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Too early to reopen country – SLMA tells Prez

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The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) on Saturday urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to continue with the current lockdown measures uninterrupted considering that over 2,000 COVID-19 cases and over 50 deaths were being reported on a daily basis and also the detection of the highly contagious Indian COVID-19 variant.

SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratne, in a letter to the President, said that they were gravely concerned and disappointed that the lockdown would be lifted from 21st to 23rd and re-imposed from 23rd to 25th June 2021.

“The basis for this is not all that clear to us. The country is still experiencing more than 2,000 new cases and around 50 deaths every day. To complicate this situation further, there is also evidence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus being prevalent in the community. This variant is 50 per cent more transmissible than the currently dominant variant. We foresee that a release of the current lockdown even for a few days will lead to the uncontrolled free movement of people and would thereby lead to an alarming increase in transmission, with rapid spread of the new variant. The epidemic will thereby escalate to an unprecedented level, causing increasing numbers of cases and unacceptable mortality, on a scale that could completely overwhelm the health system,” she said.

Full text of the SLMA letter: “We greatly appreciate the decision, which the Government took to declare a countrywide lockdown from 21st May 2021 onwards to curb the rapidly worsening COVID-19 epidemic at the time. Despite the lockdown being somewhat imperfect, with some sectors of the population continuing to be mobile and working, we believe that this intervention prevented a much larger number of deaths and averted significant suffering of the people in the country. It also prevented the health system, which was running at full capacity at the time, from collapsing.

“Given the state of the epidemic, we the Sri Lanka Medical Association in our letter of 1 1 th June requested that the lockdown be extended until, at least, 28th June. We note, however, with grave concern and disappointment that the lockdown will be lifted from 21st to 23rd and re-imposed from 23rd to 25th June 2021. The basis for this is not all that clear to us. The country is still experiencing more than 2000 new cases and around 50 deaths every day. To complicate this situation further, there is also evidence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus being prevalent in the community. This variant is fifty per cent more transmissible than the currently dominant variant. We foresee that a release of the current lockdown even for a few days will lead to the uncontrolled free movement of people and would thereby lead to an alarming increase in transmission, with rapid spread of the new variant. The epidemic will thereby escalate to an unprecedented level, causing increasing numbers of cases and unacceptable mortality, on a scale that could completely overwhelm the health system.

“There is even now a considerable variation in the number of new cases, and the burden on the healthcare facilities between districts. When it is deemed appropriate to ease the lockdown, it will have to be done in a carefully phased manner on a district-basis, grounded on reliable real-time data at district level, rather than in the country as a whole. The SLMA & SLMA Inter-Collegiate Committee (SMIC) are in the process of developing an “exit strategy” that will be handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka during the course of this week. In it we recommend establishing district level Committees of Community Physicians to analyse good quality real-time data and decide on the level of mobility restriction within the district on the basis of several relevant criteria that we have identified. District level decisions will need guidance from and overall agreement of the Ministry of Health.

“It is with deep concern that we urge Your Excellency to continue with the current lockdown measures uninterrupted. at this crucial moment of time. Lifting the lockdown even for a few days is likely to take us back to the major epidemic situation which prevailed in April this year. The gains that have been made during the lockdown of the last three weeks will then be sacrificed, and it will take all that much longer and a tremendous effort on the part of all stakeholders, to return us even to this level of control again.

“We remain committed to assisting you and the government in all your endeavours to safeguard the health of the nation.”



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Pakistan’s ex-president, Pervez Musharraf dies aged 79

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(picture BBC)

BBC reported that Pakistan’s former president General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has died aged 79.

The former leader – who was president between 2001 and 2008 – died after a long illness, a statement from the country’s army said.

He had survived numerous assassination attempts, and found himself on the front line of the struggle between militant Islamists and the West.

He supported the US “war on terror” after 9/11 despite domestic opposition.

In 2008 he suffered defeat in the polls and left the country six months later.

