SRI LANKA NEWS
Compiled by Victor Melder
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) says the number of tourists coming to Sri Lanka has decreased by 60 percent in last month. Director General of SLTDA Dhammika Wijesinghe said this situation has arisen in view of the crisis atmosphere in the country. According to SLTDA, 106,500 tourists arrived in the island in March 2022 and the tourist arrivals have decreased to 32,856 in the month of June Tourism Development Authority Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe said. July and August are the two months when most tourists visit the island. During those two months, the tourists mostly visit the eastern part of the country. Apart from that more tourists tend to visit Kandy area in August. The Director General said in view of the current situation, about 40 percent of the pre-bookings of tourist hotels in Sri Lanka have been canceled by foreign tourists. (Colombo Page, 3.6.2022)
Minister of Agriculture, Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation, Mahinda Amaraweera has told the Cost-of -Living Committee that the Government will allocate Rs. 200 billion to provide relief for 3.2 million low-income families countrywide. The Cost-of-Living Committee met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday, June 30. Rs. 7,500 – Rs 10,000 will be allocated per family under this program. Minister Amaraweera said that the Government had decided to take this step to help families which are losing their sources of income, the escalating prices of goods and the economic crisis in the country. The Minister discussed with all Governors and Secretaries via Zoom technology on Friday, July 1, where the Minister emphasised these points to review agriculture activities in all provinces of the country. The Cost-of-Living Committee also focused on providing nutritious meals to all children in remote areas. This program was proposed to protect the nutritional status of children, taking into account the loss or drop in the income of people engaged in certain types of jobs, he added. (Sunday Observer, 3.7.2022)
Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe has raised concerns that headline inflation could increase to 70% over the next few months. Speaking during a media briefing in Colombo today (06), Weerasinghe warned that most businesses will face major difficulties in the likely event of the current inflation further rising, thus CBSL is taking all necessary measures to safeguard those most vulnerable. Thus, social safety programmes such as the Samurdhi initiative will be looked into to aid the poor during these times, he noted, while other decisions will be taken so as to stabilize the economy.(Ceylon Today, 7.7.2022)
The World Food Programme (WFP) in its latest report said that 6.26 million people in Sri Lanka are food insecure and it targets 3 million people to receive emergency food, nutrition and school meals until December. “Three in 10 households (6.26 million people) are food insecure, of which 65,600 are severely food insecure 200,000 households are using emergency livelihood coping strategies,” it said. The WFP also stated: WFP has distributed 88 percent (2,100) of the first 2,375 vouchers to pregnant women. Three in ten households are food insecure, according to WFP’s latest food security assessment. The majority of households are eating less preferred and less nutritious food, and reducing the amount of food they eat. The population continues to feel the brunt of the economic and food crises. About 3 in 10 households (6.26 million people) are food insecure, 65,600 of which are severely food insecure, according to WFP’s latest food security assessment. Food inflation is alarmingly high at 57.4 percent in June 2022. Steeply increasing food prices have crippled the population’s ability to put sufficient and nutritious food on the table. The majority of assessed households (61 percent) are regularly employing food-based coping strategies such as eating less preferred and less nutritious food, and reducing the amount of food they eat. Two in five households are not consuming adequate diets. The food security situation is worst among people living in the estate sector, where more than half of households are food insecure. In all measures of food insecurity and coping strategies, these households have consistently poorer outcomes than urban and rural populations. While urban households are depleting savings to cope for now, estate populations are already turning to credit to purchase food and other necessities. An estimated 200,000 households are using emergency livelihood coping strategies that are likely to severely impact their medium- to long-term capacity for income-generating activities. WFP anticipates that even more people will turn to these coping strategies as the crisis deepens. Schools and government offices are closed until further notice due to the scarcity in oil supply. Headline inflation in June is at 54.6 percent, the highest since 1954. The food security, agriculture, livelihoods, and health sectors are the hardest hit. (Daily Mirror, 7.7.2022)
