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VIASL says about 100,000 employees risk losing their jobs due to vehicle imports ban



By Steve A. Morrell

The continuing ban on vehicle imports has jeopardized the jobs of around 100,000 employees directly involved in the industry and its ancillary services, the key association in the trade warned last week.

“In terms of indirect dependents on the industry, 400,000 persons face the risk of losing their livelihoods as the import ban will ultimately sound the death knell to the trade”, says Arosha Rodrigo, Hony. Secretary of the Vehicle Importers’ Association of Sri Lanka (VIASL).

The adverse effects of the ban will also spill over to tourism, health sector, general transport and allied services that function through the regular influx of vehicles, he told a news conference at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

“At the time the ban on vehicle imports was imposed in March 2020, we sought an appointment with the president to discuss the predicament we are in and the repercussions the ban has on the industry as a whole”, Rodrigo noted.

However, the president has so far not granted an appointment for a discussion, he said.

“Our efforts to meet the President’s Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, for a discussion were also unsuccessful”, he remarked.

Rodrigo said that buyers who had secured bank loans to open LCs (Letters of Credit) are now in difficulty as they have to service the loans despite not being able to import vehicles. There are 140 imported vehicles lying in the Colombo port as clearing them was disallowed after the ban came into effect.

He said that the Finance Ministry’s solution to the ban is to assemble vehicles locally. This so-called solution cannot be implemented because world-renowned Japanese and European brands are being assembled in India, Taiwan and other South East Asian countries for export.

Even if Sri Lanka assemble vehicles, they would have to be for export in a competitive market and not for use locally, Rodrigo remarked.

Asked by the media whether there are vehicles being assembled in Sri Lanka at present, he said there is a roll out, but not in sufficient numbers to meet the demand in the local market.

He said before the ban was imposed, around 2,000 vehicles were imported per month.

The VIASL sought a meeting with the President to discuss the creation of a survival plan for the industry to meet their financial commitments, salaries of employees and overhead costs.

“We want to help the government’s efforts to control the outflow of foreign exchange, while ensuring that those who lose their jobs continue in employment to support their families”, Rodrigo added.



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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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