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PERSONALITY ANALYSIS: Lessons, Inspirations and Kaizen!




By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

Anti-climax to an Adventure?

Twelve brave Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) students who went on a five-day cycle trip during the Vesak holidays in 1973, were spending their one-month suspension mainly at home. I was the exception, who arranged to spend the suspension period in hiding, at the Barberyn Reef Hotel in Beruwala, as an unpaid worker. I quickly settled in my fourth part-time-job. As hotel occupancy was low, I stayed at a guest room and had my meals at the hotel restaurant, in between my manual labour. My favourite part of my stay at this hotel was jumping into the sea after a long day of work. Due to the reef, there were not many waves right outside the hotel. It was calm as a lagoon. The reflection of the moonlight on the gentle waves and the reef, were most beautiful. I simply loved my time at the Barberyn Reef Hotel.

Learning the Hotel Culture

I reported to hotel Owner/Manager, Mr Sudana Rodrigo, and did any odd job as required based on the occupancy of the day. Mr. Rodrigo had a laid-back and relaxed style of management. I noticed how the leader of an organisation, could influence the workplace culture. His small team of managers and supervisors also behaved in a friendly and easygoing manner. At times, managers, supervisors, employees and regular guests all behaved like members of one family. I loved that atmosphere and liked the fact that there were not many rules at the Barberyn Reef Hotel. Often larger hotels lose that personal touch, which is the essence of hospitality.

Every morning, Mr. Rodrigo assigned me a different job. He was impressed with the service and guest relations skills I had mastered by working at two of the best hotels in Sri Lanka – Pegasus Reef Hotel and Mount Lavinia Hyatt Hotel. During the busy days I worked as a room boy. In addition, I covered the shifts for the head receptionist on her days off. I also worked as a bellboy. I was happy to carry luggage of arriving guests because they usually gave generous tips. Since I remembered their names from the check in, I soon became an employee popular with long-staying guests.

Analysing the Bosses

I learnt something new from all my immediate supervisors in my three previous part-time jobs. Each of them had different personalities. My first boss, the catering manager of Hotel Samudra who fired me, was a ‘no nonsense’ type, whom I call, “Toughie.” My second boss, the head waiter of Pegasus Reef had a bubbly personality and loved dealing with all types of people. I termed his personality type was “Softie”. My third boss, the butler at Mount Lavinia Hyatt Hotel, had another personality type in between “Toughie” and “Softie.” Owing to his attention to details and ‘prim and proper’ attitude, I identified him in another category – “Perfectie.”

Mr. Rodrigo, my fourth boss’s personality was exactly the opposite. He was good man, but was a bit clumsy and often wore crushed clothing. He frequently got distracted, and communicated with many messages at a time. Yet, he was practical, creative, funny and energetic. He was involved in many projects at a time and was not that punctual. In my mind I commenced identifying this personality type as “Confuzie.” None of these four personality categories were good or bad. My concept helped me to be flexible in the manner in which I communicated with different personalities, particularly people who were important to me, bosses, VIP guests and girlfriends.

A Conversation with a Movie Legend

One day, I was in charge of the front office when a short but a majestic looking and extremely handsome man arrived at the hotel. As I greeted him, he said, “Good Morning, could you please inform Mr. Sud

ana Rodrigo that Gamini Fonseka is here to meet him.” I was pleasantly surprised and excited to meet the greatest movie actor of Sri Lanka, again. I first saw him in August 1962,

 when the first-ever colour motion picture in Ceylon, ‘Ran Muthu Duwa’ directed by a Canadian, Mike Wilson, broke all box office records. This movie propelled Gamini as the most popular movie star of the country. Most youngsters of my generation became devoted fans of Gamini. He was a hard-working actor and a productive movie maker. Eleven years later his 41st movie had been just released and there were no stars of his calibre, talent and popularity on the horizon.

