SRI LANKA NEWS – JULY 2019




 

SRI LANKA NEWS – JULY 2019
Compiled by Victor Melder.

Victor Meldor - eLanka

Demand for land in Thalahena, Gothatuwa and Kolonnawa are rising significantly, resulting in the highest percentage increases in land prices in Greater Colombo, according to a recently concluded study. LankaPropertyWeb.com analysed postings in its website to ascertain the change in asking prices for land in the Greater Colombo area. Thalahena topped the list, recording a year-on-year percentage increase of 64 percent. Ragama, Gothatuwa and Kolonnawa continues to be popular with land prices recording a percentage increase of between 55-35 percent The percentage increases are in line with the increases noted in the asking prices of land. In Thalawathugoda, the average price per perch is between 1.7 – 2 million Rupees. Interestingly, with the spike in percentage increase, neighboring suburb Thalahena, joins the same price category. While land in Kolonnawa and Wellampitiya both fall within the range of 700,000 to 1 million Rupees, both have displayed a remarkable increase in land prices over the last year. The implications of these percentage increases in average price per perch of land are far-reaching. Notably, the most expensive areas in Greater Colombo for average perch prices remain much the same as last year. Areas that are closest to Colombo show the highest prices, with Dehiwala and Nawala the most expensive of the areas in Greater Colombo . As the two figures indicate, people are seeking living spaces outside of the city. This is most noticeable to the east of the Colombo city. Although there are certain pockets where land prices have shown slower growth i.e. Nugegoda, Rajagiriya and Pannipitiya areas (this could be due to prices already being high in these areas), prices in Athurugiriya, Pita Kotte, Maharagama, Kottawa and Hokandara all indicate an increase in percentage between 25-32 per cent. Land prices therefore will continue to increase further, as potential buyers seek out land for purchase in proximity to the Colombo city. (Daily Island, 1.7.2019)

The Government has made arrangements to mobilize foreign financing of US$ 2.439 billion by entering into 19 Agreements with foreign development partners and lending agencies from 1st January to 30th April 2019, to support the public investment program. According to the Mid-Year Fiscal Report 2019 released by the Ministry of Finance, this mobilization consists of US$ 2,431 million in the form of loans, that is, Official Development Assistance (ODA) and US$ 8 million by way of ODA grants and technical assistance. China led the ODA commitments during this period amounting to US$ 989 million followed by the World Bank (US$ 352 million), Asian Development Bank (US$ 310 million), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (US$ 280 million), Japan (US$ 270 million), France (US$ 85 million), HSBC-Hong Kong (US$ million 72), United Kingdom (US$ 64 million), Austria (US$ 10 million), Korea (US$ 6 million), Food and Agriculture Organization (US$ 0.3 million), and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (US$ 0.02 million), respectively. Of the commitments made in the form of ODA during the first four months of 2019, the highest amount was committed for the roads and bridges sector (US$ 1,053 million), while the ground transport sector received commitments of US$ 570 million. In addition to the funds raised from ODA development partners, US$ 2.4 billion was raised through International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) during the period under review of which, US$ 1 billion was raised at a fixed interest rate of 6.85 per cent with a 5 year tenure while the balance US$ 1.4 billion was raised at a fixed interest rate of 7.85 per cent with 10 year tenure. (Daily Island, 3.7.2019)

Tourism in Sri Lanka suffered a huge blow after the Easter bombings that killed 258 people including 45 foreigners, but official figures Wednesday showed a modest recovery. The industry, which before the April attacks had expected a record number of foreign holidaymakers in 2019 on the back of rave reviews in international travel magazines, saw arrivals plummet in May. The number of tourists dived to just 37,800 in May, down from 166,975 in the previous month, and 129,500 a year earlier, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority figures showed. But the figures also showed an uptick since, with some 63,000 visitors arriving in June, a 66-percent increase compared to May, but still way below the June 2018 figure of 146,828. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said last week that the damage to tourism from the April 21 attacks was less than initially feared. Samaraweera had initially predicted that Sri Lanka could lose 30 percent of its tourism revenues, or about $1.5 billion, this year. But now he believes the loss will be less than $1 billion. The total number of holiday makers hit a record 2.33 million in 2018, up 10.3 percent compared to 2017. This year was expected to be another record high with arrivals jumping five percent in the first quarter before the Easter attacks devastated three churches and three luxury hotels. Sri Lanka topped the Best in Travel 2019 rankings of Lonely Planet, and this week the travel guide said the country remained its top pick. Many countries have softened their travel warnings on Sri Lanka which is, however, under a state of emergency since the attacks that also left nearly 500 people wounded. (Daily Island, 4.7.2019)

