Victor Melder

Sri Lanka Customs (SLC) has recorded the highest revenue for the month of October compared to previous months within this year, Customs media spokesman Sivali Arukgoda said. He said the SL Customs has earned more than Rs. 109 billion in revenue in October. The major reason for the increase in revenue was streamlining and making the tax collection process more efficient. This year, the total Customs revenue is expected to exceed Rs. 925 billion. By October 31, 2023, the Customs Department had collected a total revenue of Rs. 760 billion (Daily Mirror, 1.11.2023)

With the rapid increase in demand for Sri Lankan King Coconuts in the international market, their export from Sri Lanka has increased by 117 percent in 2023, the Agriculture Ministry said. According to the Sri Lanka Coconut Development Authority, the export of king coconuts from Sri Lanka has increased by 117 percent in 2023. A discussion was held in this regard with the officers of the Coconut Development Board of Sri Lanka, the Coconut Research Institute, and the Coconut Development Authority (CDA) at the Ministry yesterday. During the meeting, measures to be taken in the future for the development of coconut cultivation in Sri Lanka and the progress made so far were discussed. “Although it has not been cultivated as a plantation crop so far, there is a high demand in the international market for the King Coconuts grown in this country. In 2022, 11 million king coconuts were exported and an income of 110 million rupees was earned. The number of king coconuts that have been exported so far this year is 14 million. The income earned from it is Rs. 140 million,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said. The number of king coconuts exported this year has increased by 117 percent, he said. King coconut cultivation has not yet become popular in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Minister instructed officials of the CDA, Coconut Research Institute and the Coconut Development Board to conduct soil tests, identify suitable areas for cultivation, and name the area as a king coconut cultivation export model village. “At present, we have not identified any varieties of king coconuts suitable for cultivation in our country, and the traditionally cultivated king coconut species are still being cultivated. But the Minister also instructed the Sri Lanka Coconut Research Institute to start research to introduce a new species of king coconuts that have high taste and attractiveness and bear fruits within a short period of time. (Daily Mirror, 1.11.2023)

The upwelled water carried by the West India Coastal Current (WICC) off the west coast of Sri Lanka is rich in nutrients, and it can play an important role in the improvement of productivity in terms of fish production, according to preliminary findings during research with the Chinese vessel ‘Shi Yan 6’, a top scientist said yesterday. Upwelling is the process in which water from the deep sea rises up when winds blow across the ocean pushing surface water away. Principal Scientist of National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) Dr. K. Arulananthan told Daily Mirror that his team participated in research in nine allocated locations of the Indian Ocean on board Shi Yan 6 with Chinese scientists. He said nutrients-rich water enhance the proliferation of phytoplankton, a primary producer which serves as food for fish. He said the path of the west India coastal current (WICC) is not established and the survey off the west coast will give an insight into the dynamics of it. The research also dealt with the heat transported by the WICC since it drives the weather of the northern Indian Ocean rim countries like Sri Lanka. NARA recognizes that the seasonally reversing coastal current around Sri Lanka plays an important role in water exchange and heat transport within the Northern Indian Ocean. The heat distributions in the ocean, while determining the biological productivity, interact with the atmosphere and drive the weather in this region. According to NARA, the ocean survey in 2018 revealed a more complicated current pattern off the southern water. The survey also indicated upwelled water off the west coast. These two phenomena are contrary to the understanding of the ocean processes and dynamics around Sri Lanka. During the last survey with the Chinese vessel, CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) profiling was undertaken at the selected sampling locations, in addition to water sampling for the calibrations of CTD. Besides, Acoustic Doppler Current profiling was also done. All data gathered will be used to analyze the water currents. (Daily Mirror, 3.11.2023)

A total of 399 elephants have died  up to October this year,, and the majority of them due to human-elephant conflicts and many deaths related to shooting incidents, the Wildlife Conservation Department said. Department’s Publicity Officer Hasini Sarathchandra said that a significant number of wild elephants have died due to natural causes as well. Accordingly, 74 elephants died due to gunshots, 47 due to electrocution, 39 due to the use of Hakkapatas, three due to poisoning, 19 due to train accidents, one elephant died due to a road accident, four due to falling into cultivation wells, and 15 due to various other incidents, the publicity officer said. She said the remaining deaths were reported due to natural causes, such as ageing and natural disasters. 2022 is the year where the highest number of elephant deaths were reported, and it was 439, she said. “Considering the current situation, there is a high possibility of recording a higher number of elephant deaths in Sri Lankan history when compared with 2022,” Hasini Sarathchandra added. (Daily Mirror, 4.11.2023)

