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Prospective applicants protest over demand to raise ‘personal loans’ to buy government flats



At Lunawa Sea View Residencies meant for ‘low and middle income families’


Prospective buyers of Sea View Residencies at Lunawa developed by the Urban Settlement Development Authority (USDA) for “low and middle income families” have been left kicking their heels after they were informed last week to raise “personal loans” ranging from Rs. 3.5 to Rs. 4.1 million from any financial institution to procure the units.

This is apart from the 25% down-payment plus another Rs. 240,000 as “related charges”, which have to be paid upfront to acquire the flats, the prices of which range from Rs. 4.56 million to Rs. 5.58 million.

For example, to procure a unit valued at Rs. 4.56 million on the fourth floor of the complex, one has to make a down-payment of Rs. 1.14 million.

The general practice earlier when selling housing units in complexes specifically meant for “low and middle income families” was for the government institution concerned to arrange a feasible credit facility largely through HDFC Bank.

However, prospective buyers of Sea View Residencies complained that they were summoned to ‘Sethsiripaya’ at Battaramulla on Tuesday and told in no uncertain terms that they need to secure a bank loan if they wanted to procure a unit in the newly-built housing complex.

“When we protested that we are low and middle income earners, and no financial institution would offer a credit facility without collateral, an official interjected that there was then no option, but to give up the idea of acquiring a flat”, the distraught buyers said.

Application forms were initially issued to interested buyers on a non-refundable deposit of Rs. 2,000 each. After shortlisting applicants, interviews were called, where they were assured that after the 25% down-payment on the total value of each unit was made, a credit facility would be arranged through the Bank of Ceylon under a monthly repayment plan at 6.25% per annum, they noted.

The availability of a bank facility was also clearly outlined in letters sent to buyers shortlisted as “eligible applicants” to purchase the flats. However, in a sudden turnaround, the promised loan facility has been ditched, they complained.

Some prospective aspirants had in fact approached banks for some degree of relief, but were specifically told that they should either surrender the deed of the flat or some other form of collateral to secure a ‘personal loan’.

“If we had millions of rupees the USDA is now demanding for the units, we could have purchased a small house in the area without waiting for more than a year until the housing complex was completed”, they reasoned.

Whereas the highest priced unit in the complex costs Rs. 5.58 million, there’s a small house put up for sale for Rs. 5.5 million close to Moratuwa town, another shortlisted applicant said. “If I had ready cash, I would prefer to buy an individual house”.

“We were asked to make the 25% down-payment as early as possible, but in case the balance is not settled within the time-frame, refunds will be subject to an unspecified penalty”, he further said.

It appears that the government has built the Sea View Residencies for the wealthy or for those who pump funds, hold on for some time and resell at a considerable margin, he opined. “The deserving has been elbowed out”.

USDA Director-General, Major General (Retd.) Udaya Nanayakkara assured that he was aware of the issue and discussions are ongoing with banks to evolve a solution.

“We wanted to recover the construction cost of the housing complex as the land value has not been calculated into the price”, he told The Sunday Island.

“We were looking at recouping the investment upfront without opting for a time-consuming repayment plan”, he explained.

Another official, who asked not to be identified, admitted that 90% of the shortlisted applicants are now unable to procure units without a workable repayment scheme.

“We were aware that prospective buyers would be left in the lurch sans a bank facility as low and middle income earners don’t have access to millions of rupees in liquid cash. However, we had to adhere to UDA (Urban Development Authority) guidelines”, he asserted.

He said that with the growing displeasure over preference to “people who can afford” rather than “those who deserve” has resulted in looking at the process afresh and the possibility of arranging a bank facility is on the cards.

The President, and the Prime Minister, as Housing Minister, should be made aware of obstacles placed by an officialdom insensitive to the average man’s housing needs, he noted.

The applicants were shortlisted on the basis of a monthly household income of Rs. 75,000. Those who earned more than this were rejected as the flats are meant for low and middle income families, he added.

