SRI LANKA NEWS (JULY 2021) Compiled by Victor Melder


  (JULY 2021)
Compiled by Victor Melder

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Headline inflation, as measured by the year-on-year (Y-o-Y) change in the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI, 2013=100)1, increased to 5.2 per cent in June 2021 from 4.5 per cent in May 2021. This was driven by monthly increases of prices of items in both Food and Non-food categories. Accordingly, Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 11.3 per cent in June 2021 from 9.9 per cent in May 2021, while Non-food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 2.5 per cent in June 2021 from 2.2 per cent in May 2021. The CCPI, measured on an annual average basis, increased to 4.1 per cent in June 2021 from 3.9 per cent in May 2021. Monthly change of CCPI recorded at 1.47 per cent in June 2021 due to price increases observed in items of both Food and Non-food categories. Moreover, monthly changes of Food and Non-food categories recorded at 1.25 per cent and 0.21 per cent, respectively. Accordingly, within the Food category, prices of rice, vegetables and fresh fish increased whereas, price of fresh fruits recorded a decrease. Meanwhile, prices of items in the Non-Food category recorded an increase during the month due to price increases observed in the Health (Purchase of pharmacy products, Fees to ayurvedic doctors) and Transport (Petrol, Diesel) sub-categories. The core inflation (Y-o-Y), which reflects the underlying inflation in the economy, remained unchanged at 3.2 per cent in June 2021. Moreover, annual average core inflation also remained unchanged at 3.0 per cent in June 2021 for the fifth consecutive month. (Sunday Island, 4.7.2021)

SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa took oaths as a new MP of 9th Parliament before Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena today (08).After the official oath taken before the Speaker, he signed in the Member Roll kept before the Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake and took the front row seat next to Minister Pavithra Devi Wanniarachchi. This is the third time that he represents Parliament. Born in 1951 in Giruwapaththuwa, Hambantota Basil Rohana Rajapaksa was appointed to Parliament from the National list of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance in 2007. In the 2010 Parliamentary Election, he was elected from Gampaha District by polling 425,861votes- highest number of preferential votes- in Sri Lanka. He was the Cabinet Minister of Economic Development from 2007 to 2010 in the Sixth Parliament and 2010 to 2015 in the Seventh Parliament.  He was educated in Isipathana College Colombo and Ananda College. (Ceylon Today, 8.7.2021)

Newly appointed Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa promised to be a father figure to everybody and said is aware that he and his ministry will have to confront difficult times in the future. “Like any father, I may have to take unpopular, unpleasant decisions in future,” he added.   He also stated that, with the support of all provincial council and local government representatives, he will lead the country to prosperity under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He made these remarks after assuming duties at the Finance Ministry this morning. He stated that the public’s needs are his and his ministry’s top concern and that they have a good concept on how to meet those demands and would make courageous decisions. The Ministry’s responsibilities include macroeconomic policies, annual budgets and Appropriation Acts, public financial management, domestic and international savings and investments, public debts, banking, finance, and insurance activities, international financial cooperation, and directing social security and economic development activities. (Ceylon Today, 8.7.2021)

Sri Lanka’s tea export earnings in the first half have increased by 14% to $ 650 million on the back of a 10% rise in quantity shipped, to 137 million kilos, in comparison to the corresponding period of last year.  According to Asia Siyaka Commodities PLC Research, 2021 first half quantity was boosted by a strong June (26.9 million kilos), which is at a five-year high. It also said the January-June quantity of 136.9 million kilos, though well above last year, is much lower than the 2019 1H figure of 145 million kilos and 137.5 million kilos the year before.
Asia Siyaka said the last occasion Sri Lanka reached an annual export quantity in excess of 300 million kilos was in 2015 when annual tea exports reached 306.9 million kilos. The midway quantity in 2015 was however 151 million kilos, which is 15 million kilos more than this year’s quantity for January-June. It said rupee earnings rose sharply by 20% to Rs. 127 billion. This converts to approximately $ 650 million – 13.8% more than January-June earnings of $ 571 million last year. In the three years prior to that, 1H earnings were $ 686 million, $ 728.9 million and $ 728.4 million. Shipments to Turkey topped the destination list at 17 million kilos, up 8% from a year earlier. Iraq followed at 16 million kilos showing little change. Russia continues to decline to 13.3 million kilos against 14.4 million. Export through the UAE has more than doubled from 3.3 to 10.2 million kilos this year. Asia Siyaka said China continues to rise and recorded a 47% gain from last year’s high figure of 5 million kilos, to 7.4 million kilos this year. Iran has declined sharply to 6.3 million from 8.9 million kilos. Azerbaijan (6.1 million kilos), Libya (5.6 million kilos) and Syria (4.1 million kilos) are all up YoY 2020. Chile, the largest market in South America, has dropped from 4.6 million kilos to 3.5 million kilos. Japan showed a welcome increase to 3.1 million kilos from 2.9 million kilos last year. (Daily Financial Times, 16.7.2021).

