New Lankan Ambassador in Tehran
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka owes Iran USD 251 mn for crude oil purchased way back during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency. In spite of talks between the two countries over the years, they haven’t been able to settle the issue over the outstanding debt.
Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila confirmed outstanding payment when The Island raised the issue with him on his return from Iran following a four-day visit, commencing Sept. 24.
Asked whether Iran wants interest on the delayed payment, Minister Gammanpila said that was not so.
Minister Gammanpila led a delegation to Iran at the invitation of the Minister of Petroleum of Iran Dr. Javad Owji. The delegation held talks with Iranian officials, including the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Dr. Akbar Komijani.
The Foreign Ministry said that Minister Gammanpila discussed modalities to establish a mechanism for the settlement of outstanding payments with Dr. Akbar Komijani. The Sri Lankan delegation also met Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy of Iran Mahdi Safari.
During the meeting, the two sides underscored the importance of convening the Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation (JCEC) between the two countries at a mutually convenient date.
Minister Gammanpila also discussed ways and means of boosting relations in the fields of trade, investment, energy and tourism between Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan with the latter’s Teheran-based Ambassador Gurbanov Ahmet Kakabayevich.
The Iranian Petroleum Ministry arranged site visits to the Tehran Oil Refinery and Gas Station Museum. The newly appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador in Teheran G.M.V. Wishwanath Aponsu joined the delegation in discussions with Iranian officials. The delegation included Energy Secretary K.D.R. Olga and Deputy General Manager of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Mahendra Gurusinghe.
Wishwanath Aponsu presented the Letters of Credence to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi at the Sadabad Complex, Office of the President, in Tehran on 26 September 2021 during Minister Gammanpila’s visit.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry quoted the Iranian President as having appreciated the longstanding and historical ties with Sri Lanka and their readiness to activate all capacities for development of relations between the two countries. While appreciating a close cooperation and mutual support at multilateral fora, he underscored the importance of the JCEC between Sri Lanka and Iran for promoting bilateral relations.
Ambassador Aponsu has reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthen existing bilateral engagement with Iran into a multifaceted and results-oriented partnership. He further placed particular emphasis on the trade in agriculture products, energy, culture and tourism, as areas that could be explored and enhanced for developing the level of bilateral relations.
The President also stated that there is potential for the development of trade relations and transfer of experience, especially in the technical and engineering fields between the two countries. In response, the Ambassador expressed that all proposals and outstanding matters could be discussed at the next JCEC meeting between the two countries.
Prior to the current assignment, Ambassador Wishwanath Aponsu served as first Director General of Overseas Sri Lankan Division and Director General of Consular Affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.
He is a career diplomat (Sri Lanka Foreign Service-Grade I) with 19 years of service, having served as High Commissioner (Actg.) at the Sri Lanka’s Mission in Singapore and held positions at the Missions in India, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
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.
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.
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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