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Polls won’t impede Indo-Lanka talks on ‘financial measures’ to save SL economy

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The upcoming general election will not impede ongoing talks between India and Sri Lanka on re-scheduling of bilateral debt repayment, according to authoritative sources.

Asked whether a consensus could be reached before the general election, sources answered in the negative. They, however, explained that relevant officials were continuing deliberations in that regard.

Indian and Sri Lankan officials held a video conference on July 22 to discuss re-scheduling of bilateral debt repayment.

 The Indian delegation consisted of senior External Affairs, Finance, and the EXIM Bank officials whereas Sri Lanka was represented by the Department of External Resources.

Talks followed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Finance Minister having telephone conversations with Indian leader Narendra Modi, on May 23 and 27, respectively. Subsequently, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay again took up the matter on May 29 leading to the Indian High Commission in Colombo engaging the government to pave the way for talks on re-scheduling of bilateral debt repayment.

 The next round of technical discussions between the two sides on rescheduling of debt repayment is expected to be held soon though not before the election.

 Earlier President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the economy was in dire straits due to major revenue sources, namely garment exports, foreign remittances and tourism being badly affected as a result of corona epidemic.

 Sources said that in addition to the re-scheduling of debt repayment, Sri Lanka had sought 1.1 billion USD under the SWAP facility to top up the USD 400 million SAARC facility to assist Sri Lanka in overcoming its foreign exchange crisis. Sources said that USD 400 mn facility had been finalized whereas discussions were yet to take place as regards the USD 1.1 bn currency swap facility. Discussions were expected after the general election.

Responding to another query, sources said that once the election was concluded talks on re-scheduling of debt repayment and USD 1.1 bn currency swap facility could take place.

 Asked for the Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s response to ongoing talks with India, SJB Colombo District candidate Dr. Harsha de Silva said: “We will certainly work with all our friends around the world to see how they could help us. We will continue all negotiations and we are confident we could arrive at solutions that would help us tide over the difficulties.”

 



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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