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Japan warns of threat of global downturn

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Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Akira Sugiyama recently said that although Sri Lanka had been successful in combating Covid-19 pandemic, the continuing global crisis caused serious difficulty to the Sri Lankan economy, especially in export and tourism sectors.

Ambassador Sugiyama said so at the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka-Japan Business Council held recently at the JAIC Hilton where Merrick Gooneratne received the appointment as President of the Sri Lanka–Japan Business Council

The Ambassador said: First of all, on behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to express our solidarity with the people and the Government of Sri Lanka in combatting COVID-19, while commending the strong leadership of the Government and the business leaders of Sri Lanka in tackling successfully the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19. Japan has provided USD9.6M grant aid to help Sri Lanka’s fight against COVID-19, including procurement of essential medical equipment like MRI system and CT scanners and improvement of hospital facilities.

The COVID-19 has had a serious negative impact on the global economy. Both Sri Lanka and Japan, like other countries in the world, are tackling the challenge of resuming and rebuilding economic activities while controlling the spread of the virus.

“Sri Lanka effectively implemented the curfew to contain the spread of the virus, while ensuring the people’s access to basic needs, including food and medicine, and without disrupting essential services in both public and private sectors. Now, the virus infection in Sri Lanka is successfully under control with zero community transmission. This is a commendable achievement. The global pandemic, however, caused serious difficulty to the Sri Lankan economy, especially in export sector and tourism. The Government of Sri Lanka announced several financial and monetary measures to mitigate this economic difficulty, and, most assuredly, they could lead to significant positive impacts on the Sri Lankan economy.

“Japan’s economy is in severe difficulty. The Government of Japan declared a State of Emergency on April 7th to request that the people and business community limit their activities to the minimum, although on a voluntary basis, to contain the COVID-19. Although the state of emergency was lifted on May 25 after pulling off the crisis, we still see new cases of infection every day. As disruption of social and economic activities in Japan and abroad takes a heavy toll on our economy. Japan’s economy contracted by 7.9 % in the second quarter of this year compared with the first quarter, which is equivalent to 28.1 % decline on an annualized basis. Japan is now struggling to strike an appropriate balance between reviving the economy and containing the virus spread. New Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stressed in his first press conference, the most urgent agenda for the new Government is of course how we will get our economy back on track.

“Let me briefly discuss how consumer habits have changed in Japan after the COVID-19 pandemic, although I have to say that this is my layman’s view.

“As people start to work from home and spend more time at home because of the pandemic, their lifestyle and way of consumption have significantly changed. First, the COVID-19 has brought a considerable shift in the consumer’s style of shopping – from store shopping to on-line shopping. Because of stay-at-home requirement, consumers who were not familiar with online services such as restaurant delivery applications are now experimenting with these new devices. This has stimulated the uptake of digital commerce among more Japanese. Second, we are seeing an increasing demand for the goods and services which make working-from-home easy and efficient and staying-at-home more comfortable and enjoyable, including electronic appliances and online video services. In Japan, such consumption trend is called “nesting consumption”, which means that, like nesting birds, people stay and work at home and buy things online to keep their home tidy and comfortable.

“Next, products essential for the health and wellbeing of people such as masks and alcohol disinfectants are high in demand among consumers since people are now more conscious about hygiene and good health. In this connection, it should be noted that the COVID-19 has caused serious disruptions to global supply chains, resulting in shortages of various products, including such hygiene products. We keenly feel the need to diversify production bases of those products.

“Staying at home and health concerns are also changing payment methods of Japanese people. As some of you may know, Japanese people still have a preference for cash payment in daily lives, but prevalence of online shopping and hygiene concerns about touching money make people go for credit cards or prepaid cards more frequently.

“Since people stay home and do not go out, they do not pay for travel and hospitality services. As in Sri Lanka, in Japan tourism and hospitality business have lost business substantially because of the COVID-19. Since the tourism industry in Japan is increasingly dependent on inbound tourists, the entry ban of foreign tourists has been giving a serious negative impact on the tourism industry, especially local (outside Tokyo) businesses. To address this issue by promoting domestic travel, the Government of Japan has embarked on “Go to Travel Campaign” which gives domestic travelers a discount on travel costs, including hotel accommodations, if hotels or restaurants they use take strict health precautionary measures against the COVID-19.

“Of course, business people like you have much better ideas about these new trends. Having said that, I think that some of these changes will be here to stay even after the COVID-19 threat passes and could even open up new business opportunities.

With the lessons learnt from this pandemic, our two countries should come up with proper strategic moves to convert the global pandemic challenge into opportunities and I hope this would turn a new leaf in Japan-Sri Lanka business relations.”



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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