Sri Lanka’s economic model would be built on competitiveness, digital transition, energy transition and the transformation to a green economy, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said. The country plans to establish an International Climate Change University (ICCU) for which the government has allocated 600 acres overlooking the Kothmale Reservoir.The ICCU would be an international stakeholder university rather than a solely Sri Lankan institution, the president said at the first International Climate Change Forum held at Temple Trees Thursday (2). “The country’s small size could be advantageous, given its potential for excess green energy, including solar, wind power and hydrogen,” Ranil Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying in a statement by the president’s media office. “However, Sri Lanka currently lacks the expertise to formulate detailed plans for this transition. To address this, the country is reaching out to multilateral development banks and bilateral partners to obtain the necessary knowledge and support.” Wickremesinghe outlined the country’s plans for environmental sustainability and economic growth. (Sunday Island, 5.11.2023)

Tourism Minister Harin Fernando yesterday said the industry has managed to rebound with earnings nearing $ 1.6 billion along with the boost in arrivals in 2023.“During the first 10 months of the year, earnings have totalled $ 1.59 billion. It is a 56% year-on-year (YoY) growth compared to the same period in 2022. October earnings stood at $ 136.70 million,” he told the Daily FT. “We are confident that by the end of the year, tourism earnings will reach $ 2.5 billion,” he added. In light of these encouraging numbers, the Minister said Sri Lanka Tourism has set an ambitious target of welcoming 2.5 million tourists and earning $ 4 billion in income. The Minister currently attending the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London said the new tagline of Sri Lanka Tourism, “You’ll come back for more” was well received by the participants.  “Statistics show that 33% of tourists are repeat travelers and it augurs well in attracting high-spending repeat visitors,” he added. 
With more international airlines and charter flights resuming operations now till March 2024, the Minister expressed hope for a busy winter season whilst promising activities filled December, to end the year on a high note. (Daily Financial Times, 8.11.2023)

India’s Taj Group has proposed to convert the colonial-era Nuwara Eliya post office to a hotel, Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said. A proposal in this regard has been received by the President’s Office, he said. During the Nuwara Eliya Special District Coordination Committee (DCC) meeting held last week, this matter came up and President Ranil Wickremesinghe slammed Sri Lanka Post officials for their failure to facilitate the project. Efforts to establish a hotel in the premises of the Nuwara Eliya post office have been ongoing for approximately the past 6 to 7 years, and this proposal has encountered strong opposition from postal trade unions. However, Gunawardana, who is also the Minister of Post, said he supports the hotel project as it makes much economic sense. Besides, he said, the building needs heavy maintenance and the Department of Post doesn’t have adequate funds for that. “There are a large number of Indians visiting Nuwara Eliya. Seetha Eliya, a nearby location connected to the Ramayana, is a major  Meanwhile, the United Postal Trade Unions Front (UPTUF) announced a 48-hour strike from midnight yesterday to express their opposition against the plans to sell the buildings where Kandy and Nuwara Eliya post offices are located. (Daily Mirror, 8.11.2023)

The Polonnaruwa Archeology Office said they had discovered an extremely rare and the largest inscription ever found in Sri Lanka. They said the inscription was found on the hills of Polonnaruwa’s historic Dimbulagala Aranya Senasana. This extremely rare document was discovered by officers attached to the Inscriptions Section of the Archeology Department Head Office and the Polonnaruwa Archaeological Survey Team. In a letter sent by Polonnaruwa Archeology Department Assistant Director M.G. Ratnapala to Dimbulagala Aranya Senasanadhipa, Ven. Dimbulagala Rahulalankara Thera, stated that it will take more than a month to copy the inscription. Dimbulagala Aranya Senasanadhipa Ven. Dimbulagala Rahulalankara Thera said the team of relevant officers and workers of the Archeology Department has been staying on the Dimbulagala mountain range and had started copying the inscription on October 26. The inscription is about 45 feet long and 18 feet high, and it is not possible to exactly say to which era this inscription belongs to. Ven. Rahulalankara Thera also mentioned that it will take another month for the archaeologists to make an official announcement about it. After the completion of the transcription work, the Archeology Department is planning to conserve and display the most rare and largest document in Sri Lanka, so it can be viewed by future generations (Daily Mirror, 9.11.2023)