The Central Bank has been compelled to print money in order to prevent a total breakdown of fuel supply in the country, as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), does not have sufficient rupees to buy dollars for fuel purchases, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said. Addressing the media at the Central Bank on Thursday Dr. Weerasinghe said that the CPC had requested Rs. 217 billion from the Treasury for the purpose and the Treasury was unable to supply such a huge amount immediately. He stated that the Treasury in turn had made a request to the Central Bank and the only way for the Bank to fulfill that request is to print money. The Monetary Board of the Central Bank responded positively last week to another request by the CPC for Rs. 185 billion for fuel purchases, as there would be a grave situation in the country if that request was turned down, the Governor said. He added that the Central Bank was not in a position to turn down the latest request as well due to the dire situation the country is currently faced with. (Daily Mirror, 9.7.2022)
Forty nine elephants had been killed in the Polonnaruwa District between 01 January and 30 June 2022, Wildlife Department officials said. They said during the same period 17 persons had also died due to the human-elephant conflict. The officials pointed out that the deaths of both humans and elephants had increased significantly compared to the first six months of last year. Thirty six elephants were killed in the District between 01 January and 30 June 2021. Nine humans too were killed by elephants in the same period. Most of the elephant deaths were caused by illegal and unauthorised human activity, the Department officials said. “In Sri Lanka 70% of elephant ranges lie outside of protected areas and therefore these are the spaces where human–elephant encounters turn hostile and problematic,” the Wildlife officials said. “Sri Lanka is a special case because of the high intensity of human–elephant interactions outside of protected areas,” a Polonnaruwa District Wildlife Department official said. Wild elephants raiding homesteads in search of fodder is a big problem in Polonnaruwa, he said. “According to our statistics, in 2017, the department paid Rs. 44,273,401 to 1,350 persons by way of compensation for damages due to the human-elephant conflict. We have paid Rs. 45,500,000 as compensation for 105 human deaths, and Rs 4,432,407 for 74 for injury damage,” he said. In 2021, 141 people and 369 elephants were killed in due to the human-elephant conflict. (Daily Island, 9.7.2022)
A million people employed in the tea sector might lose jobs if the government doesn’t provide adequate stocks of diesel and petrol to plantation companies, Planters Association Spokesman Dr. Roshan Rajadurai says. He said that plantations needed large amounts of fuel to operate machinery and transport purposes. “Due to power cuts, we need to run generators. A million people are directly and indirectly working in the tea industry. If the tea industry collapses, workers will lose employment and the country a great deal of foreign earnings. Rajadurai added that they had estimated a production drop of about 25 percent by the end of this year. Between January and April this year 86,232 tonnes of tea were produced. The amount produced during the corresponding period last year was 299,338 tonnes, he said. “If we can’t meet the demand, buyers will switch to India and Kenya. When we go to gas stations near the estates, people who had been in the queues attempt to stop us. Then we can’t get fuel. If the CPC can send us fuel directly, we have facilities to store them,” he said. Rajadurai said that in recent months, a large number of plantation workers have gone overseas in search of jobs. (Daily Island, 9.7.2022)
Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has informed the Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that he will step down on 13 July following unprecedented protests engulfed the country today. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena earlier informed the President of the decisions taken by the party leaders when they met this evening under the chairmanship of the Speaker. It has been decided at the party leaders’ meeting that the President and the Prime Minister should resign immediately. However, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier informed the Party Leaders that he is willing to resign as Prime Minister and make way for an all-Party Government to take over. The Premier said he is taking this decision in view of the fact that island-wide fuel distribution is due to recommence this week, the World Food Program Director is due to visit the country this week and the Debt Sustainability report for the IMF is due to be finalized shortly. Protests turned violent towards the night and the private home of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was set on fire by protesters just hours after he agreed to resign to ensure safety of the citizens. Thousands of protesters earlier stormed the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence President’s House in Colombo. The exact location of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are unknown at this time. (Colombo Page, 10.7.2022)
Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police Nihal Thalduwa said that three persons have been arrested by the Kollupitiya Police in connection with the burning of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe’s private house. Among those arrested are a 19-year-old resident of Mount Lavinia and two residents of Galle, aged 24 and 28, the Police Media Spokesman said. The media spokesperson added that Kollupitiya police will conduct further investigations to arrest the other suspects. A spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office said that the majority of the items in the house, inherited by Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe, were old rare books and very old Buddha statues belonging to different traditions. Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and his spouse Professor Maithrie Wickramasinghe resided in this house. (Colombo Page, 10.7.2022)
Sri Lanka’s Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena today announced that the parliament will hold a vote on the 20th of July and elect a new President following the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the 13th July. The Speaker chaired a party leaders meeting held at 2.00 pm Monday in the Parliament complex and announced the decisions taken at the meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the immediate steps to be taken and the formation of an all-party government as it has been informed to the Speaker that the current president will resign on July 13. At this time, the party leaders emphasized that this work should be done in a very short time in accordance with Article 40 of the Constitution and the Election of the President (Special Provisions) Act No. 2 of 1981. Accordingly, on Friday, July 15th, the Parliament will be convened and after declaring that there is a vacancy in the office of the President according to the provisions of the relevant Act, it was decided that nominations should be called on Tuesday, the 19th July 2022. It was decided that a vote should be held on Wednesday 20th according to the provisions of the law and the President should be elected immediately. The party leaders expressed their views here that arrangements should be made for the formation of an all-party government under the new president and for the future constitutional work to be carried out and for the continuation of the existing essential services in the country. Mr. Prasanna Ranatunga, the chief organizer of the ruling party, stated that the Cabinet including the Prime Minister is ready to leave even tomorrow if an all-party government is to be formed. The Speaker has said that he expects the support of all party leaders to make these activities successful. (Colombo Page, 12.7.2022)
The Police Media Division has issued a statement pertaining to the Rs.17,850,000 recovered by protesters at the President’s House in Colombo, during yesterday’s (09) protests. As per the statement, the money was initially handed over to a group of Police Officers attached to the Fort Police Station, as instructed by the OIC of the Fort Police Station on orders of the Colombo Crimes Division. The money was later collected by the Fort OIC and is currently in the custody of the station, however, Police assured that Courts would be informed of the recovery tomorrow. (Ceylon Today, 12.7.2022).
Twelve people had died from rabies during the last six months, the Health Ministry said Director-Public Health Veterinary Service Dr. L.D. Kithsiri said, “95% of the infections happen due to dog bites. Puppies carry the highest risk of infection. In the last six months, we have vaccinated 500,000 dogs free of charge. We will also sterilise 30,000 street dogs to control their population,” he said. There are between 20 and 30 million dogs in the country and only around 1.1 million dogs are vaccinated annually, he said. Dr. Kithsiri added that if they could vaccinate 70% of the canine population, the spread of rabies could be stopped. The Ministry recommends the annual rabies vaccination of all dogs above six weeks, Dr. Kithsiri said. He added that 20 to 30 deaths occurred annually due to rabies and mainly due to exposure to infected dogs. “The main reasons for deaths in Sri Lanka are non-vaccination of dogs against rabies and not getting post-exposure treatments. If treated properly immediately after an infected animal bite, it is 100% preventable and post exposure vaccine and serum freely available at government hospitals,” he said. He added that Sri Lanka had adopted rabies control measures since 1975 and the number of human rabies deaths had declined from 377 in 1973 to 19 in 2014. “Sri Lanka seeks to be rabies-free by the end of 2025. Towards the elimination of the disease, the country needs more effective, evidence-based strategies and efforts,” he said .Dr. Kithsiri added that there was a lack of awareness about the disease, especially among those who did not own pets. (Daily Island, 15.7.2022)
