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SLPP secured two overwhelming mandates for total economic overhaul – Gevindu

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga says the 2021 budget presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Finance Minister would be able to strengthen what he called village-based economy.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga says Sri Lanka needs to take tangible measures to bolster the local economy or face the consequences.

Referring to overwhelming electoral victories achieved by Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 presidential election followed by the SLPP securing unprecedented 2/3 parliamentary majority in spite of the PR system at the general election, Yuthukama Chief asserted that the 2021 budget would pave the way for overhauling of the national economy.

MP Cumaratunga told The Island that he had an opportunity on Saturday (21) to discuss in parliament how the budget could be the basis for a new economic model to check the ruination brought on by JRJ’s ‘open economic’ policy adopted in the wake of the UNP landslide victory at the 1977 general election.

At the onset of MP Cumaratunga’s speech, the civil society activist emphasized that the country was aware of who carried out the most assassinations of Tamil politicians and the high profile civilian rescue mission conducted by the armed forces in April-May 2009 where over 100,000 men, women and children held as human shields were saved.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya National List MP Mayantha Dissanayake who had been in the Speaker’s Chair intervened several times as Cumaratunga was repeatedly interrupted. When Cumaratunga complained, Dissanayake pointed out those who caused interruptions were members of the SLPP parliamentary group.

SLFP nominee Dr. Suren Raghavan (SLPP) interrupted Cumaratunga’s speech to allege how his efforts as the former Governor of the Northern Province to bring back 83,000 Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu were thwarted by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). On behalf of the TNA, its Vanni District lawmaker Selvam Addaikalanathan (TELO) hit back at Dr. Raghavan.

MP Cumaratunga alleged that President JRJ exploited the difficulties experienced by the people during 1970-77 Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s administration to completely do away with the economic system followed not only by the SLFP led coalitions but the UNP as well. At the expense of the entire gamut of local industries, President JRJ adopted an economy primarily based on foreign loans and an import-export system. The introduction of the new system had far reaching consequences, the MP said, explaining how Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera in his ‘Abuddassa Yugayak’ discussed how the elected, foolishly responded to the then economic situation. Dr. Amarasekera highlighted the increase in the foreign debt amounting to Rs 10.5 bn in 1977 to Rs 6,402 bn by 2019.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga alleged that the treacherous Wickremesinghe-Mangala Samaraweera duo followed the JRJ strategy. Alleging they were the worst of the UNP lot, Cumaratunga said that yahapalana administration co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution against the Sri Lankan military and sought agreements with both New Delhi and Washington at the expense of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Reference was made to ACSA (Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) though MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) was left out.

Their strategy was meant to transform the entire country to a refugee camp, MP Cumaratunga said. Massive SLPP victories at the last presidential and parliamentary polls had underscored the public determination to reverse UNP strategies. The electorate brought the UNP to its knees at the last general election, MP Cumaratunga said, while praising those who defeated the UNP machinations at introducing a new Constitution during the previous administration.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga called for a new Constitution that met the aspirations of a vast majority of people. The lawmaker emphasized along with such a Constitution, the country needed to adopt a new economic model that catered to the needs of the people.

Cumaratunga compared the crisis here and in various parts of the world and the catastrophe faced by the US. Referring to Al Qaeda attacks directed at the US, MP Cumaratunga explained that those who pushed for all out liberalization of economies were now exploring ways and means of bringing back investments home and thwarting terrorism as well as unauthorized crossings across borders.

The MP also discussed the pivotal role played by the Defence Ministry in the overall government projects with the focus on poverty alleviation. Large sums of funds allocated to the Defence Ministry should be considered vital investments for a better future.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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