The Supreme Court yesterday granted interim relief by halting judicial executions until October 30. The interim relief also suspended the operation of all death warrants until then. The fundamental rights violation petition filed on behalf of M. H. P. Nawaz was called before the court. The next date of calling of that petition will be on October 30. At the outset Sumanthiran, PC supporting a fundamental rights violation petition filed against the imposition of the death penalty, said that the basic human right was the right to life. Article 11 and Article 13 (2) of the constitution denied cruel inhuman treatment and enshrined the right to life. The death penalty had not been implemented for 43 years now. When the current President, on June 26, this year, imposed the death penalty on four persons, nobody knew how he picked those four persons to be executed in four days. At the end of the term he had decided to implement the death penalty which had not been carried out for 43 years, Sumanthiran contended. Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, who appeared for the Attorney General replied that Article 16(2) of the Constitution, stated that the subjection of a convict to a punishment did not violate fundamental rights. A person was imposed with death penalty, after a hearing in a Court of Law. The President only fixed the date, and the place for the implementation. (Sunday Island, 7.7.2019)

Lanka Hospitals, the internationally accredited multi award-winning private healthcare provider announced the successful delivery of 1250 IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) babies. The Lanka Hospitals Fertility Centre has set several benchmarks in the sub-fertility field in Sri Lanka such as the delivery of the first pregnancy through vitrification, high pregnancy rates with blastocyst transfers and has implemented novel investigations such as Reactive Oxygen in Semen (ROS) and sperm DNA fragmentation analysis to identify male factor infertility in order to increase the chance of conception. Additionally a new technology called (Pre-implantation Genetic) will also be introduced in the near future. This will enable the embryo to be checked for genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, Hemophilia and Thalassemia before being transferred into the womb. “We at Lanka Hospitals are extremely proud to announce the surpassing of the 1250th IVF birth this year. It is indeed an honor for Lanka Hospitals to be playing an instrumental role in providing support for countless number of couples in fulfilling their dream of having healthy children” stated Lanka Hospitals Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Prasad Medawatte. Lanka Hospitals’ Fertility Centre established in 2008 is recognized as one of the most sophisticated providers of fertility care in South Asia. It maintains a high success rate which is in par with the world’s most successful and developed fertility centers in practice. “The female partner only has to make about five visits to the hospital for the whole treatment process. This includes three visits for the scans, one for egg pickup and one for embryo transfer. This is the modern way which is in practice globally and Lanka Hospital has been practicing it for a significant period,” stated Lanka Hospitals Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr. Nishendra Karunaratne. Lanka Hospitals Diagnostics (LHD) is the only Sri Lankan Laboratory to be accredited by the prestigious laboratory accreditation body, Collage of American Pathologists (CAP). (Sunday Island, 7.7.2019)

Public funds to the tune of Rs 698mn were squandered on an unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka and a special investigation must be carried out into the donation of Rs 570,819,155 towards this effort by other institutions and private individuals, the National Audit Office (NAO) says. The findings are contained in a ‘Special Audit Report on Securing the Hosting Right for the Commonwealth Games 2018’. The Sports Ministry and General Treasury provided Rs 110mn in initial capital while the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) and Sri Lanka Telecom contributed Rs 18mn.Cash grants were also obtained from private organisations and individuals. The company raised Rs 689.9mn but Sri Lanka did not win the bid. The NAO said the money was not properly monitored and was spent without transparency and financial control. Company administration did not comply with the relevant rules as evidenced by books, bills, various documents, interviews and statements. At the time of canvassing funds for this private company, request letters were issued by former Governor of the Central Bank and the Sports Minister using official designations. Furthermore, a significant number of donors were commercial banks and financial institutions regulated by the Central Bank. But the company had not issued formal receipts to private donors for their contribution of Rs 570,819,155. And Rs 120,402,653 was directly obtained in cash. (Sunday Times, 7.7.2019)

