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Johnston appeals to people to bear with the government for few more days

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando on Thursday called on people to keep their faith and trust in the government just a couple of days more without falling for opposition led propaganda.

“Problems of shortages and prospects of a meagre new year would be solved within a few more days. Actions have been taken to replenish stocks of essential items and to bring down the prices that have been jacked up by traders recently. We are well aware of the suffering of people due to shortages in the market and disruption of services. All we ask from people is to keep their trust in us for few more days till we deliver solutions to these problems,” the Minister said addressing a ceremony held at Temple Trees in Colombo to mark the inauguration of the Second phase of the Vari Saubhagya (irrigation prosperity –a two-year accelerated programme to revitalize 5,000 small rural irrigation systems).

Minister Fernando said that some sections of the media engaged in a campaign to depict the President and the Government as a failed lot and incapable of providing for the people with their needs. “If you watch TV you’ll see lines and queues for gas, petrol and diesel. The fuel shortage is only a part of a colossal plan to get this government ousted. It is a constructed shortage and we are saddened by the finding that those within our camp too had supported the master plan against this government. The problem is amplified by the fears and panic created by lies. The media knowingly or unknowingly supported the propagation of the lies of shortages and people started panic buying which finally brought the actual result of shortages. It is not that the government did nothing in the face of these problems. For example, there was a fertilizer problem. We addressed that issue and that problem is no longer in existence. Similarly we are addressing all other problems and issues. We would not give up our progress and the task of realizing the promises made to the people.”

Minister Fernando called on the media to see the truth behind the façade of problems created by the conspirators against the government. “For example, today we are starting the restoration and rehabilitation of hundred rural tanks that have lost their water retention capacity owing to centuries of siltation and sedimentation. For TV channels it is lacklustre news. Suppose a group of opposition MPs go near the same tanks and blame the government or allege that there is massive fraud behind this project, TV channels will find that news item more worthy. In the same way, the media either knowingly or unknowingly have served the conspirators’ agenda. We call on the media to see beyond the façade of problems and help the government’s objective of serving the people in these trying times,” the Minister said.

He said that the government consisted of persons who were tempered enough to stand up against any odds. “We did the same while we were in the last months of the war against the LTTE. How many of those advised and professed against the elimination of the terrorist outfit? Only a few had the faith in the government and the security forces and that faith later on snowballed into a massive force that could not be prevented achieving its objective of liberating the motherland. We are confident that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would steer the country through present problems because they have the strength to do so. All we ask people is to have their faith and trust in the government till we solve these problems,” the Minister said.



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More than 6 bn worth of substandard drugs dispensed to patients

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The Committee of Public Accounts (COPA) has disclosed that Rs. 6,259 million worth of drugs faced a quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage. The COPA report has further revealed that 99% of such drugs had already been dispensed to patients when the condition was brought to attention. In that situation, it was not possible to recover the cost of substandard drugs from the suppliers, the Parliament said.

The Committee on Public Accounts has directed the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to expedite the process of facilitating better storage of drugs to ensure their safety.

It has also been observed that the temperature in the warehouses, owned by the Medical Supplies Division, is maintained properly and that the medical supplies are stored in the corridors of the central drug warehouses and hospitals.

Furthermore, the Secretary to the Ministry has pointed out that if there is a system to detect the failure of drugs as soon as they are received, the loss can be recovered from the suppliers and if the quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation, this situation can be avoided to some extent.

These concerns and observations were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

The report contains information about the investigations of seven state institutions summoned before the Committee on Public Accounts and one Special Audit Report during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021.

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CBSL Chief: Economy could be stabilised in year or so if …

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The prevailing Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis could lead to a major social crisis as the available foreign reserves were only sufficient for a few weeks’ imports, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Monday.