The Supreme Court today issued an order preventing former Finance Ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa from traveling abroad without the permission of the court. The order will be effective until 28th July. The order was issued with the agreement of the majority of judges of the five-member Supreme Court bench. The Bench issued the order when a motion related to a petition filed requesting the court to issue an order for an investigation against the people responsible for the current economic crisis was called today. Speaking further today on behalf of the petitioner, President’s Counsel Chandaka Jayasundara said that after 2020, there was a serious crisis in the country regarding the payment of foreign debt but the rulers mocked the warnings and stated that there is no such crisis. The President’s Counsel also pointed out that this situation arose due to the tax concessions granted by the current rulers as soon as they came to power. The President’s Counsel also said that despite the economic experts urging to get the support of the International Monetary Fund in the face of the economic crisis, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the government arbitrarily emphasized that it was unnecessary to take such a step and that there is no economic crisis in the country. Therefore, until this petition is considered, the President’s Counsel requested the court to issue an order to prevent former finance ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa from going abroad without the permission of the court. Stating that the right to travel freely is a basic human right, the President’s Counsel Marapana argued that the ban on foreign travel demanded by the petitioners violates the basic rights of his clients. After considering all the facts presented, the five-member Supreme Court bench issued an order preventing the former Finance Ministers Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa from traveling abroad without the permission of the court until the 28th. It was ordered to consider these petitions on the 27th. Former Central Bank governors named as respondents in this petition, Professor W. D. Laxman and Ajith Nivard Cabral and former Secretary of the Ministry of Finance S. R. Attygalle have already given a pledge before the court that they will not travel abroad without the permission of the court until the 27th. (Colombo Page, 16.7.2022)
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has decided to support acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe in the Parliamentary vote to elect the country’s next President, the Party’s General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam said. Wickremesinghe, who was appointed Prime Minister after Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to step down from the premiership in early May amid growing public agitation, was sworn in as the acting President on Friday, July 15, soon after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation from the Presidency was officially announced. Kariyawasam said over 120 MPs have pledged their support to acting President Wickremesinghe. This decision was reached at the Party’s Group Meeting held recently. Another frontrunner in the race to become the country’s President is SLPP Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma, who previously served as the Minister of Mass Media in the administration of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Alahapperuma announced his intention to contest the Presidency when Parliament calls for nominations next week. Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Mujibur Rahuman said the party has decided to nominate its leader Sajith Premadasa, who is the present Opposition Leader. Earlier, SJB stalwart Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka also said that some MPs have asked him to stand for the Presidency, but at the time of going to press his next steps were unclear. At present there is a three-way contest for the Presidency. As announced by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Friday, Parliament will elect a new President on July 20 and nominations will be called on Tuesday (July 19). Following the voting in the House, a Member of Parliament will be appointed for the Presidency on July 20. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the acting President of Sri Lanka on Friday, July 15 until the appointment of a new President in Parliament next week. (Sunday Observer, 17.7.2022)
An Extraordinary Gazette has been issued declaring a State of Emergency across the island with effect from today. The state of emergency has been declared in a proclamation by Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe in terms of Article 40(1)(C) of the Constitution, by virtue of the powers vested in him by Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40), as amended by Act No. 8 of 1959, Law No. 6 of 1978 and Act No. 28 of 1988. According to the gazette, the public emergency in Sri Lanka has been declared in the interests of public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community. (Daily Mirror, 18.7.2022)
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his letter of resignation said he has served his motherland to the best of his ability and will continue to do the same in the future. The letter of resignation was submitted to Parliament on Saturday by the Secretary General of Parliament with the permission of the Speaker. President Rajapaksa in his letter said that the country also had to face the Covid-19 pandemic which affected the entire world even before three months had passed after he assumed office. The President said that he was happy to have protected the people from the pandemic even in the face of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka which was present at that time. “Also, due to having to shut down the country from time to time in 2020 and 2021 to protect the people from the Covid 19 pandemic, our Government had to face an escalation of the economic crisis that had been growing for many years and a shortage of foreign exchange,” the letter said. “It is my personal belief that I took all possible steps to address this crisis, including inviting Parliamentarians to form an all-party or unity government,” the letter said. (Daily News, 18.7.2022)