More than 25,000 dengue cases had been reported in the first half of 2019, the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health said. As the annual dengue peak occurs during June and July, medical experts have warned the public to be cautious due to the prevailing rainy weather. The report confirmed 25,267 dengue cases had been reported from the country with the Western Province heading the list. Colombo records the highest number of cases (5403), Gampaha comes second with 3,281 cases and Galle third with 2,248 cases. According to hospital sources about 35 dengue-related fatalities have been recorded during the first six months of 2019. In 2018, more than 51,000 dengue cases were reported including about 50 deaths. Dengue infects nearly 400 million people across more than 120 countries each year. Most survive with few or no symptoms, but more than two million annually develop what can be dangerous dengue hemorrhagic fever, which kills more than 25,000 people each year. (Daily Island, 8.7.2019.

The World Health Organization yesterday announced Sri Lanka has eliminated measles, interrupting transmission of the indigenous virus that causes the killer childhood disease. “Sri Lanka’s achievement comes at a time when globally measles cases are increasing. The country’s success demonstrates its commitment, and the determination of its health workforce and parents to protect children against measles,” said WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, congratulating the island nation. An independent verification committee reviewed in detail all data and ongoing efforts for measles elimination in the island nation and concluded that Sri Lanka has stopped transmission of indigenous measles virus.  The country reported its last case of measles caused by an indigenous virus in May 2016.
Sri Lanka’s success follows its persistent efforts to ensure maximum coverage with two doses of measles and rubella vaccines being provided in the childhood immunisation program. The vaccination coverage in the country has been consistently high – over 95% with both the first and second dose of measles and rubella vaccine provided to children under the routine immunisation program. Additionally, mass vaccination campaigns with a measles-rubella vaccine have been held periodically to plug the immunisation gaps, the last one in 2014.
The country has a strong surveillance system and all vaccine-preventable diseases are an integral part of the communicable disease surveillance system. Measles is a notifiable disease in the country.
Further strengthening immunity of the vulnerable population, capacities to detect and readiness to respond to measles virus both at the national and sub-national levels, would be the key to the country’s continued measles-free status in the coming years,” the Regional Director said. 
Elimination of measles is achieved when a country interrupts transmission of indigenous virus for three years. Rubella control is achieved when a country reduces the number of rubella cases by 95% as compared to cases in 2008. (Daily Financial Times, 10.7.2019)

Drought has affected parts of the country, up to half a million people remain with livelihoods disrupted and health under threat due to heat and lack of water.  More than 500,000 persons of over 100,000 families are still affected by drought prevailing in some parts of the island. The drought affected families are in the Kegalle, Puttalam, Kurunegala, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar, Killinochchi, Mulaitivu, Matale, Kandy, Hambantota, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura districts, according to DMC reports. The general public is requested to contact the DMC’s emergency hotline 117 for more information regarding the prevailing weather situation and warnings.  Presently rainstorm conditions have already brought about several minor earthslips and flash floods in the Hillcountry over the past two days resulting in four deaths so far, the DMC official said. He said that armed services and Police disaster response units remain on alert ready to be deployed immediately for any rescue mission. Several Navy teams are currently deployed with boats and equipment in the Ratnapura area on rescue missions amidst the series of flash floods and earth slips in that area. Kodippili said that as at yesterday noon, the flood waters in Ratnapura was receding, but the evacuated communities, now in temporary accommodation in Ratnapura, Ayagama, Kiriella and Elapatha, were being advised not to return to their homes yet. The DMC said that the water level of the Kalu Ganga was further rising as at noon, yesterday, and requests people living in downstream to be extra vigilant. According to the Meteorology Department, Dunkeld Estate in Nuwara Eliya received the highest rainfall of 251.5mm in the 24 hours ended at yesterday noon. (Daily News 20.7.2019)

The Office for Reparations has announced that it has disbursed funds worth Rs 265 million as compensation to the victims of the terrorist attacks on April 21.  According to the Reparations Office, funds worth Rs 199 million has been disbursed to the families of 201 victims who lost their lives in the attacks while Rs 66 million which has been disbursed to 442 persons who were injured in the tragedy. The bombings which took place on Easter Sunday across seven places including three churches and three leading hotels, killed 263 people and left 503 injured. The Office for Reparations noted that the allocations for the foreign nationals who were affected by the attacks have not been collected yet. Meanwhile, Rs 25 million has been issued as an advance payment for army and navy officers who are currently engaged in the reconstruction of the churches. According to the Prime Minister’s office, Rs 10 million each had been granted to the St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya and the St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, while Rs 5 million had been granted to the Zeon Church in Batticaloa. (Times online, 22.7.2019)

