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Sumanthiran asks why CB not publishing annual reports on timely basis



presents private member’s Bill to amend EPF law

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran presented a private member’s Bill to the Bills Office to amend the Employee Provident Fund Act No. 15 of 1958 (as amended) this week.

He said that his Bill comes at a time when the country needs to seriously undertake economic reform. Part of that economic reform is the independence of the CBSL but also accountability of CBSL, he said.

Given below is the TNA MP’s statement on his Bill:

“The EPF is Sri Lanka’s largest fund, and all private sector (formal) workers are mandated to keep their retirement funds in the EPF. The EPF fund is managed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. As of 2019, there are 19.4 million accounts with the EPF, almost as many as the entire population of this country. Currently, even after an 80% depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee, the EPF should be holding close to USD 10 billion in retirement savings of the hardworking Sri Lankan people. That is around 3.5 trillion rupees, in my estimate.

“More than the entire expected revenue of the government, for 2023. I don’t have precise figures, and must resort to estimates, because the EPF has been extremely irresponsible in publishing even its annual reports. Until November, the latest annual report available was for 2016. After we brought up this issue, during the Budget debates, they suddenly published the annual reports up to 2019. Why is the Central Bank not capable of publishing the annual reports, on a timely basis?

“Does this institution have the kind of management and accountability that people can trust? The Bond Scam from 2015 where the company Perpetual Treasuries, connected to the then Central Bank governor, bought a series of bonds, at low prices, allegedly using insider information, and then allegedly dumped these bonds on the EPF. As a result of the bond scam, forensic audits were ordered and the published forensic audits, in 2019, revealed that the EPF is exploited for private profit and manipulation of the bond market and share market to the detriment of Sri Lankan workers.

“The EPF Act, in its current form, requires that under section 5 (1) (h) the Monetary Board must provide, each year, information on each investment that it has made. This is to be done yearly and shared with the Minister, through the annual report. Not only has the EPF management (the Central Bank) failed to do that, it has refused to comply with RTI requests, even after the RTI Commission has had held that it should disclose information.

This Act is to increase the frequency of disclosure and add more clarity to the disclosures that will be required from the EPF, since it is presently not complying with the existing laws. Therefore, the amendment seeks to give clear requirements for (a) timely and regular disclosure; and (b) ensuring that the content disclosed provides sufficient information on the EPF to ensure accountability of the fund and safeguard the savings of workers. This amendment seeks to mandate better disclosure of information through the annual report (Section 5(1)(i)) and information on each purchase and sale of bonds/assets by the EPF (Section 5 (1)(h)) from an accountability perspective.”

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GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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