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JVP on plight of worst affected lost in macro picture

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By Saman Indrajith

Communities worst affected by Covid-19 and its consequences were the most marginalised and most vulnerable sections in the society, JVP led NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya told Parliament.

 Participating in a debate on the Nation Building Tax (Amendment) bill on Wednesday, Dr Amarasuriya said that 64 Lankan migrant workers had died abroad from Covid-19 and it was larger than the number of deaths in Sri Lanka. “The country successfully dealt with the first wave of the virus. And yes, we acknowledge the role played by the government in the battle.

But, it was not just the government that achieved that goal. We also have to acknowledge the role of the health sector and the people of this country who followed the health regulations.”

“So clearly the virus does not affect all of us equally. The steps taken to respond to the virus also does not affect all of us equally.

Not all of us have the luxury of working from home and not all of us have the ability to use private transport to move around and do our grocery shopping online. Most of the people of this country have to deal with the consequences of this virus and of the measures taken in ways very different to the few of us.”

She said that the issue here was that when they talked about the financial regulations and policies, their focus was on the economic growth. “Although we argue across this isle we often fail to think who actually benefits from these measures and whose lives have improved. If we really look at some of these measures or consequences of some of these economic decisions that have been reached in this chamber, we can clearly see that not everyone has benefited equally. If we look at these conventional indicators used to measure economic success, or economic prosperity, and if we replace some of these indicators looking at the wellbeing and happiness of the people of this country, we will have to acknowledge that over the last several decades, the lives of the majority of the people of this country have in fact become more insecure, more uncertain and more precarious.”

She said that it was unfortunate that the worst affected by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country were women employed in the most exploited sector in the country. “One employer, one factory or one person cannot be held responsible for this. What these figures reveal to us is that our systems and our structures have failed and unless we address the systemic failures, we will be continuing to reinforce the vulnerabilities of one of the most marginalised groups in our society,” she said.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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