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Sabry reveals state coffers had dipped to USD 17 million when he took over as finance minister

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry

* Says can’t defend what can’t be defended

* SL should present a local mechanism free of smoke and mirrors to sell at next UNHRC sessions in Geneva

* Commends former Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy

By Sanath Nanaykkare

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry recently revealed that State coffers had only USD 17 million dollars when he took over as finance minister on 8th April 2022, and faced the unenviable task of paying USD 178 million on 18th April for various bills.

“In 2020, we had USD 7.6 billion worth of foreign reserves and at the time I took over the Finance Ministry, there was a mere USD 17 million. That amount was going up and down on a daily basis while another USD 500 million had to be found to pay for oil shipments that were coming in,” he said.

Speaking to journalists on ‘Salakuna’ programme telecast on Hiru TV, the former finance minister said it was good that there’s going to be court case on how the national economy came to a grinding halt due to the economic decisions taken at the time where we can also make submissions.

The minister went on to say that the decisions taken at the time to unrealistically hold the exchange rate, the rapid exhaustion of foreign reserves to defend the Sri Lanka rupee, the persistent assertion on a home-grown solution to the foreign exchange crisis instead of seeking timely assistance from the IMF led to an almost empty Treasury.

He didn’t have anything positive to say about the ban on chemical fertilizer which he said had been done without any research or following any country model for success.

“They were waiting for money to fall from somewhere. Someone went to Qatar five times to obtain short-term loans, but that didn’t work. It was anticipated that China would help, but the Chinese swap of USD 1.5 Billion came as something unusable. I had told President Gotabaya Rajapkasa well in advance to appoint an economic advisory council for him to consult with, on economic and financial decisions. But he depended on a few consultants one can count on the fingers of one hand,” he said.

However, when asked if those consultants committed an economic crime by giving wrong advice to the president, he said that motive is always necessary to prove a crime and he didn’t think there had been any motive to cause harm through such advice.

“I don’t want to put the blame on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he is out of power now. And it would be very remiss of me not to mention the freedom and the support he gave me to carry out my duties as a minister,” he said.

Commending former Central Bank governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Sabry said,” Having seen the scope of loans burgeoning between 2010- 2015, Dr. Coomaraswamy realized that by 2016-2018, a big amount of loan repayments would be accrued to pay and he raised funds when it was accessible and topped up foreign reserves and managed the situation well. But the financial authorities of the last administration didn’t have that farsightedness. What you can’t defend can’t be defended, “he noted.

The former finance minister said he would accept the responsibility for announcing to the world Sri Lanka’s inability to service its external debt and even face any punishment if it proved to be a wrong decision.

“In fact, that decision was made after consulting several high-profile Sri Lankan financial and economic specialists, not just by me; however, as finance minister I’d accept the responsibility for it without running away from it. We didn’t have the money to repay the loans. So it was advisable to announce it in advance and also convey Sri Lanka’s commitment and readiness to pay when it managed the crisis and received funds. We decided that a soft default would be better than an unannounced default which would have had more damaging consequences”.

When asked about economic decision making at present, he said,” President Ranil Wickramasinghe has extensive macroeconomic prudence and always follows the ratio of any expenditure to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and ensures that there is income to provide for any fund allocation.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s defeat at the recent UNHRC vote in Geneva, the Foreign Minister said,” I reiterated Sri Lanka’s unwavering commitment towards advancing, securing and protecting the human rights of our people, and continuing our engagement with the Council in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue. I must say this, when it comes to war victims in the North, we must establish a credible truth-seeking mechanism within the framework of the constitution.

The contours of the model have to provide relief to the families affected by the war and missing persons’ families. Also, it needs to create a platform for war heroes also to present their cases in a fair trial because you can’t put all war heroes into one single pan. Collection of evidence and how it is used in investigation is critically important. We must soon develop an indigenous mechanism acceptable to the international community for this purpose. What we are going to showcase at the next UNHRC sessions must be free of smoke and mirrors or else we will lose even more votes, and it will have far-reaching negative effects on the country’s credibility in terms of accountability and the obligations assumed by Sri Lanka under international human rights treaties. The foreign minister is only a marketing guy for Sri Lanka at UNHRC sessions, so I myself or any other foreign minister must have a product that we can sell to the international community. How can you market a product that they won’t buy? So let’s create a marketable product without procrastination,” he said.