Thirty-five percent of the male population over 18 uses alcohol, according to the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre – Sri Lanka (ADIC Sri Lanka). The centre states that the per capita alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka is 4.3 litres and the per capita alcohol consumption of the people who consume alcohol is 18.9 litres. Among the types of alcohol used, arrack is the most consumed type of alcohol, followed by beer, the centre says, but the use of kasippu is not more than 10 percent of those who use alcohol. ADIC said that poor families spend about one-third of their income on alcohol, beer, and illicit liquor. The centre stated that if the country’s income is to be increased, the tax on alcohol should be increased and thereby enable people’s standard of living to increase. The centre stated further that the government should not be deceived by the unscientific arguments made to reduce the price of alcohol and increase sales outlets by saying that the government will not be able to obtain taxes due to the increase in illicit liquor. According to ADIC, illicit liquor consumption should be eliminated and the institutions that exist for eliminating them should be strengthened. (Daily News, 11.11.2023)

Expatriate workers have sent 517.4 million dollars to the country in October and 7.6 billion dollars have been received as foreign workers’ remittances since last May when the Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment Mr. Manusha Nanayakkara assumed office. Accordingly, the amount of foreign remittances received in October of this year shows an increase of 45.63 percent compared to the 355.4 million US dollars received in October last year. Also, in the first ten months of this year, 4.86 billion US dollars have been received as foreign remittances. In the first ten months of last year, 2,929.4 million US dollars have been received as foreign remittances. Accordingly, the receipt of foreign remittances has increased by 66 percent in the first ten months of this year compared to the same period last year. (Colombo Page, 14.11.2023)

President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe  unveiled a plethora of relief and reforms via the 2024 Budget and urged all political parties to join in to usher an economic revolution. Some Features:  * Hike in Cost of Living Allowance for 1.3 m public servants, 700,000 pensioners and tripling of Aswesuma expenditure among key welfare moves * Expenditure estimated at Rs. 7 t; interest and principal debt payment account for highest at 50% or Rs. 4.8 t followed by salaries Rs. 1.1 t or 14% * No new taxes but hike in VAT from 15% to 18% to boost income from taxes on domestic goods, services to Rs. 2.2 t or 53% of total revenue * Budget deficit estimated at Rs. 2.85 t, up by 19% from 2023 * Borrowing limit increases by Rs. 3.45 t to Rs. 7.35 t. * President calls for new economic and political system; says 2024 Budget lays foundation * Stresses via sustainable actions economy can be fully rejuvenated * Says ‘let’s be honest with ourselves; let’s think about the country rather than about our politics’* Highlights significant progress since crisis in 2022 but acknowledge deficiencies and mistakes and vows to rectify (Daily Financial Times, 14.11.2023)

Approximately 1 million hospital admissions and 12,000 deaths are reported per year in the country due to various accidents, Health Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana revealed. This staggering number highlights the significant danger and urgency surrounding this issue, stressed the Minister. In addition, these accidents result in around 12,000 deaths annually, which equates to an average of 1,000 deaths per month or nearly 35 deaths per day. “Traffic accidents result in approximately 3,000 annual fatalities, suffocation (including strangulation) claims the lives of around 2,000 individuals, while drowning and falls contribute to an additional 1,000 and 1,500 deaths respectively. Various types of poisoning lead to approximately 1,200 fatalities, while hundreds more succumb to electrocution, burns and animal attacks. Individuals aged between 15-44 are susceptible to these accidents,” he said. “Among the leading causes of these fatalities, accidents top the list. This alarming trend demands immediate attention and action to address the social impacts, prevention measures, remedial actions, and the strengthening of various sectors involved in tackling these issues,” he underscored. The Minister of Health has expressed full commitment to implementing effective policy actions in response to this crisis. (Daily Mirror, 20.11.2023)

Some 2,087 teenaged mothers were reported in Sri Lanka in 2022 according to the Family Health Bureau, State Minister Geetha Kumarasinghe said. She told Parliament that several factors such as migrating mothers, the collapse of the family unit, lack of sex education, drug addiction among parents, both parents being employed and an increase in the use of smartphones among children have led to the increase in the number of teenaged mothers. While responding to a question by MP Jagath Kumara, she said there were some 89,164 single-parent families in Sri Lanka which include 124,482 children. Ms. Kumarasinghe said the government has launched several programmes to address the issue including awareness programmes and offering legal assistance to victimized children. (Daily Mirror, 20.11.2023)

