bids to date. We are often told that USD 3.6 billion is coming from Oman, USD 2.5 billion is coming from some other country and so on. But these have not materialised yet. Why? Everyone has realis-ed that Sri Lanka is on its way towards bankruptcy. And investors know that they can buy these assets for five million dollars once that happens. It is very clear that nobody is coming to buy these assets right now. There are no friends left here for us. In 2019, during our administration, we arranged four investments for the much hyped Port City and the foundation stones were laid. I can tell you that those investments or anything else won’t come to Port City next year. All countries in the world are experiencing varying degrees of volatility and instability as the virus has again plunged the world back into uncertain territory. No friends have been left for us in the midst of it.

“So coming to a national consensus on structural reforms needed to get out of the economic crisis is critical right now. It’s up to the government to show the right signals that it is ready to move along the correct political and fiscal path to get the support of everyone to do it,” he said.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Solving vexed problems: Ranil calls for fresh approach

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‘What we are witnessing is end of politics’

By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to the present-day problems, and the MPs should adopt a novel approach to them, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: “We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of Parliament. We in Parliament must think afresh. We must discuss how to bring about long-term policies which would help us find solutions to the problems affecting the public. Thereafter, we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why can’t we do it here? If we can arrive at a consensus, we will be able to usher in a new era.

“The President has commenced this new session while the country is facing the worst economic crisis in 34 years. In his statement, he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far worse. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the economy is shrinking. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to ensure our collective survival,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. But that will not help us solve problems.”

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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SLPP MP and former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the SLFP for making the party a junior partner of the SLPP former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, Kumaratunga alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would be the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post in retaliation.

“Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Kumaratunga was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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