Colombo: Three nominations have been submitted for the parliamentary election to choose a successor president. The names of Acting President Ranil Wickramasinghe, Member of Parliament Dullas Alahapperuma and Member of Parliament Anura Kumara Dissanayake were proposed for the post. After Parliament sittings commenced today (19) at 10.00 a.m., the Secretary-General of Parliament received the Nominations to the office of President under Section 6 of the Presidential Elections (Special Provisions) Act, No. 2 of 1981. Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s name was proposed by Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena for the post of the President, and it was confirmed by Member of Parliament Manusha Nanayakkara. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP Dallas Alahapperuma was nominated by opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris confirmed the nomination. The name of National People’s Power MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake was proposed by MP Vijitha Herath and seconded by MP Harini Amarasuriya. The Secretary General of the Parliament announced that the nominations of Ranil Wickremesinghe, Dullas Alahapperuma and Anura Kumara Dissanayake for the office of the next President have been accepted as per the Presidential Elections (Special Provisions) Act (No. 2 of 1981). The parliamentary election to choose the new president is scheduled to be held tomorrow. (Colombo Page, 19.7.2022)
Leader of the House and former Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka short while ago.Gunawardena took oath before President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Prime Minister’s Office on Flower Road this morning. He has served as a Member of Parliament, cabinet minister, and Leader of the House in the Parliament of Sri Lanka. He is the current leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) party since 1983. Born on 2 March 1949, Gunawardena is the son of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna founder Philip Gunawardena and Kusumasiri Gunawardena. He received his primary and secondary education from Royal College, Colombo and later studied at the Netherlands School of Business, graduating with a diploma in business administration and management. He later joined the University of Oregon, graduating with a B.B.A. degree in international business. (Colombo Page, 22.7.2022)
Tea production in June hit a 23-year low of 20.1 million kilos, Asia Siyaka Commodities PLC revealed yesterday.
It said the lowest crop for the month of June was 19.3 million kilos recorded in 1999. The June 2022 crop is also down 22% YoY from 2021 quantity of 26 million kilos. Asia Siyaka said high grown tea production of 4.05 million kilos in June was lowest ever on record, with closest to this figure was 4.5 million kilos in 2004. The Low Grown tea production amounted to 13.1 million kilos down 16% from a year ago. The 2022 June figure is the lowest since 2007 when 12.8 million kilos was produced.
Mid Grown crop of 2.9 million kilos was also the lowest in record and was down 44% from last year.
Asia Siyaka said tea production for the first half of the year has dropped by 18% to 132.9 million kilos from a year ago. High Grown production was 31.2 million kilos compared with 36.6 million kilos the year before.
“One has to go back to the El-Nino year of 1992 when a severe drought limited production in the first half to 29.1 million kilos to find similar production figures,” Asia Siyaka said. Low Grown crop of 79 million kilos reflected an 18% drop from 1H of 2021. (Daily Financial Times, 19.7.2022) Sri Lanka’s nationwide inflation in June 2022 determined under the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) jumped to 58.9 percent from 45.3 percent recorded in May 2022 on a year-on-year basis, the Department of Census and Statistics reported Thursday. The NCPI for all items for the month of June 2022 increased to 231.5 from 208.7 in the previous month. With respect to June 2021, the reported inflation for the month of June 2022 was mainly due to the higher price levels prevailed in both food and non-food groups. Accordingly, the Year-on-Year inflation of the food group increased to 75.8 percent in June 2022 from 58.0 percent in May 2022 and the Year-on-Year inflation of the non-food group increased to 43.6 percent in June 2022 from 34.2 percent in previous month. Contributions to the inflation rate of June 2022 from food group and non-food group are 36.05 percent and 22.87 percent respectively. The moving average inflation for the month of June 2022 is 20.8percent. The corresponding rate for the month of April 2022 was 16.3 percent. (Colombo Page, 22.7.2022)
New Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardene and an 18-member cabinet comprising previous ministers in their old portfolios were sworn on Friday with the only change being the exit for Foreign Minister GL Pieris who seconded Dalla Alahapperuma for President in Parliament on Thursday.Political circles expect President Wickremesinghe and his government to negotiate enlisting opposition party member to broadbase the administration in coming days. Wickremesinghe has already appealed for all party support.
