Saturday, July 9, 2016

China promises to help Sri Lanka become a shipping hub

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday his country will align its maritime silk road project with Sri Lanka's development plans to enable the island nation to become a shipping hub in the Indian Ocean.
Wang's comments came after meeting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, starting a two-day visit. It is a sign of Sri Lanka's new government's increasing receptiveness to Chinese projects having previously suspended some to investigate corruption and possible environmental hazards.
"We'll take the building of the maritime silk road as a priority to better align our development strategy including your five-year development plan so that we can come up with a comprehensive blue print for future cooperation, so that we can help Sri Lanka build itself into a shipping center in the Indian Ocean," Wang said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping won support for the silk road project from Sri Lanka's former pro-China leader Mahinda Rajapaksa during a visit in 2013.
The silk road is seen as a way of encircling India and controlling port access along sea lanes linking the energy-rich Persian Gulf and economic centers in eastern China.
Wang said however that China's relations with Sri Lanka does not target any other nation.
"There is a consensus between China and Sri Lanka that our cooperation does not target any third country nor will it affect our respective relations with other countries. We stand ready to work more closely with other regional countries for the purpose of achieving common development."
Sri Lanka earlier this year allowed a $1.5 billion China-funded port city project to resume a year after it was suspended to study effects to the environment. The city is to be built on reclaimed land off Sri Lanka's west coast and include a golf course, marinas, apartments, hotels and malls.
The project created disquiet in neighboring India over the possibility China might be allowed outright land ownership.
The two ministers also discussed the South China Sea dispute over which an international tribunal is soon expected to rule. China which claims most part of the sea is boycotting the case filed by the Philippines challenging it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

President promises fair solution to VAT issue

President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday promised that an uncomplicated decision will be taken on the VAT system following further talks with all stakeholders.
He made this observation during discussions with representatives of traders’ associations at the Presidential Secretariat on the VAT. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other ministers participated in the discussion. The President further said the main focus should be the consumer when the VAT issue is considered and assured that a suitable solution would be reached considering the problems of the business folk as well. The President also instructed that a representative of the traders’ associations participate at each meeting to be held on VAT together with the economic experts, ministers and public officials.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake speaking to the media following the discussions said that the discussions held on the (VAT) with representatives of traders’ associations was approximately 95 percent successful.
He also said that it was also not the final discussion on VAT. “The Government invited traders engaged in whole sale and retail businesses as well as delivery services to these discussions,”Finance Minister Karunanayake said.

Prez talks tough Calls for urgent meet to revise VAT structure

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Revealing his intention to replace Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran with renowned economist Indrajith Coomaraswamy, President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday (July 2) stressed that he cherished democracy and unity and was obedient only to the people.

President Sirisena was responding to a claim by an Opposition politician that he was subservient to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Addressing an event held at the Nelum Pokuna theatre to mark the 94th International Cooperative Day, President Maithripala Sirisena said he had taken the decision in respect of new Central Bank Governor at a discussion with Premier Wickremesinghe.

An irate President said that during the tenure of his predecessor whom he described as an all powerful king some of those who talk demeaning of him used to lick the great king’s feet. President Maithripala Sirisena stressed that he had had the courage to quit the then government and send the dictatorial leader home.

President Sirisena said his style of governing the country was certainly different from that of his predecessor. Explaining the circumstances under which he had brought in 19 Amendment to the Constitution to do away with some executive powers, including the restoration of two-term limit for elected presidents, President Maithripala Sirisena assured that he wouldn’t behave the way the previous presidents had done.

In an oblique reference to the then SLFP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa role at the inaugural meeting of the movement held at Badulla on Saturday, President Sirisena said that he was thankful to him for having made him the President.

President Sirisena said that the conduct of the Rajapaksas had enabled him to win the January 2015 presidential polls.

The President said that he wouldn’t have requested his predecessor in January 2014 not to call for early presidential polls had he been aware that he would be chosen as the common candidate. President Sirisena said that he in his capacity as the General Secretary of the SLFP had called for urgent political and economic reforms instead of early presidential polls.

Commenting on ongoing wave of protests demanding that Value Added Tax (VAT) on a range of goods and services be removed forthwith, President Maithripala Sirisena acknowledged that there was a need to revise the tax structure due to heavy burden on the people. Alleging that some unscrupulous traders had charged VAT on items not included in the list, President Maithripala Sirisena said he would meet Premier Wickremesinghe and relevant ministers to decide on relief to consumers. The President emphasized the urgent need to take action against those who fleeced consumers as well as rectify shortcomings in the implementation of the tax scheme. Explaining measures the government would take to streamline VAT scheme, President Maithripala Sirisena assured action to provide relief to those struggling to make ends meet.