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BOI reports FDI inflows of US$ 713 million in first nine months of 2022

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From left: Raja Edirisuriya, BOI Chairman, Dilum Amunugama, State Minister of Investment Promotion and Renuka Weerakone, Director General of BOI

Signs 123 agreements to the value of US$ 1.9 billion in first 11 months

The Board of Investments of Sri Lanka (BOI) has attracted foreign direct investment at record levels notwithstanding a spate of global and local volatilities with total FDI inflows amounting to US$ 713 million in the first nine months of 2022, which is 71% of the 2022 full-year target of US$ 1 bn, revealed State Minister of Investment Promotion Dilum Amunugama.

Further, as of the first eleven months, BOI has inked a total of 123 agreements to the value of US$ 1.9 billion, which consists of US$ 1.5 billion in new projects and US$ 400 million in expansions.

New projects are from countries such as India, Japan, Norway, Hong Kong, the UK, the USA, and Singapore. Out of 41 new projects, the majority are for the manufacturing sector including apparel followed by ICT, Tourism, Infrastructure, Utilities, Services, and Agriculture sectors while most of the expansions of existing projects are from the manufacturing sector including apparel followed by logistics, telecommunication, ICT and Agriculture sectors.

Meanwhile, the export revenue of BOI enterprises topped US$ 7.9 Bn for the period from January to November 26, 2022.

Taking a look at the statistics related to merchandise exports, data from BOI Research & Policy Advocacy Department highlight that all export items except food, paper, and horticultural products have shown a significant increase in the given period compared to the corresponding period in 2021.

Accordingly, wearing apparel (excluding leather gar.) exports grew 8 % to US$ 4591.86 million in 2022 compared to the US$ 4261.48 million recorded in 2021, while rubber exports grew 3 % to US$ 1,052 million.

Also, other manufactured products (N.E.S.) exports grew 112 % to US$ 477 million, while PVC products grew 20 % to US$ 100.54 million.

In addition, export earnings from Jewellery & Lapidary increased by 16 % to US$ 134.99 million in 2022 while Leather Products (Including Leather Gar.) grew 72 % to US$ 16.32 and Footwear exports grew 146% to 2.6 million.

Apparel exports show the highest earnings in 2022 while footwear exports show the highest percentage in terms of growth.

The BOI has always been the forerunner of Sri Lanka’s export industry contributing over 65% to the country’s overall export earnings and 85% to the national industrial export earnings.

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Canisius Fernando re-elected CNCI Chairman for another term

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Ceylinco Life directors and representatives of the senior management

The Ceylon National Chamber of Industries (CNCI) had its 61st Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 25th November 2022 at Hotel Taj Samudra, Colombo. Thilaka Jayasundara, Secretary, Ministry of Industries was the Chief Guest while Chaminda pathiraja, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Industries was the Guest of Honour. Canisius Fernando, who had been the Chairman – CNCI for the past year was re-elected Chairman for another term at the AGM.

Fernando counts decades of experience in the private sector holding very senior and responsible appointments in reputed organizations in the country.

He has obtained his initial Degree in Management followed by a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. Currently he is holding the position of the Chief Executive Officer of Aqua Packaging (Pvt) Ltd. In addition to his responsibility as the Chairman CNCI, he also holds the honorary appointment of the Chairman of “Indexpo Certification Ltd” which is a Certification Body initiated by the Ceylon National Chamber of Industries together with the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka.

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Ceylinco Life continues green mission with new branch in Minuwangoda

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The model of the new building to be constructed

Steadfast in its commitment to a greener environment, Ceylinco Life recently laid the foundation for its newest eco-friendly branch building in Minuwangoda, which will be the first of the Company’s branches to adopt a new low-cost precast concrete technology.

The new building will be built to the environment-friendly specifications adopted for all new branches on Company-owned land, and upon completion will be the 47th property to be owned by Ceylinco Life and the 32nd branch to operate in a Company-owned building.

The two-storey building at No 101, Veyangoda Road, Minuwangoda, will have 3,270 square feet of office space and seven dedicated parking slots.

As per the green mandate of Ceylinco Life, this branch will be powered entirely by a 20kW solar power system that results in zero consumption of electricity from the national grid, will have its own rainwater harvesting facility and a waste-water recycling system, minimising the use of pipe-borne water.

It will also be purpose-designed to make optimal use of natural light and will be fitted with energy-efficient artificial lighting and air conditioning systems. The precast construction method will also ensure minimal timber is used in the construction, the Company said.

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