As soon as I called Mr. Rodrigo, he rushed to the lobby and greeted Gamini with a friendly hug. I realised that they were good friends and had something in common, hotel ownership. Gamini had built his own hotel, Sanasuma in Weeravila, where he often went to relax inbetween his busy schedule making movies. After lunch I had the opportunity to talk with my idol. I quickly reminded Gamini that we both acted in arguably, the greatest movie ever made in Sri Lanka, Lester James Peries’s ‘Gamperaliya’ in 1962. The character I played was Gamini’s (Jinadasa) brother-in-law (Tissa). He remembered me.

Gamini was somewhat impressed with my knowledge about Sinhala, Hindi and English movies. We spoke at length about movies and how he learnt the ropes of movie directing under the greatest movie director in the world at that time, Sir David Lean. This had been on location filming ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. He also spoke about two of my favourite Hollywood movie actors, Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner. I then learnt that Gamini tried ‘Method Acting’, like Brando and used his technical knowledge of production to enhance his acting, like Brynner. Gamini was also a chain smoker like Yul Brynner.

We chatted about ‘Nidhanaya’ which I had seen a few months before the cycle trip. When I identified ‘Nidhanaya’ as the movie with the best acting by Gamini, he wanted to know the reasons. He tended to agree. Gamini had utmost respect for Lester James Peries for creating a masterpiece based on a short story. Although, Gamini’s unprecedented popularity stemmed mainly from movies which followed popular Indian movie ‘formulae’, he enjoyed working on artistic movies with complex characters that challenged him as an actor. That was confirmed in my mind, when Gamini told me, “Don’t call me a star! I am an actor not a star. Stars fade away…”

Inspired by My Hero

Gamini was well-read, very intelligent, versatile and philosophical. His fluency of three languages was most impressive. Although some people thought of him as proud and arrogant, I found him to be warm, charming and charismatic. I liked his personality, but I was unable to place him in either of the four personality types I had identified before. Gamini had some traits from all four personality types. To me Gamini had a complexed personality and I termed that type of personality as, “Complexie” – the fifth personality type of my evolving model. I was impressed how Gamini adjusted his communication when interacting with his friend, Mr. Sudana Rodrigo, whose personality was very different from his.

Many years later, I had a few more interesting interactions with Gamini. These were in other different roles that he excelled in, as a corporate executive (Maharaja Group) in the 1980s and a politician (the Deputy Speaker and a Provincial Governor) in the 1990s. I have continued to be an ardent fan of Gamini, long after his untimely death in 2004. I watched his funeral live on TV, and listened to the final farewell speech by a long-standing cinema actor, Ravindra Randeniya. When he quoted Shakespeare to end his tribute to Gamini, “Goodnight, sweet prince”, Ravindra failed to hold back his tears. I couldn’t hold mine, either… To me, as well as my generation of moviegoers, Gamini was simply the greatest movie actor Sri Lanka had ever seen.

Having acted in three movie projects and a play as a child actor in the 1960s, I gave up acting, to focus on hospitality. After my 1973 meeting with Gamini, I was inspired to act again, but my busy career in hospitality prevented me from doing so for a few years. In the 1980s, I managed to find a little free time to act in nine TV commercials directed by well-known Directors such as William Blake, D. B. Nihalsinghe, D. B. Suranimala and Shehan Wijeratne of Donald’s. I also appeared on a couple of TV shows, a photo shoot and a stage show. I finally came to terms that one cannot be a jack of all trades. Inspiration is important, but one must also have the time and commitment. I gave up acting after appearing in the last video clip I directed: ‘Fitness Fever”, music video of the popular song I wrote in 1993.


Gated Prisoners

My fellow Iron Horses info

rmed me that they made an official complaint about Herr Sterner to his boss, Mr. Dharmasisri Senanayake. This charismatic lawyer/politician turned Chairman of the Ceylon Tourist Board, disliked Herr Sterner’s arrogance and that was advantageous to the Iron Horses. The Board had agreed that the decision to suspend 12 students for a full month was far too harsh for cutting school for two days. The principal was instructed by his superiors

to reduce the period of suspension, immediately. Although I was certainly not an admirer of Herr Sterner’s sternness on this occasion, I had a different opinion. I felt that it was not fair that my colleagues’ action led to the undermining of the principal’s authority by his superiors.