When he returned in 2013 to try to contest the election, he was arrested and barred from standing. He was charged with high treason and was sentenced to death in absentia only for the decision to be overturned less than a month later.

He left Pakistan for Dubai in 2016 to seek medical treatment and had been living in exile in the country ever since.

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The 75th Anniversary of National Independence celebrated under the patronage of President, PM

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(picture Presidents Media)

The 75th National Independence Day celebration was held under the theme “Namo Namo Mata – A Step towards the Century”, under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Saturday morning (04) at Galle Face Green.

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Lanka sovereign bond holders write to the IMF

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ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka’s bondholders have written to the International Monetary Fund expressing their willingness to engage in debt re-structuring talks but also raising matters related to the domestic debt re-structuring and economic assumptions and forecasts.

The group, styling itself as the “Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the Bondholder Group) has written last week to the IMF Managing Director from New York said inter alia that the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

The letter concluded with the paragraph: Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

Following is the text of the letter:

NEW YORK, Feb. 3, 2023

Dear Managing Director Georgieva,The Ad Hoc Group of Sri Lanka Bondholders (the “Bondholder Group”) acknowledges the Sri Lankan authorities’ engagement with their official creditors towards a resolution of the current crisis and restoration of debt sustainability.

The Bondholder Group further acknowledges that such engagement has recently resulted in the Government of India (in its letter to the IMF, dated January 16, 2023 (the “India Letter”)) delivering letters of financing assurances, committing to support Sri Lanka and contribute to its efforts to restore debt sustainability by providing debt relief and financing consistent with the IMF Extended Fund Facility Arrangement (the “IMF Programme”) and the IMF Programme targets indicated in the India Letter.

Similarly, the Bondholder Group through its Steering Committee stands ready to engage quickly and effectively with the Sri Lankan authorities to design and implement restructuring terms that would help Sri Lanka restore debt sustainability and allow the country to re-gain access to the international capital markets during the IMF Programme period.

Based on the limited information available to us at this time, including information contained in the India Letter, we understand that the IMF Programme’s debt sustainability targets are identified as

(i) reducing the ratio of public debt to GDP to 95% by 2032,

(ii) limiting the central government’s annual gross financing needs to GDP ratio to 13% in the period between 2027 and 2032, and central government annual foreign currency debt service at 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032 and

(iii) closing of the external financing gap.

The Bondholder Group hereby confirms it is prepared to engage, through its Steering Committee, with the Sri Lankan authorities in restructuring negotiations consistent with the parameters of an IMF Programme and the targets specified therein (the “IMF Programme Targets”), which the Bondholder Group understands to be the targets identified in the India Letter; it being recognized that these negotiations will necessarily be further informed by the receipt of the forthcoming DSA.

We would note that the finalization of an agreement will also be subject to the satisfaction of the following conditions:

The central government’s domestic debt – defined as debt governed by local law – is reorganized in a manner that both ensures debt sustainability and safeguards financial stability.

Assuming that annual gross financing needs should not exceed 13% of GDP in the period between 2027 and 2032, whilst allowing for central government annual foreign currency debt service to reach 4.5% of GDP in every year between 2027 and 2032, domestic gross financing should therefore be limited at 8.5% of GDP for the period 2027-2032.

While we recognize that the determination of the economic assumptions underpinning the IMF Programme Targets is ultimately the responsibility of the IMF and that the overall design of the IMF Programme is one that is negotiated between the IMF and Sri Lanka, it is nevertheless important that the Bondholder Group has the opportunity to express its views on both the economic assumptions underpinning these IMF Programme Targets and the adequacy and feasibility of the adjustment efforts contemplated under the IMF Programme.

When considering any restructuring proposal that is made to the Bondholder Group, it is the Bondholder Group’s intention to take into consideration the extent to which the economic assumptions and the adjustment efforts are consistent with these views.

Recognizing the important commitments made by India in the India Letter, the Sri Lankan authorities will apply the principle of comparable treatment in respect of the debt relief requested and obtained from all their remaining official bilateral creditors.

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