Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (13) reiterated Sri Lanka’s opposition to the establishment of an external mechanism to inquire into accountability issues. Such measures would impede ongoing domestic processes, Prof. Peiris said.
The Minister also briefed the Colombo- based diplomatic community as regards the Constitutional reforms and the forthcoming Provincial Council elections.
The following is the text of statement issued by the Foreign Ministry at the conclusion of the briefing at the Foreign Ministry auditorium conducted under the approved COVID-19 related guidelines: “At the outset the Minister appreciated his first opportunity to meet with the entire diplomatic corps collectively following his assumption of duties as Foreign Minister some weeks ago. Due to the previously prevailing COVID-19 situation, such a meeting could not take place earlier as he would have wished, the Minister stated. The objective of the meeting was to cordially brief the diplomatic community on recent developments of interest to them.
“The Minister stated that he was pleased to report that the COVID-19 situation in the country had improved, following a very successful vaccination effort. Despite severe challenges, over 70% of the population has now been fully vaccinated allowing for the gradual opening up of the country. The Minister sought the cooperation of the diplomatic community in the resumption of tourism and economic activity. The Minister expressed his appreciation to the diplomatic community for their support and assistance during the COVID-19 crisis including to all UN agencies as well as donors and Colombo–based multilateral financial institutions.
“Minister Peiris also briefed the diplomatic community on his recent overseas engagements, including at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and during his visit to New York, accompanying H.E the President when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. At the UNGA, Sri Lanka stood in solidarity with global efforts to address pressing issues which required a collective approach from all countries big and small. In the next major international engagement which will be the COP 26 in Glasgow where the Minister will accompany the Sri Lanka President, as a climate vulnerable country, will further reiterate its commitments in this regard.
“The Minister recalled his statement to the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council following the presentation of the Oral update on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he outlined Sri Lanka’s ongoing cooperation with the Council as well as the progress made on reconciliation and human rights through domestic institutions. Further updating the diplomatic community in this regard, he stated that Sri Lanka is open in acknowledging the challenges faced and will engage in candid discussions in this regard, both domestically with representatives of civil society as well as with the our international partners including the UN. However Sri Lanka rejects the establishment of an external mechanism when domestic processes were ongoing. The Minister also shared information relating to progress on the process of Constitutional reform and the Provincial Council elections.
“The Minister also referred to the recent visits from the EU, in the context of the Joint Commission as well as to review the implementation of the GSP plus. The FM expressed satisfaction that the discussions were held in a cordial manner and that officials have taken note of outstanding matters. The Minister recalled that the continuation of GSP plus is vital for the Sri Lankan economy, not only in the apparel sector, but also in other areas of bilateral trade. He stated that Sri Lanka’s efforts to achieve the SDGs as well as uplift the lives of our people require cooperation from all our international partners. COVID-19 dealt a significant blow to our plans and we need to recover.
“The members of the diplomatic community thanked the Minister for his engagement and appreciated the opportunity provided to engage on issues of interest to them. Minister Peiris concluded the meeting by stating his intention to have regular interactions with the diplomatic community.”
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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