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Japan’s development assistance to SL transcribes to wide infrastructure development

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by Steve A. Morrell

The Japanese Embassy convened a seminar on ‘Quality Infrastructure’ to commemorate International Cooperation Day.

Japanese Ambassador, Akira Sugiyama, in his opening remarks said under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) program of the government of Japan, infrastructure development to Sri Lanka has continued for 50 years.

In addition, Japan’s entry to the Colombo Plan on October 6, 1954 marked an indelible milestone in economic assistance and cooperation to Sri Lanka over this period.

He said ‘Quality Infrastructure’, including sustainable growth, was the hallmark of development programs initiated by Japan. Such growth included open access, transparency, economic efficiency including life cycle cost and financial viability.

Reverting to the 2019 G20 Osaka Summit, he said emerging donors under Japan’s leadership endorsed G20 principles of quality Infrastructure Investment, which will “guide us a long way into the future as we witness shifts towards the Indo Pacific Region”.

The majority member states covering G20 countries are in the Region covered by the Colombo Plan.

Japan’s economic cooperation with the Sri Lankan government goes back 56 years covering human resources, and the post-war emerging economic cooperation which, to this day chartered an unbroken course of development, that could be aptly described a trend of continuation of mutual friendship between both countries.

Japan’s knowledge-based assistance was continued with no interruption. Around 13,350 persons were exposed to education in Japanese Universities including technical assistance and training in a wide choice of technology that benefited infrastructure development in Sri Lanka.

Chief guest at the ceremony, Central Bank Governor, Professor W. D. Lakshman, in his presentation to the seminar, referred to Sri Lanka and Japan as ‘Distant Neighbours’, a term he coined to describe the long-term development and continuous expansion and infrastructure which is an ongoing phenomenon of economic cooperation.

The ODA program was index to such development, including the onset of television, which was unheard of before 1977; broadcasting development, power, water, the Colombo harbor and additional projects worth many billions of dollars, which were of sustained benefit to Sri Lanka, he noted.

Such benefits also included agriculture improvement and allied technology generating expansion of techniques that percolated to the rural sector, he said.

Although imports from Japan to Sri Lanka were substantial, it was of interest to also note that exports from Sri Lanka to Japan amounted to about US$ 85 million in 2019. The main commodity was tea to Japan. Such exports did not match imports of technology or equipment from Japan to Sri Lanka, but the advantage was that Sri Lanka was exposed to advanced technology made available as a sequel to such imports, Prof. Lakshman outlined.

His presentation also referred to Anagarika Dharmapala’s visit to Japan in the late 19th century, initiating friendship between both countries at the time.

The Governor also referred to the celebrated speech of President J. R. Jayewardene at the San Francisco conference, where he stressed it was important that Japan should be supported by world powers to regain its technology and internal infrastructure to make progress in a world of peace.

Charman Institute of Policy Studies, Prof. H. D. Karunaratne, in his presentation, expanded on the importance of Japan not only to Sri Lanka, but its economic impact on the South East Asian Region was a growing phenomenon of technology and growth.

Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Colombo, Dr. D. D. P. M. Dunusinghe also spoke.

 

(Pix by Dharmasena Welipitiya)



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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