The new Cabinet of Ministers: Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena – Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government; Douglas Devananda – Fisheries, Susil Premajayantha- Education, Bandula Gunawardena – Transport, Highways, and Media, Keheliya Rambukwella – Health and Water Supply, Mahinda Amaraweera – Agriculture, Wildlife, and Forest Conservations, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe – Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms, Harin Fernando – Tourism and Lands, Ramesh Pathirana – Plantations and Industries, Prasanna Ranatunga – Urban Development and Housing, Ali Sabry – External Affairs, Vidura Wickramanayake – Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, Kanchana Wijesekera – Power and Energy, Naseer Ahamed – Environment, Roshan Ranasinghe – Sports, Youth Affairs, and Irrigation, Manusha Nanayakkara – Labour and Foreign Employment, Tiran Alles – Public Security, and Nalin Fernando – Trade, Commerce and Food Security. (Daily Island, 22.7.2022)
Headline inflation, as measured by the year-on-year (Y-o-Y) change in the National Consumer Price Index, increased to 58.9% in June 2022 from 45.3% in May 2022, the Central Bank announced yesterday. “This increase in Y-o-Y inflation was driven by the monthly increases of both Food and Non-Food categories. Accordingly, Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 75.8% in June 2022 from 58.0% in May 2022, while Non-Food inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 43.6% in June 2022 from 34.2% in May 2022,” the CBSL said. Within the Food category, prices of rice, vegetables, fresh fish, sugar, milk powder and dried fish recorded increases during the month. Further, within the Non-Food category, increases were observed in prices of Transport (petrol, diesel and bus fare), Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Household Maintenance, and Restaurants and Hotels subcategories during the month.Meanwhile, annual average inflation rose to 20.8% in June 2022 from 16.3% in May 2022. (Sunday Island, 24.7.2022)
Workers’ remittances in the first have plunged by 51.6% to $ 1.6 billion from a year ago with June reflecting a sharper dip and reversing the rise in the previous month. In June inflows were $ 274.3 million, down 42.6% from $ 478.4 million a year ago. June performance also reversed the gain experienced in May to $ 304 million from $ 249 in April. Year-on-year dip had worsened in June as well as in May. When May inflows rose the Central Bank (CBSL) said it can mainly be attributed to the stability observed in the domestic foreign exchange market, along with the narrowing of the gap between the grey market and official exchange rate.
In that context analysts said that the dip in June is likely to add more pressure on the Government and the Central Bank which have been championing much needed inflows via official channels and cited the exchange rate being realistic and attractive to do so as opposed to what is offered in the grey market. After the rupee was allowed to float freely on 7 March, the country saw a jump in workers’ remittances to $ 318 million (highest year to date) but since then the inflows had been erratic (See chart).
The erratic performance is also disturbing since more people have taken up overseas employment.
CBSL said total departures for foreign employment were recorded at 22,194 in May contributed by the unskilled (7,453), skilled (6,947) and domestic aid (4,793) categories. Total departures for foreign employment during January-May 2022 were recorded at 113,757, compared to 26,450 in the corresponding period of the previous year and 117,952 in the year 2021.
Last year workers remittances dropped to a 10-year low of $ 5.5 billion, down by 23% from 2020.
