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‘Hunger needs to be overcome before highways and high life’

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The global economic crisis has affected all countries, but small economies like Sri Lanka are the worst hit. A recent nutritional study in Sri Lanka shows that the level of malnutrition has gone up to 18%, while the poverty level has reached 60%.

While the rural and plantation sectors are worst affected, the urban sector has also been hit. On International Women’s Day, it was sad to see continuing discrimination and the sad plight of women in our country, a cause for concern.

Besides the many women who bear the burden of doing a job while running the home and caring for the family, the war widows and elderly are suffering in silence with no support from society. The economic downturn has been aggravated by the Covid 19 pandemic. The media makes little or no mention of this grave situation, and the Government carries on as usual, with more attention to highways and high life, and only little attention to the problems of hunger and poverty.

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party, that was formed in 1935, is having its Conference on March 20 and 21, and is giving priority to this issue. Developed countries like the USA and UK have daily soup kitchens organized by social welfare organizations. We lack these, and the government must intervene in a more organized manner. The occasional basket of dry rations helps, but a more systematic and organized campaign is required to ensure that no one goes to bed at night hungry.

The Cooperative Movement that was strong and well established in the 1970s should be restored, ensuring that everyone gets. food and essentials, and exploitation by middlemen is minimized. Till then every Grama Sevaka must visit each house and make a list of those in need. Adequate dry rations must reach them. Cooked meals should be supplied to the old and disabled. Religious and other welfare organizations must be mobilized.

The economic downturn is continuing and though the Covid-19 vaccine is being given to high risk groups, it will take some time to reach the over 70-80% coverage required to control transmission in the community. Under these conditions the economic situation will be bad. There is also a financial downturn, as well as a foreign debt crisis.

The country and the people will have to tighten belts and reduce spending. The Government should act with restraint, minimizing expenditure. Ensuring that everybody is fed is the first priority. Highways and other development activities can wait. The better off must take as much of the burden as possible. This means that the level of direct personal tax, which is as low as 14% should be raised to over 45% and the company tax from 18% to at least 50%.

Our foreign debt should be reduced. The government should tighten its restriction on unnecessary imports and construction activities and take the country into its confidence, explain the situation, and give the lead by an austerity budget. The burden must not be put on to the poor through indirect tax increases, but on those who can afford.

Those who have lost jobs should be compensated through local development activities, specially by stimulating the agricultural sector and local value added industry. Some persons will have to undergo skills training. In the meantime some type of dole or financial support by the state will be necessary. Local industry too needs to be supported. The government decision to achieve self-sufficiency is good and achievable.

The LSSP has been advocating adoption of the new solidarity concept. This is gaining ground in Europe and Latin America, and has proved a success. State ventures are run on cooperative lines with ownership being vested in the employees. The latter, in addition to their wages, also get an equal share in the profits of the enterprise. The outcome has been a large increase in the income of both the employees and the enterprise, increased efficiency and curbing of stealing and corruption.

While improving on the devolution of power to the provinces, the development of the province must be an integral part of the total national plan to develop the country as a whole. The allocation of funds should be done accordingly. This will ensure planned development of all parts of the country as one unit. Sri Lanka will become one strong united nation.

 

Prof. Tissa Vitarana



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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka

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Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal

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By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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