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Ranil says UNP can garner IMF support for immediate economic take-off



by Sanath Nanayakkare

A future UNP government could garner the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise funds to honour the country’s debt repayment commitments, without causing any disruption to the economy, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said, at Mattegoda, last Saturday (01).

“The IMF has helped the UNP governments in the past to resolve balance of payment issues and effectively restore Sri Lanka’s economy during dire times, including the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. I am confident that the international lender will provide its much needed support to a UNP government, with loans on affordable terms because it knows that we do not compromise our sound economic policies and revenue-based fiscal consolidation programmes.”

The UNP leader said: “Our priority will be mitigating the negative impact of Covid-19 on diverse segments of the economy; from three-wheeler drivers to wage-earning workforce to self-employed people and small and medium entrepreneurs. The Covid-19 public health crisis has weighed heavily on economic activity, employment and inflation and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook in the near-to-medium term. The level of economic activity has drastically slowed down as consumers fear for their future. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, about five million people have lost their jobs and a similar number of jobs are at risk. Thousands of people have experienced pay-cuts and reduction of their allowances. Employers are not hireing job seekers. Many people can’t pay their house rents, utility bills and payback their loans.

“Hence today everyone is thinking about their financial problems more than the parliamentary election because that’s very important to them. When I was Prime Minister I adopted a revenue-based fiscal consolidation strategy to increase government income at the risk of growing public displeasure. At that time, the government earned Rs 150,000 million as revenue. In July 2020, it declined to Rs. 50,000 million. Our public servants’ pensions alone require Rs. 90,000 million and the government had to borrow to meet pension payments among other things. How long can we go on like this?

“During the Yahapalana government, we struck a certain balance between our income and expenditure and obtained support from bilateral and multilateral lending agencies for economic development. In 2018/19 we were able to have a surplus in our primary account.

“Today, the country’s stressed external liquidity position remains a credit weakness. Sri Lanka has not been able to get IMF funds despite having made three requests to them. Pakistan and Bangladesh have received funds from the IMF, and there should be no reason why Sri Lanka can’t access their funds. The UNP has presented a new three-year economic framework to face the challenges in the future which would boost confidence of the international lending agencies in our macroeconomic prudence and post-pandemic recovery path going forward. International funding will help strengthen the rupee. More exports and foreign remittances will bring in more money into the country. Through that strategy we will put more money into consumers’ wallets and increase their spending power. If current liquidity issues continue, the exchange rate of the rupee will hover around Rs. 195-Rs. 200 by October. In such a context, there will be more severe import controls and smartphones, electric and electronic goods will not be available in the market. Commodity prices will go up and life will be more difficult six months from now. Our new economic programme is capable of addressing such fiscal and external challenges. I urge you to consider the looming threats of these issues as you go to cast your vote on August 5.”


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Foreign qualified medical students protest



A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament



Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court



By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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