UN-Prez tells UNGA
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (22) declared his readiness to engage all domestic stakeholders, and to obtain the support of international partners and the United Nations, in the post-war reconciliation process.
Addressing the 76th UNGA, President Rajapaksa said that it was his government’s firm intention to build a prosperous, stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. “However, history has shown that lasting results can only be achieved through home-grown institutions reflecting the aspirations of the people.
The following is the full text of President’s speech: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on humanity. I sympathise deeply with all who have lost their loved ones during the pandemic. I thank frontline healthcare and essential workers around the world for their dedication and commend the World Health Organisation for its crisis response.
I also greatly appreciate the rapid advances made by the scientific and medical communities in devising vaccines and treatment protocols to combat the virus.
At the same time, we must recognise that the challenges surrounding production, distribution, deployment and acceptance of vaccines must be overcome urgently if the spread of dangerous new virus strains is to be prevented.
Ensuring that everyone, everywhere, is vaccinated is the best way out of the pandemic.
Although still a developing nation, Sri Lanka has been very successful in its vaccination programme.
We have already fully vaccinated nearly all those above the age of 30.
Everyone over the age of 20 will be fully vaccinated by the end of October.
We will start vaccinating children over 15 years of age in the near future.
The rapid progress of vaccinations was enabled by coordinated efforts between healthcare workers, Armed Forces and Police personnel, Government servants, and elected officials.
In collaboration with the WHO, Sri Lanka is establishing a Regional Knowledge Hub to facilitate exchange of lessons learnt from COVID-19 and support countries to recover better.
Sri Lanka also benefitted greatly from financial and material support provided by bilateral and multilateral donors to manage the pandemic.
I thank these nations and institutions for their generosity.
The increased global cooperation visible during this ongoing crisis is greatly encouraging.
However, there is still more to be done.
The economic impact of the pandemic has been especially severe on developing countries.
This has placed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals at considerable risk.
It is vital that more initiatives including development financing and debt relief be adopted through international mechanisms to support developing nations and help them emerge from this uncertain situation.
Sri Lanka too has suffered greatly due to the pandemic.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, our economy has been deeply affected.
The lockdowns, together with general movement restrictions, reduced international travel, and slower global growth have affected nearly all sectors of our economy.
Tourism, one of Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earners and a sector that supports nearly 14% of the population, has been devastated.
This industry, together with small and medium businesses in many other sectors, received Government support through interest moratoriums and other financial sector interventions.
Daily wage earners and low-income groups were also supported through grants of cash and dry rations during lockdowns, adding significantly to state expenditure.
In addition to their immediate impact, these economic repercussions of the pandemic have limited the fiscal space available to implement our development programmes.
As devastating as the consequences of the pandemic have been to humanity, the world faces the even greater challenge of climate change in the decades to come.
As emphasised in the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the unprecedented effect of human activity on the health of the planet is deeply worrying.
Addressing the grave threats posed by climate change and the loss of biodiversity requires decisive and urgent multilateral action.
As a climate-vulnerable country, Sri Lanka is deeply aware of the dangers of climate change.
Sri Lanka’s philosophical heritage, deeply rooted in Lord Buddha’s teachings, also emphasises the vitality of preserving environmental integrity.
It is in these contexts that Sri Lanka is a Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion and leads the Action Group on Mangrove Restoration.
Through the adoption of the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which seeks to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, Sri Lanka has also contributed to global efforts to reduce environmental pollution.
Having participated virtually in the Pre-Summit held in April, I trust that the United Nations Food Summit later this month will result in actionable outcomes to promote healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food systems globally.
Such outcomes will be crucial to human health as well as to the health of our planet.
Sustainability is a cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s national policy framework.
Because of its impact on soil fertility, biodiversity, waterways and health, my Government completely banned the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and weedicides earlier this year.
Production and adoption of organic fertiliser, as well as investments into organic agriculture, are being incentivised.
I appreciate the encouragement received from many global institutions and nations for our efforts to create a more sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka.
The conservation of our environment is one of our key national priorities.
We aim to increase forest cover significantly in the coming decades.
We are also working to clean and restore over 100 rivers countrywide, and to combat river and maritime pollution.
We have also banned single use plastics to support ecological conservation.
Sri Lanka recognises the urgent need to reduce use of fossil fuels and support decarbonisation.
Our energy policy seeks to increase the contribution of renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower to 70% of our national energy needs by 2030.
Sri Lanka welcomes the support of the international community as it engages in the task of reviving its economy and carrying out its national development programme.
We intend to make full use of geostrategic location and our robust institutions, strong social infrastructure, and skilled workforce, to attract investment and broaden trade relationships.
My Government is focusing on extensive legal, regulatory, administrative and educational reforms to facilitate this, and to deliver prosperity to all our people.
Sri Lanka has enjoyed universal adult franchise since pre-Independence.
The democratic tradition is an integral part of our way of life.
My election in 2019 and the Parliamentary election in 2020 saw Sri Lankan voters grant an emphatic mandate to my Government to build a prosperous and stable country, and uphold national security and sovereignty.
In 2019, Sri Lanka experienced the devastation wrought by extremist religious terrorists in the Easter Sunday attacks.
Before that, until 2009, it had suffered from a separatist terrorist war for 30 years.
Terrorism is a global challenge that requires international cooperation, especially on matters such as intelligence sharing, if it is to be overcome.
Violence robbed Sri Lanka of thousands of lives and decades of prosperity in the past half century.
