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Prez announces measures to tackle economic crisis



By Saman Indrajith

President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that the government would bring down the primary deficit to 2.3% of GDP by 2025 and increase revenue to 14% of GDP by 2026.

Making a special statement in the House after tabling a copy of the IMF- Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement, the President said that the standard corporate income tax rate had been raised to 30%, and sectoral tax holidays had been eliminated. The PAYE tax rate had been raised from 12% to 15%, and the tax exemption limit had been reduced from Rs. 300 million to Rs. 80 million.

The President told Parliament that the government was planning to reduce existing exemptions on VAT by 2024, remove the simplified VAT system, and expedite its reimbursement. Estate Duty would be introduced as a property tax by 2025, with a minimum tax exemption allowance, he said.

President Wickremesinghe said the government was aiming to reduce the inflation rate to 4-6% and bring it to a single digit by mid-2023.

“We are planning to reduce the budget deficit and stop printing money. The forex market thresholds and guidelines will be relaxed while allowing market criteria to determine its activities.

The Central Bank plans to purchase foreign currency to build up foreign reserves,” he said.

The government plans to make public the list of individuals and institutions who enjoy tax concessions and tax holidays, and large-scale government procurement contracts. These measures aim to increase transparency and combat corruption in the country.

The President stated that he had previously requested the support of the opposition to rebuild the economy, but did not receive it. “I made similar requests during the opening of Parliament and Budget debates, but to no avail. Despite my efforts, the opposition refused to extend their support citing various reasons,” he said.

He said that at a time when the country was in chaos in July last year, no one was willing to accept responsibility and he was requested to take over. “I had no power in Parliament, no Members of Parliament from my Party to call my own.” But, He said his strength was his conviction that he was capable of rebuilding the country.

“Some people consider the IMF EFF as just another loan, while others claim that the total debt of the country cannot be paid off with the amount received.”

President Wickremesinghe noted that these statements show either ignorance or a willingness to betray the country for political gain.

The President said that the IMF facility is not a loan given at burning interest but a credit facility given to rebuild a fallen country.

He said that the IMF EFF will restore Sri Lanka’s international recognition, ensure the country is not bankrupt and help banks regain international recognition.

“This will create opportunities for low-interest credit, restore foreign investors’ confidence and lay the foundation for a strong new economy,” he said.

“We are now starting a new journey. We have to introduce many economic reforms throughout the process. The foundation for our success will be through this path,” the President said, adding that some of these reforms have already been proposed and implemented through the interim budget of 2022 and the budget for 2023.

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Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves up by USD 2billion over the past year – Acting Finance Minister




Acting Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya during a press conference held today (21) at the Presidential Media Center, focusing on the theme of ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’ said that over the past year, the government successfully increased the country’s foreign reserves from 1.8 billion dollars to 3.8 billion dollars.

He added that in August 2022, the exchange rate stood at Rs. 361 per dollar, but by August 2023, one dollar could be acquired for Rs. 321. This shift is not the result of artificial control but rather a reflection of the rupee’s value adjusting in response to supply and demand for the dollar, which holds significant economic importance.

The interest rate for deposits, previously at 14% in 2022, has been lowered to 11%, while the loan interest rate, previously at 15.5%, has been reduced to 12% this year. Notably, last year, the primary account deficit was Rs. -247 billion, but this year it has turned into a surplus of Rs. 27 billion. This marks the first surplus in the primary account balance in over 40 years.

Tourist arrivals, which numbered 496,430 in 2022, have surged to 904,318 during the first two quarters of this year. Equally impressive is the growth in tourism earnings, which rose from 832.6 million US dollars in 2022 to 1,304.5 million US dollars in the first two quarters of this year, reflecting a remarkable 56.7% increase compared to the previous year.

In the past year, the amount of money remitted by Sri Lankans living abroad to Sri Lanka has surged from 2,214.8 million US dollars to 3,862.7 million US dollars this year, marking a remarkable 74.4% increase according to data from the Ministry of Finance.

On August 1, 2022, the QR code system was introduced as a measure to manage petroleum demand due to foreign exchange shortages. This led to a significant disparity between normal demand and supply, resulting in a notable increase in diesel consumption by 28% and petrol consumption by 83% in June 2023, when the QR system was partially relaxed. However, as of September 1, the QR code system, which directly impacts economic growth, has been completely lifted.

Upon assuming office, President Ranil Wickremesinghe faced a daunting challenge of addressing a 14-hour power outage, which had a direct impact on the economy. Presently, the government ensures a continuous and stable electricity supply to the population.

As of August 23, 2023, there were 1467 imported goods banned due to foreign exchange shortages. Currently, the ban applies to only 279 items. Furthermore, the import of vehicles, which had been halted in 2020, now includes buses and trucks for public transport.

In April 2022, the country faced difficulties in meeting its debt obligations. However, the government has since secured the first installment under the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Credit Scheme, contributing to stabilizing the country’s economy compared to the previous year.


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President Wickremesinghe meets US President Joe Biden in New York




President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted President Ranil Wickremesinghe and first lady Maithri Wickremesinghe for dinner on Thursday

President Joe Biden of the United States and President Ranil Wickremesinghe engaged in a cordial meeting  in New York on Thursday (20).

The high-profile meeting took place amidst a lavish dinner hosted by President Biden, for all the heads of state who had participated in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.


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Ministerial Consultative Committee unanimously consent to canceling the nominations submitted for the Local Government Elections




The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government chaired by  Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena as well as the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government  unanimously consented to cancel the nominations submitted for the Local Government Elections given that those who have submitted nominations have faced great difficulties due to the postponement of the elections.


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