President Sirisena said that the government had to settle problems, such as the VAT issue through discussions.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit negatively affect SL economy: Harsha

The British exit from the European Union would negatively affect Sri Lankan economy as fluctuation in the share markets in Europe and Asia had begun to occur in the wake of the Brexit, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. De Silva said the instability of the British economy and devaluation of the sterling pound would negatively affect our exports as 35 per cent of the Sri Lankan export to Europe was going to Britain.

“Our exports to Europe is 30 per cent and 35 to 40 per cent of it is going to Britain. Even if we obtain GSP+, we would not be able to gain the full advantage of it as we would not b able to export to Britain without export duty,” he said.

Dr. De Silva said the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Britain yesterday handed over the documents necessary to gain GSP+ in Brussels and the decision regarding it could be expected within six months and added that Rs. 25 billion loss had been incurred due to the non-availability of the GSP+ during the past years.

He said the instability of the British economy would also affect tourism industry in Sri Lanka as 25 per cent of the tourist arrivals from Europe were from Britain.

“The British tourists are the ones who spend most in Sri Lanka and the collapse of the Pound will result in their purchasing power,” he said.

He said the Brexit would also negatively affect the cost of servicing the foreign loans that had been obtained by Sri Lanka as the US$ would increase in the world market and added that the loan interest in the world market would increase, which would affect negatively in obtaining commercial loans.
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Fisheries Minister upbeat about selling marine craft to EU this year

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

More Sri Lankan made vessels would be exported to the European Union (EU) countries this year, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera claimed yesterday.

With the lifting of EU ban on Sri Lanka fish exports, the country would receive an income of over Rs. 20 billion by exporting Sri Lankan made vessels to the EU countries, Minister Amaraweera said.

Participating in a discussion at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo recently on the international exhibition of Sri Lankan boats and fisheries scheduled to be held from Oct. 13 to 15 at the Dikkowita Fishery Harbour to boost the international demand for Sri Lankan boats, Minister Amaraweera noted that there was a high demand in international market for the boats manufactured in Sri Lanka as they conformed to international standards.

The exhibition is organised by the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry in collaboration with Boat Building Technology Improvement Institute, Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry.

Apart from the boats manufactured in Sri Lanka, a high demand prevails in international market especially for luxury yachts, tourism, passenger boats, fisheries research vessels, high speed craft used for marine missions, sea cadet training vessels and boat spares and parts, Minister Amaraweera said.
There was a very high demand for Sri Lankan built vessels from countries like the US, the UK, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Somalia, Gambia, India and Bangladesh, the minister said.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

First consignment of fish handed over after the ban lifted by EU

First consignment of fish to be exported to the European Union was handed over to the European Union Ambassador in Sri Lanka David Daly at the Dikovita Fisheries Harbor on Friday (17th June).

The European Union lifted its ban on Sri Lankan fish exports on Thursday (16th June).

At this occasion Ambassador Daly officially announced the lifting of the ban on Sri Lankan fish exports to the European Union.

Thereafter the first consignment of fish was handed over to the exporters by Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ministry Secretary Mangalika Adhikari and the EU Ambassador.
According to the Secretary, Sri Lanka’s earnings from fish exports dwindled from Euro 73 million to 9 million as a result of the ban.

She appealed to the fishing community and the exporters not to allow this opportunity to be lost again.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

War crimes probe: President says technical assistance only if necessary, but no foreign judges

President Maithripala Sirisena made clear in an interview with the Sunday Times that any technical assistance to the proposed inquiry into alleged war crimes would be without any commitments or conditions attached.
His remarks came on the eve of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s 32nd sessions which begin in Geneva tomorrow. A resolution co-sponsored by the United States and Sri Lanka called for the establishment of a judicial mechanism “of Commonwealth and foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorised prosecutors and investigators” to probe alleged war crimes by troops and Tiger guerrillas.
“We don’t need foreign judges. We can resolve any problem within the country without foreign intervention,” the President re-iterated commenting on his previously declared position. “If necessary we can obtain foreign technical support but without commitments or conditions attached,” he said.
A similar declaration to have no foreign judges was also made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he addressed senior Army officers at Temple Trees on May 27.
In an exclusive interview, the President said that in the post war era, reconciliation was essential but claimed that the previous Government had done little or nothing towards this.
Pointing out that the message of reconciliation should be delivered more to the Sinhala Buddhists in the South than to those living in the North, Mr. Sirisena warned that attempts to thwart or sabotage the move would not be tolerated. “Those who work against this are Jathi Drohiyo (traitors),” he charged and added that “we consider them anthavadiyo orextremists”. Such extremists, he said, were there in the south and the north as well as outside the country.

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