Sri Lanka has the highest rate of daily COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people, Our World in Data shows.
Data compiled on 17 June by Our World in Data, a project of the Global Change Data Lab, shows that Sri Lanka’s rate of vaccines per million was 1.28, the highest in the world. Malaysia follows with a rate of 1.25, with Portugal at 1.23 and Cambodia at 1.13.
Sri Lanka had the third highest rate since 14 July, when Sri Lanka’s rate was 1.00, Portugal’s rate was 1.36 and Ecuador’s rate was 1.56. On 15 July, Ecuador was at 1.73, Portugal was at 1.32 and Sri Lanka was at 1.14. On 16 July, Ecuador was at 1.81, Portugal at 1.28 and Sri Lanka at 1.24. (Daily Financial Times, 19.7.2021)

Duminda Silva, who was released from his death sentence under a Presidential Pardon last month, has been appointed as the new Chairman of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA).The appointment was by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as communicated to State Ministry of Rural Housing, Construction and Building Materials Industrial Promotion Secretary Eng. Keerthi Abeysiriwardhana by President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera. State Minister is Indika Anuruddha and the NDHA comes under the purview of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who holds the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing. Silva, a former MP, in October 2018 was sentenced to death for the murder of former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in October 2011 and was released on 24 June 2021 under a pardon by President Rajapaksa. Duminda succeeds Renuka Dushyantha Perera, who resigned as NHDA Chairman in April. Renuka is the Administrative Secretary of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). (Daily Financial Times, 19.7.2021)

A total of 48 more COVID-19 related deaths that occurred yesterday (18) were confirmed by the Director-General of Health Services today increasing the death toll in Sri Lanka to 3,827. According to the Government Information Department, 20 females and 28 males are among the deceased. (Daily Mirror, 19.7.2021)

Sri Lanka’s exports sector maintained its upward trend in June 2021 with. Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports in the first half of the year 2021 was US$ 5,561.72 million, an increase of 27.49% over US$ 4,362.34 million in the first half of the year 2020.  “Our appreciation goes to the exporters who are contributing their maximum to the economy, despite the severe third wave of covid19, amidst many restrictions and obstacles. The results are due to the sector specific interventions of all stakeholders and the Government, along with the commitment of our exporters” The Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman, Suresh D. de Mel opined. In June 2021, exports of Rubber based products, Electrical & Electronic Components, Spices & Concentrates and Gems & Jewellery recorded double-digit growth compared with the month of June 2020. In addition, on a year-on- year basis exports of Apparel, Tea and Coconut based products increased by 3.01%, 7.81% and 8.61% respectively. For the period of January to June 2021, merchandise exports increased by 27.49% to US$ 5,561.72 Million compared to the same period of 2020. Export earnings from Rubber & Rubber finished products increased by 48.91 % to US$ 519.96 million in Jan-June 2021 due to the better performance of exports of Industrial & Surgical Gloves of Rubber (78.49%) and Pneumatic & Retreated Rubber Tyres & Tubes (50.43%). Earnings from all the major categories of Coconut based products increased. Meanwhile, earnings from export of Electrical and Electronic Components (EEC) increased by 40.15% to US$ 201.95 In in the period of January to June 2021. Export earnings from Spices and Essential Oils increased significantly in the period of January to June 2021. Strong Export Growth was recorded for top 10 export markets in the period of January to June 2021. The single largest export destination of the United States of America recorded US$ 1,355.14 Mn worth of exports in the period of January to June 2021– a significant year on year increase of 18.1 % in comparison to US$ 1,147.45 Mn recorded in 2020. Exports to the United Kingdom as the second largest trading partner recorded an increase of 22.84% to US$ 444.18 in during the period of January to June 2021. The services exports estimated by EDB which includes ICT/BPM, Construction, Financial services and Transport & Logistics show exports of US$ 1,587.75 Mn for the period of January to June 2021. Estimated service exports increased by 19.92 % in the first half of the year 2021 compared to the corresponding period of 2020. (Daily News, 20.7.2021)

The Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) said on Friday that the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) for June was 6.1%, the same as the previous month. Core inflation, which reflects the underlying inflation by excluding volatile items of food, energy and transport groups in the economy as measured by the year-on-year (YOY) change based on NCPI for the month of June 2021 has declined to 4.1% from 4.2% in May 2021. The DCS said contributions to the inflation rate of June 2021 from the food group and non-food group are 4.5% and 1.6% respectively. 
Contributions of food and non-food groups to the inflation in June 2020 were 5.8% and 0.5% respectively, resulting in a headline inflation of 6.3%. With respect to June 2020, the reported increase in percentage of food group was mainly due to higher price levels prevailed in this month of June 2021, particularly prices of rice, coconuts, coconut oil, vegetables, turmeric powder and big onions. Comparing the month-on-month changes, NCPI in June 2021 has increased to 145.7 from 143.6 reported in May 2021. This shows an increase of 2.1 index points or 1.5% as compared to May 2021. The month-on-month change was contributed by increases of index values of food items by 1.23% and non-food items by 0.22% respectively. Price increases of food items were reported for rice, vegetables, coconut oil, fresh fish, dried fish, Mysore dhal, potatoes, big onions, red onions, sugar, limes, garlic, eggs, green chilies, chicken, chili powder, green gram, turmeric powder and gram. However, decreases in index values were reported for fresh fruits and coconuts.  The increases in index values of non-food groups in June 2021 compared to the previous month was mainly due to the price increases in groups of items ‘transport’ (petrol and diesel), ‘health’ (purchase of medical/pharmacy products) and ‘housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels’ (kerosene oil). Further, a very slight price increase was reported in group of ‘furnishing, household equipment and routine household maintenance’. However, a very slight price decrease was reported in group of ‘alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics’ compared to the preceding month. Meanwhile, the price indices of ‘clothing and footwear’, ‘communication’, ‘recreation and culture’, ‘education’, ‘restaurants and hotels’ and ‘miscellaneous goods and services’ groups remained unchanged during the month. (Daily Financial Times, 26.7.2021)

A total of 16,497 dengue cases have been recorded from 1 January to 29 July 2021, a Health Ministry official said. The dengue death toll within this period was 7. He said in June a total of 2,997 cases were recorded, while from the beginning of July till yesterday (29) a total of 3,029 dengue patients were recorded. The official said from January till end July 2020 a total of 25,258 cases were recorded owing to the outbreak of dengue in the country. Reverting back to 2021, the official, quoting the National Dengue Control Programme (NDCP), said 70 per cent of dengue patients reported in seven months were from the Western Province. In sample testing conducted to identify the virus group which was currently circulating in the country, identified that the dengue serotype ‘four’ was highly prevalent. Serotype two and three were also detected, while serotype one had also been detected in the country after several years. He said the public should take adequate precautionary measures in keeping clean environments, as the rise of dengue in addition to the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the country would be disastrous. (Ceylon Today, 30.7.2021.

Sri Lanka’s daily COVID-19 detections exceeded 2,000 for the first time since 23 June, with health officials confirming the detection of 2,370 COVID-19 patients yesterday. The increase in COVID-19 patients has been attributed, at least in part, to the spread of the Delta variant in the country. A slight increase can also be seen in testing and the Health Promotion Bureau states that 14,147 PCR tests were carried out yesterday, while 12,887 PCR tests were carried out on Wednesday, 9,935 PCR tests were carried out on Tuesday, and 10,145 PCR tests were carried out on Monday. A total of 304,202 COVID-19 patients have been detected in the country to date. COVID-19 patients detected yesterday include 2,329 persons from the New Year cluster. The cumulative patient count of the Divulapitiya, Peliyagoda, Prisons and New Year clusters has risen to 295,722 and includes 199,727 detections from the New Year cluster, 82,785 detections from the Peliyagoda cluster, 7,812 detections from the Prisons cluster, and 3,059 detections from the Divulapitiya cluster. In terms of imported cases, 6,207 Sri Lankan overseas arrivals and 328 foreigners are also among the country’s total COVID-19 detections. The Epidemiology Unit states that 26,448 persons are currently under medical care and 1,197 persons suspected of having COVID-19 are under observation. Meanwhile, the country’s COVID-19 recoveries rose to 273,496 with 1,641 persons leaving hospitals yesterday. The country’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 4,324 with the confirmation of 66 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. The majority of the deaths are in the over 60 age category and the Epidemiology Unit states that 75.34% of the total fatalities are in this category, while 23.37% are between ages 30 and 59 and 1.29% are below 30.
On Wednesday, the Director General of Health Services confirmed the deaths of 49 persons over the age of 60 and 17 persons between ages 30 and 59. Of the COVID-19 deaths confirmed on Wednesday, 41 were male and 25 were female. The Epidemiology Unit adds that, of the country’s COVID-19 death toll, 2,515 fatalities are male and the remaining 1,809 are female. (Daily Financial Times, 30.7.2021)

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