“The economy can be stabilised in the next 12 month if the IMF negotiations and debt restructuring are finalised within the next seven to eight months. Until then we have to support the poor people,” Dr. Weerasinghe said, addressing a seminar on the “State of the Economy and Talks with the IMF”. It was organised by the Press Club, together with the Press Institute, at Colombo Hilton.

The CB Governor said the current BoP crisis would worsen and, therefore the economic pain could only be minimised if essential policies and measures were implemented in an expeditious manner. But “IMF technical level virtual meetings are likely to conclude this week, and thereafter further discussion will take place to finalise everything,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.

Dr. Weerasinghe suggested that the monetary and fiscal authorities tighten the monetary policy by higher margins and fiscal policy by restoring tax rates to pre-2020 levels.

The Governor said, “We have three categories of creditors namely International Sovereign Bonds, which raise short term funds from global markets, which account for 35 percent of the government debt, while other two creditors are Paris Club and non-Paris Club (India and China).

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the country’s debt needed to be brought to a sustainable level. “For that purpose a debt sustainability analysis needs to be drafted with a fiscal policy for the IMF bailout”, he said.

Speaking about the country’s worsening economic fundamentals, Dr. Weerasinghe said: “The nation is currently experiencing a historically low economic growth and falling trend of per capita GDP since 2017 with rising levels of poverty. It is also running the highest fiscal deficits since 1988 with the lowest ever government revenue as a percent of GDP.

“Amid those developments Sri Lanka’ poverty level will increase, unemployment level soar and local industries will have to shut down due to restriction of importation of raw material. Therefore, we have to seek humanitarian assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral and multilateral agencies”, the Governor said.

“We are seeking short-term bridging facilities from official creditors until an agreement is reached with creditors on restructuring,” he said.

In his presentation, Dr. Weerasinghe analysed the links between banking and the currency crises. He pointed out that the problems in the banking sector typically precede a currency crisis with the currency crisis deepening the banking crisis, thus activating a vicious spiral.

Sri Lanka also had the highest-ever government debt which was unsustainable at the moment. Debt dynamics might be worsening in the next few years unless the debt was restructured, he said.

Sri Lanka also recorded the highest rate of inflation in 12 years which was increasing sharply and was experiencing the highest-ever levels of money printing by the CBSL, he added

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Dragonfly thought to be extinct found again

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By Ifham Nizam

Scientists have rediscovered Sri Lankan Clubtail (Anisogomphus ceylonicus), one of the rarest species of dragonflies in the country. The team that made the discovery comprised Amila Sumanapala of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, T. Ranasinghe of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, and D. Sumanapala of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. According to lead scientist Amila Sumanapala Sri Lankan Clubtail is one of the rarest species of dragonflies.

First collected in 1859, it was only known from the original collection and another collection record made a century after in 1962. This species had not been found anywhere in Sri Lanka for close to 60 years until the team encountered a larva during a survey conducted in 2021.

Anisogomphus ceylonicus is one of the few Odonates of Sri Lanka with no photographic records of a living specimen available hitherto.

The present observation provides the first photographs of a live A. ceylonicus larva and the most recent documentation of the species. These observations, coupled with previous work (Lieftinck 1971, Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013), provide an improved understanding of the species, which might enable further targeted surveys to be made

It was first discovered from Ramboda over 140 years ago based on a female specimen, which was originally described as Gomphus ceylonicus and later assigned to the genus Heliogomphus by F.C. Fraser (Bedjanič & van der Poorten 2013). Almost a century later, Lieftinck (1971) collected an immature male and its exuvia of a clubtail dragonfly from Rambukpath Oya, 10 miles northwest of Hatton in 1962 and described it as Anisogomphus solitaris. However, Bedjanič & van der Poorten (2013) recognized that H. ceylonicus is conspecific with A. solitaris, and thus reassigned it to the genus Anisogomphus. Since the discovery of the species, only these two records have ever been documented (Bedjanič et al. 2014), despite odonatological surveys and numerous biodiversity explorations conducted countrywide.

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