The principal was very angry and wanted to meet all 12 of us in his office. He reduced the suspension by two weeks. However, he ordered the Hostel Warden that when we return to CHS, we should be gated and strictly prohibited to leave the CHS and the hostel, for any purpose for two more weeks. I was happy to be back at CHS and the hostel, but felt like a prisoner or a caged animal. I also missed my time at the Barberyn Reef Hotel. My parents never knew about my suspension and the gated punishment! During this period, I planned my first solo cycling adventure which I wanted to do soon after the gated period.

Personality Analysis

During the cycling adventure, suspension, hiding at Barberyn Reef and finally spending two weeks as a gated prisoner, provided me with plenty of free time to think. I thought deeply about different people, their personalities and different ways to interact with them. Half the battle is won when an employee is able to analyse personalities quickly and adjust the way she/he communicates with each person (bosses, customers, peers, associates etc.). This is one lesson that helped me throughout my career.

Fifteen years later, I learnt more about personality analysis as a student at Le Meridien Institute for Hotel Management in France. Shortly thereafter I developed a full-day seminar on ‘Personality Analysis: The Best Tool for Hospitality Managers’. This program has been most popular among many of the teams of people I led as a hotelier, taught as a professor or coached as a consultant. I have presented seminars on this concept in 15 countries since 1988 – Aruba, Botswana, Canada, England, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, The Maldives, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates and Zambia.

Last month, I did yet another presentation of this concept as a webinar for 100 participants from eight countries. It was organised by The Sri Lanka Housekeepers Association (SLHA). The full video clip of this webinar is now posted on SLHA Facebook page. I was happy to present a fine-tuned version of personality types as per my categorizations done nearly 50 years ago – “Softie”, “Toughie”, “Perfectie”, “Confuzie” and “Complexie.” To me it is still relevant and useful, almost every day, when I deal with people. Influenced by my training as a Judoka, I have attempted to continuously improve my concept of Personality analysis. 改善Kaizen!

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Singarasa Case should guide GoSL’s Geneva policy



BY Dharshan Weerasekera

In 2005, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled in the seminal case Singarasa v. Attorney General (SC/SPLA/182/99) that the U.N. Human Rights Commission (the predecessor of today’s U.N. Human Rights Council) did not have jurisdiction, within Sri Lanka, to make recommendations on behalf of the petitioner. In doing so, the court decided that Sri Lanka’s accession to the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1997 had been done in a manner contrary to the Constitution, and hence illegal.

This case has invaluable lessons to teach in regard to the present government’s ‘Geneva Policy.’ By ‘Geneva Policy,’ I mean the government’s stance to the UNHRC’s follow-up resolutions to Sri Lanka’s unilateral withdrawal, in March 2020, from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1 of October 2015. In response, the Council adopted Resolution Resolution than 30/1. Among other things, it establishes an evidence-gathering mechanism to collect evidence of war crimes and other crimes against Sri Lankans.

Meanwhile, in September 2022, the High Commissioner released a report on Sri Lanka’s progress in implementing the recommendations of Resolution 46/1. The government has officially rejected both, Resolution 46/1 and the High Commissioner’s report, on grounds that they were done without Sri Lanka’s consent and, therefore, contrary to the founding principles of the Council. (See A/HRC/51/G/1, paras 1.1, 1.2). However, the Foreign Ministry, in its response, lists various things that the government is doing to comply with Resolution 46/1.

I argue that the government, continuing to comply with the Resolution while, at the same time, rejecting it in principle, without first obtaining a definitive interpretation of the relevant legal position, from an international forum, or even the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, creates a dangerous precedent. Given the fact that state practice is one of the sources of customary international law, the government’s conduct has the potential to do irreparable harm to the long-term interests of the country.

Unfortunately, there is little, or no, discussion of these issues in local newspapers, and academic journals, and it is in the public interest to start one. In this article, I shall discuss: i) the facts and reasoning of the Singarasa judgment, ii) the High Commissioner’s report and the government’s reply, iii) assess of the government’s position, and draw the relevant conclusions.