Sri Lanka has re-introduced and expanded a visa-free entry scheme for visitors in a bid to revive its flagging tourism sector after the deadly Easter bombings, officials said. The concession for tourists from 39 nations was suspended after Islamists bombed three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo on April 21 killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners. “As the security situation has improved, the cabinet of ministers decided to revive the visa-free scheme and also extended it to seven more countries,” the government said in a statement. A tourism official said foreign governments have relaxed travel advisories for Sri Lanka since the attacks. There has also been a lift in the number of arrivals, which nosedived soon after the bombings blamed on a home-grown jihadist group, the official said. The new countries added to the expanded scheme — which already allows travelers from the European Union, Australia and the United States to enter Sri Lanka without a visa — include China and India. Visitors still have to obtain a visa on arrival, but the government has waived the $35 fee from August 1. Sri Lanka initially projected a 30 percent dip in the number of foreign holidaymakers after the attacks. The following month the number of tourists plunged to 37,800, down from 166,975 in April, according to official figures. But they improved last month with some 63,000 visitors, although numbers are still down from 146,828 in June 2018. Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018, and was named the world’s top travel destination for 2019 by the Lonely Planet travel guide. (Sunday Island, 28.7.2019)

Sri Lanka’s tea production in June saw a sharp gain of 3.9 million kilos to 27.1 million kilos from a year earlier. 
Low Growns have shown the highest gain year on year followed by High and Medium Growns. 
Despite the significant gain in June, the cumulative first half crop figure reflects a marginal increase of only 0.3 million kilos to 158.4 million kilos from the corresponding period of last year. High Growns show a negative variance compared to January-June 2018, whilst Mediums together with Low Growns have shown a growth YOY.
CTC production in June was up 0.17 million kilos to 1.9 million kilos but the first half crop was down by 0.9 million kilos to 11.2 million kilos. (Daily Financial Times, 29.7.2019)

Sri Lanka’s tea exports in the first half of this year have reached to highest ever of Rs. 121.8 billion, up by 7% from the earlier record established in the corresponding period of last year despite a drop in volume. 
Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers said FOB value for the first half of 2019 was Rs. 839.46 per kilo, up by Rs. 11.33 per kilo from a year earlier. January to June 2019 cumulative exports volume wise amounted to 145.1 million kilos down by 5.5% from the corresponding period of last year. Forbes said Iraq has retained the No. 1 spot as the largest importer of Sri Lankan Tea for the period January-June 2019 followed by Turkey, Russia and Iran. 
Further, Libya, China and Azerbaijan are some of the noteworthy importers, whilst it is also relevant that destinations such as India, Germany and USA have shown a significant growth in imports for the period under review when compared to the corresponding period of 2018, Forbes said.  The dip in June is comparison to improvement in May 2019 when tea exports gained by 3.5 million kilos to 26.6 million kilos vis-a-vis a year earlier and value up by Rs. 3 billion to Rs. 22.1 billion. FOB value saw a gain of Rs. 2.94 to Rs. 832.20 per kilo.(Daily Financial Times, 29.7.2019)

By yesterday evening some 615,984 people had been affected by the prevailing drought in most parts of the country, according to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC). The DMC said 615,984 people belonging to 173,091 families were affected in several districts, particularly in the Northern, North Central, Central  and North Western Provinces are among the worst affected areas. In the Batticaloa District, 24,285 families are affected and in the Jaffna district 21,094 families totaling, 70, 628 persons have become drought victims. Due to the extreme dry weather that has been worsening steadily over the past few months, people in the Parakumyaya, Welikanda area are facing difficulties due to the shortage of clean water. In the North, North-Central and Eastern provinces continue to suffer from the drought. The situation has aggravated as the wells in the areas have also dried up. However, by yesterday the government had taken action to provide drinking water to most of the affected areas. The Agriculture Department says due to the delay in monsoon rains and the reduction of nearly 50 per cent of expected rainfall, corn cultivation will be affected. (Daily Island, 29.7.2019)

 

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