Sri Lanka tea production for the month of October 2023 totaled 22.85 M/Kgs, showing an increase of 3.86 M/Kgs vis-à-vis 18.99 M/Kgs of October 2022. All Elevations have shown an increase in comparison with the corresponding period of 2022. Compared to the 24.17 M/Kgs of October 2021, October 2023 shows a decrease of 1.32 M/Kgs. January-October 2023 cumulative production totaled 216.26 M/Kgs, recording an increase of 4.49 M/Kgs vis-à-vis 211.77 M/Kgs of January-October 2022. Compared to the corresponding period in 2022, all elevations have shown positive variances in the year 2023. (Daily News, 21.11.2023)

Sri Lanka’s nationwide inflation in October 2023 determined under the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) marginally increased to 1.0 percent from 0.8 percent recorded in October 2023 on a year-on-year basis, the Department of Census and Statistics reported Tuesday. The NCPI for all items for the month of October 2023 increased to 203.6 from 203.5 in September. The month-on-month change was contributed by decreases in food items of 0.51% and increases in non-food items of 0.55% respectively. On a monthly basis, the Year-on-Year inflation of the food group remained unchanged in October 2023 at -5.2%, which was reported in September 2023 and the Year-on-Year inflation of the non-food group increased to 6.3% in October 2023 from 5.9% in September 2023. On Year-on-Year basis, contribution of food commodities to inflation was -2.41 percent in October 2023 compared to the month of October 2022 and contribution of non-food items was 3.40 percent. (Colombo Page, 22.11.2023)

Following research conducted by the Agriculture Ministry, it has been revealed that the total daily consumption of coconuts is around 4.5 million nuts, and the daily production of coconuts is around three million nuts. Therefore, the Agriculture Ministry has instructed the National Coconut Development Board to implement a program to motivate people to cultivate coconuts in every home garden that has space. Accordingly, a large amount of coconut that can be used for the consumption of our country is destroyed due to ignorance. Coconut cultivation in Sri Lanka is a plantation crop. So far, 75% of the total coconut production is used for local consumption. It is a plantation crop with a high export demand. Coconut production in this country has not yet been developed to the point of export, the minister said.  Considering all the facts, the Coconut Development Board has decided to establish a new coconut triangle by planting 100,000 coconut saplings in the Hambantota district. The establishment of the new coconut triangle centered round the areas of Ranna, Weerakatiya and Walasmulla is currently being carried out. Arrangements have been made to provide five coconut saplings per household for planting in home gardens. Therefore, the distribution of coconut saplings to the farmers for this new coconut triangle was carried out during the last two days by the Agriculture Ministry.(Daily Mirror, 22.11.2023)

A new species of Blind Snake has been discovered in Sri Lanka after 76 years. This new species was discovered as a result of research in reptiles carried out over a long period of time. This new Blind Snake was discovered in the Girithale area. Ten of the 108 species of snakes discovered in Sri Lanka are belonging to the Scolecophidia category. This category is called the Blind Snakes. The Blind Snakes found in Sri Lanka represent the two genera Indotyphlops and Gerrhopilus. The last time Sri Lanka discovered a new kind of Blind Snake was 76 years ago in 1947 in the Trincomalee area by Edward Tailor. He unveiled information about five new species of Blind Snakes living in the vicinity of Trincomalee. (Daily News, 23.11.2023)

Two wild elephants died yesterday (22) after being hit by a train and electrocuted in the Malutivu and Kilinochchi districts, Wildlife Department officials said. Kilinochchi Wildlife Office said that a wild elephant was killed after it collided with the Uttara Devi train travelling from Jaffna to Colombo in the Murukandi area of ​​Kilinochchi. The Mullaitivu Wildlife Officer said a tusker was found dead in the Salamban area of ​​Oddusudan Periya Mullaitivu. It is also revealed that this tusker died after being electrocuted by an unauthorized electric cable that had been laid due to the threat of wild elephants to the respective paddy field. The Wildlife officials added that the dead elephant was a 15-year-old tusker and the Oddusudan Police had been informed to arrest the owner of the field who had drawn electric wires. The last rites of the wild elephant who died after being hit by the train and the elephant who died due to electric shock are scheduled to be performed today. (Daily Mirror, 23.11.2023

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