The Singarasa case

In 1991, the High Court of Colombo convicted Singarasa of five charges, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The charges dealt with alleged attempts by Singarasa, and others, to attack the Army camps,in Jaffna and its suburbs. Singarasa appealed against the conviction to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court. He also complained to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The HRC could entertain petitions under the Optional Protocol to ICCPR. Sri Lanka had ratified the ICCPR, in 1980, and acceded to the protocol, in 1997. The HRC said that, Sri Lanka was under obligation to release Singarasa.

The main issue, in this case, is whether Sri Lanka’s accession to the ICCPR, and the related protocol, gives a right to an international body to intervene in the domestic sphere to determine Singarasa’s fate. The court answers ‘no,’ because of the following reasons. The court starts with the premise that the authority for the President to enter into international agreements comes from Article 33(f) of the Constitution. Article 33(f) states: “To do all such acts as, not being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution…he is required or authorized to do.” It follows that the President cannot agree to anything inconsistent with the Constitution.

The court then assesses the signing of the ICCPR, in 1980, and the subsequent accession to the optional protocol, in 1997, separately. The court points out that the ICCPR requires that the respective signatories adopt domestic legislation to implement the provisions of the covenant. This does not conflict with our Constitution and hence is lawful.

However, when acceding to the optional protocol, the government had issued a declaration that envisioned that the rights of Sri Lankan citizens could be adjudicated in tribunals, and forums, outside this country. The court points out that the institutions, through which Sri Lankans can vindicate their rights, within this country, are exhaustively set out in Article 105 of the Constitution, and the HRC is not one of them. Therefore, the court deems the accession to the optional protocol illegal. The court states:

“Where the President enters into a treaty or accedes to a covenant the content of which is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law it would be a transgression of the limitation in Article 33 (f) and ultra vires—such acts of the President would not bind the Republic qua State.” (p. 11)

The High Commissioner’s report and the Government’s reply

The most disturbing aspect of the High Commissioner’s report is its description of the progress made by the impugned evidence-gathering mechanism. It states: “OHCHR continues to develop the information and evidence repository using an e-discovery platform….OHCHR commenced identifying material held by other actors and engaging with information providers. To date, the databases of two organisations have been migrated into the repository, and negotiations with other information providers are ongoing.” ((A/HRC/51/5, 4th October 2022, para 54.)

The report also details what the OHCHR plans to do with this information. It says: “To develop possible strategies for future accountability processes, the project team started mapping potential accountability process at international level, including through consultations with relevant stakeholders, in particular national authorities, victims and civil society organisations.” (para 56.)

In sum, it is clear that a vast operation is underway, not just to collect evidence against Sri Lanka but to set the groundwork to help prosecute Sri Lankans before various national and international forums. To the best of my knowledge, the founding statutes of the UNHRC, as well as the OHCHR, do not give enforcement capabilities to these institutions to prosecute or assist in the prosecution of people for violations of human rights and other offences.

Their respective mandates to protect and promote human rights are to be carried out with the consent of all nations concerned and in a spirit of “cooperation and constructive international dialogue.” Therefore, through the impugned mechanism the OHCHR has now arguably expanded its mandate to include an enforcement component, seemingly without any debate or discussion of the matter before the Council.

To turn to the government’s response, in the introductory paragraphs of the said document, the government rejects both resolution 46/1 as well as the High Commissioner’s report on grounds that they violate the UN’s founding principles. However, for much of the remainder of the report (which runs to 16 pages) the government enumerates the various things it has been doing to implement various provisions of the resolutions. For instance, the government discusses the work being done under the Office on Missing Persons, Office for Reparations, and so on.