My Government is committed to ensuring that such violence never takes place in Sri Lanka again.
We are therefore acting to address the core issues behind it.
Fostering greater accountability, restorative justice, and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions is essential to achieve lasting peace.
So too is ensuring more equitable participation in the fruits of economic development.
It is my Government’s firm intention to build a prosperous, stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender.
We are ready to engage with all domestic stakeholders, and to obtain the support of our international partners and the United Nations, in this process.
However, history has shown that lasting results can only be achieved through home-grown institutions reflecting the aspirations of the people.
Sri Lanka’s Parliament, Judiciary and its range of independent statutory bodies should have unrestricted scope to exercise their functions and responsibilities.
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.
If, in keeping with the theme of our General Debate today, we are to truly build resilience through hope, we must all strive towards the common good.
It is the role of the United Nations to facilitate this by treating all sovereign states, irrespective of size or strength, equitably, and with due respect for their institutions and their heritage.
I request the United Nations and the international community to ensure the protection of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan.
I call on the member states of this august Assembly to work together in a spirit of true cooperation, generosity, goodwill, and mutual respect to foster a better and more sustainable future for all humanity.”
Central Bank looking at proposal to permit dollar-paid vehicle imports
Duty too must be paid in hard currency
The central bank is looking at a proposal to allow persons who can pay in foreign exchange to import vehicles and pay taxes in hard currency, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said last week.
He said that this was a proposal made by certain parties whom he did not identify making clear it was at a proposal stage with no decision taken. But it was under examination.
Asked whether Non-Resident Foreign Currency (NRFC) account holders – now called Personal Foreign Currency Accounts – would be permitted to use their resources to import a vehicle provided they would pay the applicable duty in hard currency, he said that he did not see why not.
“If the vehicle is paid for in hard currency and not converted rupees, and the duty also accrues to the government in hard currency, I don’t see any harm, in fact it would be good,” he said.
It would also mean that there’s are new vehicles coming into the country not paid for by rupees converted into hard currency plus a hard currency duty stream, an analyst said.
Banning vehicle imports on account of the present foreign exchange crunch has cost the government an immense revenue stream.
Forex pressure eases – CB
By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte
The Central Bank says that pressure caused by shortage of foreign exchange is easing gradually towards better.
“Earnings from exports marked a notable improvement and recorded over US dollars 1 billion for the third consecutive month in August 2021. Expenditure on imports has also increased, partly reflecting the surge in global commodity prices, resulting in an expansion in the trade deficit during the eight months ending August 2021, over the corresponding period of last year. Outlook for tourism improved with the easing of travel restrictions globally and the successful vaccination drive domestically. Despite the moderation of workers’ remittances observed in recent months, a rebound is expected in the period ahead with the improved growth outlook for major foreign employment source countries and greater stability in the domestic foreign exchange market. The realisation of foreign investments in the real sector and the timely adoption of remedial measures by the Central Bank as enunciated in ‘The Six-month Road Map for Ensuring Macroeconomic and Financial System Stability’ are gradually easing pressures in the domestic foreign exchange market,” the Central Bank says.
The CBSL said that it continued to intervene in the foreign exchange market to provide liquidity for essential imports, including fuel. The depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar is recorded at 6.8 per cent thus far in 2021.
It said that the gross official reserves were estimated at US dollars 2.6 billion by end September 2021. This, however, does not include the bilateral currency swap facility with the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of CNY 10 billion (equivalent to approximately US dollars 1.5 billion). Gross official reserves are expected to improve with the measures that are being pursued by the Government and the Central Bank to attract fresh foreign exchange inflows, as outlined in the Six-month Road Map, thereby reinforcing the stability of the external sector in the period ahead.
Samarasinha to promote ‘Commercial Diplomacy” among German states
Nihal S. Samarasinha has been appointed as Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka for three Federal States in Germany, which includes Hessen, Rheinland Palatinate and Saarland.
He would be mainly promoting commecial diplomacy in the three states.
He presented his credentials to State Minister Axel Wintermeyer along with 18 other Consuls General and Honorary Consuls at the official State Residence Villa of the Minister President of Hessen.
Samarasinha, born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Germany in 1972 is the Chairman and Managing Director of Millennium Hospitality Advisory Company providing advisory services and managing and operating hotels of several international hotel brands based in Frankfurt am Main. He is an alumni of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and graduated from the Heidelberg Hotel School, Germany, American Hotel and Motel Association, Michigan USA; Holiday Inn University, Atlanta USA and from the Ramada International University, New York.
His focus in Finance throughout his career made him a proven financial expert with vast analytical skills.
Samarasinha has held senior management positions in organisations such as Holiday Inn WorldWide (Europe) as Director of Finance; Canadian Pacific Hotels – Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) as Regional Comptroller and Ramada International Hotels and Resorts as Vice-President of Finance and Internal Audit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), India and Sri Lanka. He has been engaged in the hospitality industry since 1972 with remarkable success.
Over the years Samarasinha has developed strong bonds with Sri Lankans in all parts of Germany and had assisted them in numerous ways long before he was first appointed Honorary Consul for the Federal state of Rheinland Palatinate in 2010.
He is a co-founder of the Diplomatic Council in Frankfurt along with the former Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Frankfurt Buddhi Athauda, The Diplomatic Council acted as a springboard to promote Sri Lanka Tourism, Trade and Culture in an environment of commercial diplomacy.
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