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Treasury Chief turns down AG’s request for funding

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Budget 2022: Cash strapped govt. suspends new constructions

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle has turned down Auditor General W. P. C. Wickramaratne’s request for public funds for building an international training centre at Horana for the National Audit Office.

The Communications Department of Parliament quoted Treasury/Finance Secretary Attygalle as having told the Committee on Public Finance chaired by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa that the Cabinet wouldn’t allocate funds from Budget 2022 for new constructions. The Finance Secretary said so when the AG asked whether funds could be allocated for the project.

Acknowledging the requirements of the National Audit Office, MP Yapa, who represents the SLPP, pointed out that there were quite a number of state-owned buildings that weren’t in use currently. The MP expressed the view that perhaps the requirement of the National Audit Office could be met as space was available in the public sector.

The Committee on Public Finance met virtually with the participation of State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Dr. Harsha de Silva (SJB), Prof. Ranjith Bandara (SLPP) and several officials. The majority of Committee members however haven’t participated in the proceedings.

The cash-strapped government has decided not to fund new major constructions as part of the overall cost cutting measures taken in the wake of unprecedented drop in state revenue due to Covid-19, waste, corruption and irregularities.

However, at the same meeting MP Yapa’s committee had approved a new special textile production zone of 400 acres in the Eravur area to provide economic and social benefits to the people, the Communication Department said.

The project would be implemented by the Board of Investment (BoI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for local and foreign textile manufacturers under the Strategic Development Act No. 14 of 2008.

Commenting in detail, the Director General of the Board of Investment Pasan Wanigasekara told the Committee that two factories in Eravur had already expressed their willingness to start production of high-quality garments for the foreign market. State Minister Godahewa pointed out that it would be unfair if those factories were given additional benefits compared to the other factories in the country. Prof Ranjith Bandara, too, asserted those operating in Eravur shouldn’t receive benefits not available to other companies engaged in similar projects. The Communication Department quoted the MP as having said that it would be like giving away a blank check so that only the relevant companies would receive unlimited opportunities.

FS Attygalle emphasised that the proposed zone targeted local and foreign textile manufacturers and was not garment factories.

MP Yapa recognised the importance of such investment opportunities in view of the situation facing the country.

Ministerial sources said that the government would have to proceed cautiously as the economy was facing quite a serious challenge amidst a worldwide economic/health crisis. With major revenue sources including tourism seriously affected due to Covid-19 eruption, the government would have to cut down on unnecessary spending.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is on record as having said that the country faced daunting challenges in settling USD 4 bn in loan repayments.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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