On the OMP, the report states inter alia: “The OMP conducted panels of inquiries as part of the verification process. More than 89% of persons (1207 of 1370 applicants invited for inquiries) met with members of the panel and their testimonials were recorded.” (A/HRC/51/G/1, 9th September 2022, para 46)

Meanwhile, on the Office for Reparations, the report says, “The office processed 5964 claims for payment, by the end of 2021, and paid a sum of Rs. 399.8 million in settlement, out of the allocated sum of Rs. 800 million….Upto the end of 2022, the OR received Rs. 226 million to pay compensation and 2097 claims were settled utilizing Rs. 153 million.” (para 56)

In sum, even though the government has nominally rejected resolution 46/1 and by extension resolution 30/1 as well, the government is expending great energy, including enormous sums of money, to comply with various provisions of those resolutions.

Assessment of the policy

The Singarasa case establishes that the President, when conducting foreign policy, is exercising the power conferred under Article 33 (f) of the Constitution. One cannot suppose that it is consistent with the Constitution to comply with the provisions of a resolution that the Government itself considers to be in violation of the founding principles of the UNHRC.

Admittedly, a resolution of the UNHRC does not rise to the level of a treaty or covenant. However, there should now be a serious debate in this country about whether the reasoning above should apply to such resolutions which continue to target Sri Lanka on the world stage.

Furthermore, if, as I have suggested, the OHCHR has expanded its mandate by exploiting the provisions of Resolution 46/1 to acquire capabilities that were never envisioned in the relevant founding statutes, permitting such conduct to continue has the potential to set precedents in customary international law, with grave consequences for Sri Lanka, as well as other nations.

Therefore, Sri Lankan citizens are entitled to know the legal basis for the government’s continued compliance with provisions of Resolution 46/1, while nominally rejecting the Resolution. The only institution that can provide a legal opinion binding on the government is the Supreme Court. The President has the capacity, under Article 129 of the Constitution, to request an advisory opinion of the Supreme Court on any matter of public importance.

In these circumstances, it is incumbent on the government to seek an advisory opinion as to whether it is lawful for the government to continue complying with provisions of Resolution 46/1 unless and until the UNHRC clarifies its position in regard to the impugned mechanism.


It is in the interest of all Sri Lankans to keep a close eye on what the government is presently doing in Geneva. There is a famous legal maxim that says, “The laws assist the vigilant, not the sleepy.” Ultimately, it is the Sri Lankan people who will pay the price for any mistakes or missteps that successive governments make in regard to their “Geneva Policy.’

(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law)

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Human Papillomavirus vaccine: one that can prevent a cancer



This article has been written as a fervent plea to the parents of little girls of the eligible age group. Please make sure that your precious daughters get this vaccine. It will be an investment for their happiness in the future.

By Dr B. J. C. Perera

All vaccines by definition are substances that are used to stimulate immunity against a particular infectious disease or a specific causative organism. Such vaccines are used to prevent the occurrence of the said diseases in humans and animals. Several vaccines have been introduced to combat such infectious diseases over the last few decades. In some countries, the use of some of these vaccines has led to the elimination of dreaded diseases like Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough or Pertussis, Polio, Measles, German Measles or Rubella, just to name a few.

Sri Lanka has a very efficient and inherently equitable system that looks after the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) for children and young people. In general, we have been extremely successful in this programme and can boast of over 90 per cent coverage for the vaccination of all children. We have successfully eliminated polio, the last case being confirmed as far back as 1993, and we are free of diphtheria, tetanus, measles and German measles or rubella. The success of the EPI is due to many factors that include government commitment, the unstinted dedication of parents, the promotion of the programme through all media channels and the dedicated work of all grades of healthcare personnel. The very high literacy rate of the populace of our country enables all information regarding vaccination to be most conveniently conveyed to the population. Sri Lanka has been hailed as a country that has achieved so much in this field, but with so few resources. It has been cited as a model to the entire Asian region as well as even the world.

