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USD 500 mn credit line to procure petroleum products: Govt. wants India to double facility

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‘Protests will ruin efforts to attract tourists’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka is trying to have the USD 500 mn Indian Credit Line for fuel increased to USD 1 bn. Janaka Ratnayaka, Chairman of the five-member Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) yesterday told The Island that Sri Lanka was seeking to have the Indian credit line doubled in line with overall efforts to tackle the worsening crises.

Emphasising the importance of doubling the Indian credit line, Ratnayake revealed that another combination of 200 MT of fuel would be delivered within a short period, also under USD 500 million credit line.

Declaring that funds had been made available for what he called anchored diesel shipment, Ratnayake said that sufficient stocks were now available to provide uninterrupted electricity supply for Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 13, 14 and Good Friday (April 15) as well.

Since the finalisation of the USD 500 mn credit line on Feb 02, 2022, for the purchase of petroleum products, India has delivered four shipments on 16, 20, and 23 March, and 02 April.

Eldos Mathew Punnoose, Head – Press, Information and Development Cooperation – since the operation began, 200,000 mt of fuel had been delivered, including a consignment of 40,000 MT by Indian Oil Corporation, outside the line of credit facility, in February 2022.

Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, who signed for the USD 500 mn credit line on behalf of Sri Lanka, recently resigned after Basil Rajapaksa had lost the finance portfolio. Sri Lanka reached agreement with the Export and Import Bank of India in this regard.

Punnoose said in addition to the USD 500 mn credit line in response to a separate and urgent request from Sri Lanka, New Delhi had swiftly finalised a credit facility of USD 1 billion for the supply of essential items, including food and medicines. The first shipments of rice, under this facility, would be here soon, the official said.

Earlier in January this year, India provided financial assistance to Sri Lanka that included a credit swap of US$ 400 million and deferment of an Asian Clearing Union payment of over USD 515 million. In cumulative terms, Indian support to the people of Sri Lanka, in the first quarter of 2022, is in excess of US$ 2.5 billion, the Indian spokesperson here said.

Referring to travel advisories issued by several countries, PUCSL Chairman Ratnayake emphasised that large scale protests would have a catastrophic impact on efforts to attract tourists. Pointing out those violent incidents outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at Pangiriwatte Road, Mirihana, on March 31, and continuing countrywide protests, including the ongoing campaign opposite the Presidential Secretariat, would undermine efforts to stabilise the situation.

Ratnayake said that the delay on the part of all those concerned at every level to take tangible measures to address issues at hand could increase pressure on the national economy. Responding to queries, Ratnayake said that early stabilisation of the national economy couldn’t be achieved if protests undermined political stability.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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