During the year up to 22 July 2022, the Sri Lankan rupee depreciated against the dollar by 44.5%. Given the cross-currency exchange rate movements, the rupee depreciated against the Indian rupee by 40.4%, the Euro by 38.4%, the pound sterling by 37.4% and the Japanese yen by 33.7% during this period. (Daily Financial Times, 26.7.2022)
Rupee earnings from tea from January to June this year is Rs.164.2 billion. This translates into a 28 per cent increase in earnings from tea over corresponding earnings from tea during the same period last year, which amounted to Rs. 127 billion, an Asia Siyaka (AS) tea research report said. In US dollars, this achievement is approximately 577 million. Iraq was the number one destination for Sri Lanka tea exports, with quantities rising sharply by 46 per cent to 23.5 Mn Kgs. Iraq was followed by the UAE, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, China, Germany and Chile. Reports did not include exports to the US. The US, as reported by us recently, was a major importer of tea from Argentina. Prices for the extra special grades were recorded to be upwards of Rs. 10,000. per kilo. These were small quantities but impacted the general trend that made a difference to the overall price structure. All broker reports were positive on price improvement per kilo, including John Keels Holdings and Forbes and Walker (FW) tea reports. However, it is of interest that the Tea Board has helped in the purchase of fertilizer by all tea producers. Low- cost funds were provided to purchase fertilizer for immediate application. Both smallholders and plantation companies were to benefit from this scheme which will help to improve tea production over the second half of production year 2022. Tea industry insiders commended the Tea Board for their funding action which is expected to impact the tea industry positively. A salutary result could be a boost in production, although quick-fire results could not be expected. Some tea holders informed us that their earnings, particularly from low grown holdings, had increased to Rs.300 per kilo for green leaf supplied to identified tea factory owners. However, tea broker reports indicated an overall shortfall in production this year. The total production recorded to date in 2022 is 141.2 million kgs, whereas in 2021, production for the same period was 167.1 million kgs.(Daily Island, 26.7.2022) The production of milk, eggs and poultry has declined seriously, the Ministry of Agriculture said. Accordingly, liquid milk production has decreased by 19.8 percent, egg production by 34.9 percent, and chicken meat production by 12.1 percent. The Ministry of Agriculture states that the lack of proper production of animal feed is the main cause of this situation. A senior official of the Ministry of Agriculture said that steps have been taken to give priority to maize production to overcome this situation. (Colombo Page, 29.7.2022)
The country’s merchandise exports have soared by 20% to $ 1.21 billion in June, whilst pushing to $ 6.41 billion in the first half of 2022, appearing to be the sole silver lining for Sri Lanka to avert partly a direr foreign exchange crisis. Previously, the highest for the month was recorded seven months ago with $ 1.16 billion in October 2021. As per provisional data released by the Export Development Board (EDB) yesterday, in the first half of 2022, merchandise exports exceeded the $ 6 billion mark, up by 12.4% year-on-year. June merchandise exports grew by 20% from a year earlier, driven by apparel and textiles, rubber-based and coconut-based products, food and beverages as well as seafood, proving the private sector›s resilience and becoming the only economic contributor generating a fixed inflow of much needed foreign exchange. EDB estimated services exports in the first half were at $ 1.34 billion, up by 45.72% from a year earlier. The services exports estimated by EDB consist of ICT/BPM, construction, financial services, and transport and logistics. In 2021, Sri Lanka’s total exports recorded $ 15.12 billion, up by 23% from 2020 sustaining its resilience, despite an unprecedented economic crisis. Last year’s performance comes second only to the $ 15.91 billion recorded in 2018. The Government is banking on exports, the only hope that can pull Sri Lanka out of the vicious cycle of the current account and put it back on a sound economic growth path. The Government has assured more support to exporters to reach a $ 20 billion target this year. (Daily Financial Times, 30.7.2022)