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Vast investments opportunities here – Prez tells new Chinese envoy

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China reiterates its pledge to do the maximum for Sri Lanka’s development

The newly appointed Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong presented his credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House yesterday (19).

During the brief cordial discussion with the Chinese Ambassador following the ceremony President Rajapaksa expressed his satisfaction over the long-standing and lasting cooperation and friendship with mutual benefits between Sri Lanka and China.

“China extended its support towards Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development, especially after winning the war against separatism. Colombo Port City, Hambantota Port, Southern Expressway are some those initiatives. Some segments of the society criticized this cooperation between China and Sri Lanka. Their argument was that these projects would not bear fruits. But the truth is the opposite. Projects started with the assistance of China have high income generation and employment creation potentials. My expectation is to see the full completion of these projects before the end of my tenure,” the President said.

President said that Sri Lanka had made it a priority to attract investments instead of further foreign borrowings in its development drive. “There are vast investment opportunities available in our country. Agricultural sector, Communication Technology and education are special among them. Livelihood of around 30% of the population of Sri Lanka depends on rural agriculture. Achieving the kind of rural development that China has reached over the past two or three decades and to improve the living standards of the rural population in Sri Lanka is one of my prime objectives. We seek your assistance in this regard,” President Rajapaksa told the new Ambassador.

In response, Ambassador Zhenhong said that his government was ready to make the maximum possible contribution to the success of Sri Lanka’s economic and social development endeavors.

Extending President Xi Jinping’s good wishes to President Rajapaksa, the Chinese envoy said he aimed to further enhance long-standing friendship between the two countries and to strengthen development and strategic cooperation. “After assuming office, you united the people of Sri Lanka. You guided the country on the path of economic growth while improving the living standards of the people. We witnessed how the government and the people of Sri Lanka stood together in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic,” the new Ambassador said. He also said that China wished to see Sri Lanka emerge as a prosperous nation.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Deputy Head of the Chinese Embassy Hu Wei and the Head of the Political Division Luo Chong were also present on the occasion.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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