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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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Nightlife is essential without hindrance to other tourists, residents and businesses – Diana Gamage

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Minister of State for Tourism  Diana Gamage acknowledged that events that emanated noise should be conducted within a soundproof environment without causing any inconvenience or disturbance to other tourists who are here to relax, residents of the area and other businesses inasmuch its necessity to boost the economy by generating revenue.

She made this comment speaking at a press conference themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’ at the Presidential Media Centre today (22),

As debates continue regarding the regulation of nightlife, she urged stakeholders to consider the broader economic implications and the vital role that nightlife plays in driving economic activity and sustaining national finances. She further emphasized the importance of providing entertainment options to tourists, particularly in beach areas, which are major attractions for visitors. According to her, nightlife plays a crucial role in catering to the needs of tourists, not only in beach areas but also in urban centres like Colombo. The Minister noted that current regulations often restrict entertainment options, citing examples such as early last orders in hotels and restaurants, which may not align with the preferences of international tourists.

Drawing attention to the diverse origins of tourists, including those from the UK, France, and Germany, the State Minister Diana Gamage emphasized the need for flexibility in entertainment hours to accommodate varying cultural norms and preferences.

As discussions on tourism regulations continue, stakeholders are encouraged to consider the perspectives of tourists and the potential economic benefits of promoting a vibrant nightlife scene. The Minister’s remarks underscore the importance of striking a balance between regulation and the provision of entertainment options to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for visitors to Sri Lanka.

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All vocational training institutes in Sri Lanka should be consolidated into a single vocational college – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe during an observation tour at the Ratmalana Lalith Athulathmudali Vocational Training Centre, this morning (22) , outlined plans to consolidate all vocational training institutes in Sri Lanka into a single vocational college, offering contemporary subject-related courses.

He said that the restructuring of vocational education was  essential to align with the demands of the modern world, ensuring that the youth of the country are equipped to excel in the competitive global job market.

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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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