“At the end of the day, the displeasure generated will reflect on the government”, he added.

A UDA official said the complex was developed by the USDA and therefore “it’s their baby”.

“We had nothing to do with it”.

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Lanka to lend US$2.5bn to US and top-rated borrowers in 2023 under IMF deal: analysis



ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is projected to lend 2,533 million US dollars mainly to the US and Euro areas during an International Monetary Fund deal in 2023 including a mandatory 1.4 billion US dollars collected from exports and remittances, according to official documents.

Sri Lanka is expected to get two tranches of 331.2 million dollar (254 million special drawing rights each) in March and September 2023 from the IMF.In 2023 Sri Lanka has to repay 256.4 million dollars from an earlier IMF loan taken during an earlier currency crisis.

Net inflows from the IMF would be 406.12 million US dollars in 2023 if the first review is completed in September 2023.Sri Lanka has committed to collect at least 1.4 billion US dollars from remittances and exports and lend to the US and other developed nations during 2023 under the IMF deal.

A large volume has already been collected. An ad hoc peg is now operated under the IMF deal to buy dollars and export to the West, as ‘below-the-line outflows. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are usually loaned to highly rated sovereign or sovereign linked borrowers, mainly in the US.

But there have been amounts of Euro assets in Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves at times, triggering forex losses when the dollar to Euro parity changed.Under the IMF program there is a performance criterion to increase net international reserves by 1,948 million dollars during 2023.

Sri Lanka is also expected to repay a 200 million US dollar swap to Bangladesh during 2023, which will also raise the NIR.At the moment Sri Lanka’s central bank is in debt after borrowing from India, Bangladesh, India including on Asian Clearing Union dues as well as the IMF. Year end net international reserves would still be negative.

Sri Lanka’s gross reserves are expected to rise by 2.5 billion US dollars to 4.4 billion US dollars in 2023 indicating that the country will lend 2.5 billion US dollars to the US and other highly rated borrowers. It may include re-invested interest coupons.

Sri Lanka is also expected to get 650 million dollars from the Asian Development Bank and 250 million dollars from the World Bank as part of partner support for the IMF deal. Outside of core monetary reserves linked to reserve money, balances in Treasury accounts are also counted as forex reserves.

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BASL writes to IGP over protest against Saliya Peiris



The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned a protest staged outside the Law of Chamber of BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC on Friday.The protest was staged against the representation of Saliya Pieris, PC for notorious Sri Lankan drug kingpin Nadun Chinthaka alias “Harak Kata”.

Condemning the protest, BASL said in a statement that Saliya Pieris, PC was only conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law,” it pointed out.

The BASL called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take action to ensure that Saliya Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.

Full text of the letter: ” We write with reference to an organized protest outside the chamber of Mr Saliya Pieris, President of the \Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

We have been made aware the said protest relates to Mr. Pieris conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client. We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law.In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that:

“The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978. As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession.

Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.”

Further, Section 41 of the Judicature Act which has clearly set out the right of representation, and, has further shed light on the above mechanism established for implementing the administration of justice in the country.

It is as follows; Section 41 of the Judicature Act (Right of Representation)

(1) Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice and every person who is a party to or has or claims to have the right to be heard in any proceeding in any such court or other such institution shall be entitled to be represented by an attorney-at-law.

(2) Every person who is a party to any proceeding before any person or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial powers and every person who has or claims to have the right to be heard before any such person or tribunal shall unless otherwise”

Therefore, we strongly demand that you take action to ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.”

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State need not do business, says Ranil, seven SOEs to be divested



ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law and order, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).

At a discussion at the presidential secretariat on Thursday morning, Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the decision said that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.

Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has on education, he said.The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares: Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd,

Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing), and Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC

The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.

“Not all of them are loss making. But we do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.

“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.

Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”

“In what country is there a law that these (businesses) should be (held by the state)?” he added.

Noting that the crisis-hit nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, the president said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.

“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.”

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