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Rs. 27 b losses in excise revenue due to COVID situation, COPA told



The Government has lost Rs. 27 billion in excise revenue this year due to the current COVID situation, Commissioner General of Excise M.J. Gunasiri has informed the Committee meeting on Public Accounts (COPA). He said that although the projected revenue of the Excise Department this year was Rs. 160 billion, it was difficult to achieve it in the current situation.

He made these remarks at the COPA meeting held to inquire into the Auditor General’s Report for 2019 and the current performance of the Excise Department. COPA is chaired by MP Tissa Vitharana.

Although the Excise Department, the Customs Department and the Inland Revenue Department had made recommendations at a COPA meeting in 2019 to set up a computer system that would be interconnected, the committee discussed at length that it had not yet been implemented.

While the committee emphasised the need to implement a computer software system to correct the process of calculating the Excise Revenue of the Department, attention was also drawn to the fact that the project had not been implemented properly despite the allocation made in the Budget and Supplements for 2016 and 2018.

Gunasiri informed the committee that work had already started on installing a computer system. He was then directed by the committee to provide a time frame for the installation of this computer system, along with a defined plan, before Nov 5.

Delays in the provision of safety stickers for liquor bottles and liquor-related products and the delay in the development of a secure sticker management system were also discussed at this meeting aimed at increasing Government revenue.

Excise officials said that the process had been delayed due to factors such as the need to implement digital technology by major manufacturing companies and the prevailing COVID situation. The COPA Chairman instructed officials of the Excise Department to expedite this process.

State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna stated that the above projects should be expedited in order to obtain the proper revenue due to the Excise Department, which is the third highest revenue earner for the Government.

The Committee strongly emphasised the need to expedite the implementation of these recommendations made by COPA without further delay.

State Ministers Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Prasanna Ranaweera and MPs Tissa Attanayake, Ashok Abeysinghe, Upul Galappaththi, Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Faizal Cassim and B.Y.G. Ratnasekera, Secretary to the Treasury and Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle were present at the meeting held.

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Earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027 – Dr Bandula Gunawardena




Minister of Transport and Highways and Minister of Mass Media Dr Bandula Gunawardena at a press briefing held at the Presidential Media Center today (30) said that the earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027, at which time it is envisaged that the countries foreign reserves which stand at USD 3.5 billion at present would increase to USD 14 billion..


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Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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