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Minister: CBEU claims ad hoc reforms in CEB will not be acceptable to international lenders

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By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board ((CEB) should be restructured without any political interference as international lenders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and particularly the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would not entertain ad hoc committee decisions when it came to restructuring, a senior electrical engineer who is also an executive member of the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) claimed yesterday.

The engineer said that top priority during the restructuring process should be the consumers and then the employers of the CEB. “If anything is properly done, we (CEBEU) would certainly support restructuring. However, structuring can’t be done within a month as the government says,” he added.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara earlier said that the Cabinet of Ministers had approved the restructuring of the debt ridden CEB. A committee would be appointed to provide recommendations within a month from their appointment on the CEB restructuring plan, he said.

During a meeting with officials from the Sustainable Energy Authority, Minister Wijesekera said that since 2014, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had not implemented any major power generation projects.

“We have also not made much progress in promoting renewable energy. We need to change the system so that more emphasis in paid on promoting renewable energy,” Minister Wijesekera said.

The Minister added that the power generation, transmission and distribution had to be unbundled. He added that he would seek the necessary Parliament approvals soon.

“The Sustainable Energy Authority has issued various individuals with temporary licences to generate 1,400 megawatts of power through renewable energy sources. But the CEB has not provided the facilities necessary to implement these projects. The country can no longer depend on oil and coal and renewable energy is the future,” he said.

The Minister said Sri Lanka spent about 1.2 billion US dollars on importing fuel for power generation. Coal worth about 300 million dollars, too was also imported, he added.



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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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