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IFC reaffirms commitment to Sri Lanka amid plans to increase investments

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IFC’s Vice President for Risk Mohamed Gouled, Country Officer for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives Victor Antonypillai, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos, Regional Director for South Asia Hector Gomez Ang, Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Lisa Kaestner, IFC Regional Vice President for Asia and the Pacific Alfonso Garcia Mora, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa; Secretary to President Gamini Senarath, Principal  Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary/Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle and Director General/External Resources Department Ajith Abeysekera at the meeting 

International Finance Corporation Regional Vice President for Asia and the Pacific Alfonso Garcia Mora has said that IFC aims to boost its investments in Sri Lanka, with a focus on supporting private sector job creation, paving the way for robust investments to help spur the country’s recovery and future growth, it said.

The comments by IFC Regional Vice President for Asia and the Pacific Alfonso Garcia Mora, came at the end of a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, which included a meeting with the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, government officials, including Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, private sector representatives, entrepreneurs, and development partners.

Garcia Mora was accompanied by IFC’s Vice President for Risk Mohamed Gouled, Regional Director for South Asia Hector Gomez Ang and the new Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Lisa Kaestner, as well as the World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos.

“In my meeting with the President, we discussed the need to have a sound macro fiscal stability to attract foreign capital and provide medium- and long-term certainty,” Garcia Mora said. “The talks also focused on ways to maximise the potential of the country’s private sector to help address Sri Lanka’s challenges and achieve the inclusive growth the country needs.”

“We are committed to Sri Lanka,” Garcia Mora said. “This is demonstrated by our investment commitments in the past six months which have targeted export-oriented industries. Since the onset of the pandemic, IFC has also played a strong counter cyclical role in its financing and will continue to build on that program going forward.”

During his meetings, Garcia Mora highlighted IFC’s investment of $ 450 million during the first 18 months of the pandemic in Sri Lanka as a sign of IFC’s steadfast commitment to the country.

“We are working with the private sector in the country to create a robust investment pipeline and this can be accelerated with additional reforms in the infrastructure sector, allowing the private sector to play a bigger role,” Garcia Mora said. “IFC intends to invest a further $ 150 million during the current fiscal year ending in June 2022. Over the next five years, IFC is looking at an investment pipeline of more than $ 800 million, specifically in supporting growth-enabling sustainable infrastructure.”

IFC’s efforts will focus around three strategic pillars in Sri Lanka: supporting innovation for growth, including export diversification, start-ups, niche market agriculture and value additions for export, high tech manufacturing; growth-enabling sustainable infrastructure, including low-cost clean energy, sustainable transport and logistics systems; and deepening social and financial inclusion, including digitisation, economic participation of underserved people, especially women.

While in Colombo, Garcia Mora also signed a cooperation agreement with John Keells Holdings (JKH) to develop a commercially viable and sustainable street market in Colombo 2, which will also promote women’s participation in hospitality and tourism. The officials also had the opportunity to meet clients and partners of the Women in Work program – IFC’s largest, standalone country-based gender program designed to close gender gaps in Sri Lanka’s private sector.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, IFC has invested $ 450 million in Sri Lanka, including $ 175 million in JKH to boost retail and tourism – IFC’s largest investment in Sri Lanka over its 50-year operations. As part of the overall pandemic response, IFC injected $ 50 million in Commercial Bank of Ceylon and $ 25 million in Nations Trust Bank to help small businesses stay afloat during the height of the pandemic.

IFC’s strategy also focused on expanding export diversification, promoting sustainability and inclusive growth. Last year, IFC piloted a new digital health program – DigiHealth – to boost access to affordable and quality health-care services in Sri Lanka and beyond.

In October, IFC also issued its first-ever rupee-denominated bond in the country – the ‘Serendib Bond’ – to ensure that the private-sector has access to long-term offshore financing in local currency.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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