Sri Lanka’s new finance minister quit after one day in office as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa faced more calls from lawmakers to step down for mismanaging the economy, with soaring living costs triggering street protests that spiraled into a political storm.
Ali Sabry, who was sworn in on Monday and replaced the younger Rajapaksa brother Basil, would have been part of a team to oversee the nation’s debt recast — key to obtaining support from the International Monetary Fund. No official reasons were immediately given for his resignation.
His departure is in keeping with the trend of government officials and politicians distancing themselves from the powerful Rajapaksa family in the face of growing public anger over a surge in inflation that is now Asia’s fastest.
Eleven parties within the ruling coalition said in parliament yesterday that they would function as independent lawmakers, bringing the total to 30 members. Another 12 lawmakers from Rajapaksa’s SLPP party will also distance themselves from the government, putting a simple majority in the 225-seat legislature for the president’s coalition in doubt.
Opposition groups earlier rejected overtures from the president to join an interim government after the entire cabinet resigned following street protests by citizens. They want to see a change to the country’s constitution that will limit Rajapaksa’s wide-ranging executive powers, which include calling for elections mid-way through a five-year parliament term and appointing and firing government officials.
“The time has come to change the executive presidency. Let us use this opportunity,” Sajith Premadasa, leader of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya party, said in parliament. “We won’t participate in musical chairs. We will come with the blessings of the people, not for power and privileges.”
David Cameron kicks off Port City Colombo’s global investment drive
Representatives of top corporates in the UAE, accompanied by high-potential investors, property developers, hotel owners, and leaders in the hospitality and real estate industries, converged on the iconic settings of the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi and the Armani Hotel at Burj Khalifa in Dubai to explore, understand, and assess the investment potential of Sri Lanka, with particular emphasis on the transformative Port City Colombo project, a press release said.
The release adds: ‘This elite gathering took place in the presence of the ruling families of the UAE, engaging in a structured conversation led by David Cameron, former British Prime Minister, who outlined a compelling case for investing in Sri Lanka. The discussion was moderated by Niranjan de S Deva Aditya, a former British and European MP, currently serving as the Presidential Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe.
‘The event was held in partnership with Port City Colombo’s regulatory authority, the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, and the primary developer, CHEC Port City Colombo, with the invaluable support of the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, representing an astounding $12 trillion in assets.
‘David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, engaged the audience in an interactive session with his insights on the fast-evolving trade and investment trends in the South-Asian region, the role of the UAE, and the pivotal role of Port City Colombo in transforming the global business landscape.
‘Commenting on Sri Lanka’s recovery over the last few years, Cameron stated that while the country has had its share of challenges, these challenges have also presented ample opportunity, with Port City Colombo at the center of such opportunity. Further commenting on the UAE, Cameron stated, “The UAE is a good case for the potential that can be reached if the right environment is created. I strongly believe Sri Lanka has the potential to reach this, particularly at this point, with all the right reforms taking place and supported by the commitment of President Wickramesinghe.”
‘Sri Lanka’s Banking Guide for Investors & BOI Companies’ launched
Sampath Bank PLC, in collaboration with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) and the Ministry of Investment Promotion, unveiled a comprehensive Banking Guide titled, ‘Sri Lanka’s Banking Guide for Investors and BOI Companies’, a Sampath Bank press release said.
The release adds: ‘The event was held at the Sampath Bank’s corporate office on August 28 with the participation of senior dignitaries from the BOI and Sampath Bank PLC.
‘This Banking Guide serves as a strategic initiative to support the nation’s drive to attract foreign direct investments. It further offers comprehensive banking insights tailored for investors and BOI companies, addressing key areas such as investment accounts, operational banking, borrowing solutions, and related financial services.’
Public Finance Committee calls for report on wheat stocks
SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva has instructed the Auditor General’s Department to estimate the stock of wheat flour currently available in warehouses and submit an audit report within 2 months. He said that if a pricing formula for wheat flour had been adopted, unscrupulous elements would not have been able to exploit consumers.
The matter was discussed when the Committee on Public Finance met recently under the Chairmanship of Dr. de Silva.
The members of the Committee pointed out that wheat flour was sold at different prices. However, according to the prices declared by the Ministry of Finance, one kilo of wheat flour had to be sold at Rs 198.
Recalling the efforts made to prepare a price formula for gas and milk powder last season, the chairman pointed out the need for a price formula for regulating the price of wheat. The Committee emphasised that a price formula should be prepared immediately.
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