In addition to their undoubted effectiveness in protecting against infective microorganisms, some of these vaccines have other bonus effects. At least two of the vaccines in use today have telling effects in preventing certain cancers. One is the Hepatitis B vaccine. It provides protection against liver cancer. The other is the more recent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (HPV vaccine) which protects females against cancer of the neck of the womb, which is also referred to as the cervix of the womb. That disease is generally referred to as Cervical Cancer.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted and most people become infected sometime during their lifetime. In the majority, it is soon after becoming sexually active. Most infections are asymptomatic and usually clear up spontaneously, accounting for remission in 90% within two years. Only 10% of persistent HPV infections with certain genotypes of HPV can persist and progress to changes in the cervix. If infection from cancer-causing HPV types persists over 10-15 years, women can go on to develop precancerous lesions that, if left untreated, develop into cervical cancer. This process takes an average of 20-30 years from infection to the development of cervical cancer.

In 1995, Dr Anne Szarewski, a renowned researcher from the United Kingdom, led a team who outlined the role of human papillomavirus in uterine cervical cancer detection and screening. Then the researchers began work on an HPV vaccine. Szarewski was also a chief investigator, principal investigator and author of key HPV vaccine trials and publications, who helped to develop the bivalent HPV vaccine. The word bivalent is used to indicate that it contains two strains of HPV. HPV infections are very common, often with minimal symptoms, but high-risk HPV strains can go on to cause other medical conditions, particularly cervical cancer.

In 2006, the first vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) to be used globally was approved. HPV vaccination has now gone on to become a key part of the effort to eliminate cervical cancer. According to the available research results, HPV vaccination could reduce the lifetime risk of cervical cancer by 35–80%; the rather wide range being due to several studies with different methods. The vaccine was initially promptly snapped up in the West, especially in the Scandinavian countries. In Sweden, the coverage of the vaccine is over 80 per cent. However, according to the data put out by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2022, the human papillomavirus vaccine against cervical cancer has been introduced in just 41 per cent of low-income countries, even though they represent much of the disease burden, compared to 83% of high-income countries. We have a set of 10-year data on the benefits of the vaccine and in certain Western countries, a significant drop in the morbidity and mortality rates of cervical cancer is already evident.

In Sri Lanka, the National Vaccine Summit in January 2015 recommended the usage of the HPV vaccine and the government introduced it in 2017 for girls within the age range of 10 to 13 years. That age group was decided on the premise that to get the best results, we need to introduce the vaccine before sexual activity starts. The vaccine was to be administered to the selected age groups in the schools free of charge and in the fee-levying private sector. To date, the vaccine is not available through the Immunisation Clinics of the Provinces and the MOH Clinics.

NOW HERE IS THE REAL CRUX OF THE MATTER. For a variety of reasons, the coverage of the HPV vaccine in the entire cohort of eligible girls in Sri Lanka is somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent. This is woefully inadequate coverage to get the best possible results, especially when looked upon in the light of over 90 per cent coverage of the other vaccines in the National Expanded Programme of Immunisation. Cervical cancer ranks among the five commonest cancers in women in Sri Lanka. HPV vaccine is just one of two vaccines that can prevent cancers. All children have had the Hepatitis B vaccine which protects against liver cancer, as it is given through the National Programme of Immunisation. But, and this is a BIG BUT, the only other vaccine, the HPV vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer, shows a rather low uptake.

We do need to escalate the uptake rate of the HPV vaccine to at least around 80 per cent to get reasonable benefits in the reduction of the morbidity and mortality that is currently seen in cervical cancer. I think we have to admit that due to very many reasons, the message has not gone through to the general population in the country. When inquiries are made from the mothers of eligible girls, the vast majority of them are not even aware of the existence of this vaccine and more importantly, the future beneficial potential of this endeavour. The age group selected is a rather tricky cohort. They get upset at the drop of a hat. The last thing they want is an injection. They will run away, as fast as possible, to avoid it. Some are so frightened that it is not uncommon to see them faint even at the sight of the syringe and the needle. One way of getting the cooperation of these little girls is to allow either the mother or the father to be present to hold her hand most reassuringly when the vaccine is administered. An additional initiative would be to make it widely available through the Immunisation Clinics for it to be administered to all those who have missed it when it was given in the school. This is particularly important as the vaccine is quite expensive when administered in the private sector.

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Latest position on debt restructuring process



By Jayampathy Molligoda

According to the announcement made by the Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF Executive board meeting will be held on 20 March to consider and hopefully approve the EFF arrangement for Sri Lanka. In the meantime, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank in consultation with IMF have finalised the latest position of Sri Lanka’s Public Debt as at end 2022 just prior to commencement of debt restructuring negotiations with creditors. Having perused the document uploaded to the Ministry of Finance (MOF website) recently, which is a comprehensive summary of debt stock as at end 2022, I have tabulated the summary of the main facts and figures (See Table). As can be seen, the total public debt stock has skyrocketed to US $ 83.6 billion, which includes total foreign debt of US$ 45.6 billion and the local debt of 38 billion in US $ equivalent. The total debt as a % of GDP as stated in the above MOF doc is 128%. The public debt is expected be reduced to 100% of GDP in order to ensure debt sustainability in line with IMF supported program parameters coupled with ‘comparability of treatment principle’ whilst ensuring equitable burden sharing for all restructured debt.

However, I have my doubts about GDP computation here. As per the MOF doc page 1, the Nominal GDP was stated as Rs. 23.7 trillion for the year 2022. The $ exchange rate used for conversion as Rs.363.10 clearly indicating that it is the year end figure, they have taken the year end Exchange rate of Rs 363.10 per US$. It is pertinent to ask the question as to why ‘year- end exchange rate’ figure to convert our annual GDP in rupee to US dollars? It should have been the ‘average exchange rate’ as in the past so many years computed by CBSL. As a result, the GDP (in US$ terms) works out to US$ 65.2 billion only. That’s why the total public debt stock of US$ 83.6 billion works out to 128% of GDP – my initial query is; why did they take year-end figure of Rs363.10 instead of taking the average exchange rate?

Besides, the real critical issue is how to reduce the debt stock to a level of 100% of GDP in the context of declining GDP (- 7.8% in 2022) and on the other hand, our debt stock is on the rise. More importantly, if we take the total ‘multilateral debt’ out, then the foreign debt is US $ 34 billion only, which includes ISBs and bilateral loans. Assuming a higher ‘haircut’ of 33% for foreign debt is agreed upon, it works out to 11 billion thus reducing the total public debt to 73 billion only.

In this regard, The President in his latest open letter dated 14 March ‘23 to Sri Lanka’s official Bilateral creditors has clearly indicated that there will be equitable treatment of burden sharing in respect of all creditors (except IMF/WB/ADB) Quote; ” ..we reiterate our commitment to a comparable treatment of all our external creditors with a view to ensuring all round equitable burden sharing for all restructured debt. To that end, we will not conclude debt treatment agreements with any official bilateral creditor or any commercial creditors or any group of such creditors on terms more favourable than those agreed. …To this end we also confirm that we have not and we will not make any side agreements with any creditor aimed at reducing the debt treatment impact on that creditor.”

In the circumstances, my own view is we are reluctantly compelled to restructure local debt i.e.; TBs and, it is inevitable that the local debt of USD equivalent of 38 billion would also need to be taken into consideration for debt restructuring – otherwise there is no way of reducing the total public debt stock to the level that is required as per IMF conditions. This would create a serious issue for our ‘finance system stability’ and all our commercial banks will be in trouble. Further the deposit holders including pension funds are badly affected. The temperature of social unrest is brought closer to the boiling point.

As stated in the global research article by Jonathan Manz recently, former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, and Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, has slammed the IMF for unleashing riots on nations the IMF is dealing with; he has pointed out that the riots are written into the IMF plan to force nations to agree with the average 111 conditions laid down by the IMF and they destroy a country’s democracy and independence. He has been a critique of IMF causing great damage to countries through the economic policies it has prescribed countries to follow in order to qualify for IMF loans. However, neither Stiglitz nor any other eminent economist has yet to come out with a practical and alternative policy framework to overcome the most serious economic and financial crisis faced in the 75 years of Sri Lanka’s independence.

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