SRI LANKA NEWS IN BRIEF (MAY 2018) – Compiled by Victor Melder

Victor Meldor - eLanka

Colombo CPI continued to ease, settling below 4%, thanks to the continued moderation in food prices, which grew at its slowest in the past two years. Food prices eased on a sequential basis as well, led by vegetables, sea fish, onions and coconut. Non-food prices on the other hand, showed mild signs of pick up after easing for six continuous months. ‘Alcohol and beverage’, health, transport and recreation index picked up both on an annual and sequential basis, while that of ‘clothing and footwear’ eased. Core inflation mirrored this mild pick-up. Recent trends of moderation in food prices along with the statistical impact of last year’s high base is expected to keep inflation within the central bank’s target range of 4-6%. We forecast inflation to average 4.3% in 2018. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in its April meeting reduced the upper bound of the policy rate corridor, i.e. cut the Standard Lending Facility Rate (SLFR) by 25bps to 8.5%. Easing inflation, stabilizing inflation expectations, cooling credit growth, and weak economic growth in 2017 warranted a reduction in the policy rate, according to the CBSL. (Daily Island 1.5.2018)

The funeral of world renowned film producer Dr. Lester James Peries will be held at 3 pm today at Independence Square with full State patronage. The remains will be kept at Independence Square from 12 noon to 3 p.m. for the public to pay their last respects. Internationally acclaimed cinematic genius Dr. Lester James Peries passed away on Sunday night, while receiving treatment at a private hospital in Colombo. He was 99. Large crowds, including artistes and politicians are expected to participate in the funeral today. Lester James Peiris was born to a reputed Roman Catholic family in Dehiwala on April 5, 1919. He was eleven years old when he was gifted a 8 mm Kodasco projector by his father. He started writing to the blue pages of the Ceylon Daily News at the age of 17. Rekhawa,” his debut film production showed his extraordinary knowledge in the technique of film industry in December 1956 earned him a commendable reputation as the best production of Sri Lankan Cinema. (Daily News 2.5.2018)

Plantations Minister Naveen Dissanayake said yesterday that the ban on glyphosate had been lifted for tea and rubber plantations from yesterday. However, the ban would be in force as regards paddy and other cultivations, the minister told a press conference in Colombo. Glyphosate was banned in 2015. Independent MP Ven Athuraliye Ratana has stated that he would take to the streets against the government if the ban on glyphosate is lifted. The tea and rubber planters continued to plead with the government to lift the ban as their cultivations suffered severely because of the ban as traditional use of labour to remove weeds was expensive. (Daily Island, 3.5.2018)

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Compiled by Victor Melder

Victor Meldor

The national carrier SriLankan Airlines recently held its 39th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Shareholders last Monday at the Auditorium of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka at Malalasekera Mawatha in Colombo 7. It was well attended by many former and current employee shareholders, anxious to ascertain the future of the airline. A Group Net Loss of LKR 28,339,51 was reported in 2016/17, up 135% from Group Net Loss of LKR 12,083.62 in 2015/16. Latest Group Net Loss includes LKR 14,362.81 Mn. paid as compensation for the cancellation of lease agreements for four Airbus 350-900 aircraft. Significant increases in Operating Expenses compared to previous year were; Aircraft Maintenance & Overhaul (22%), Rental on Leased Aircraft (13%) Employee Costs (12%) and Marketing & Advertising (11%). In his message to shareholders, Chairman Ajith Dias stated, “Although our financial performance for the year is, on the face of it, less satisfactory than the year before, it has been seen in the context of numerous challenges which we faced”. He need be applauded for highlighting in his message, the airline’s operations being hampered by the “method of interacting, reporting, decision-making through bureaucratic and political channels”, an obvious reference to political interference. It contradicts what was stated during his recent interview with Ada Derana of having submitted a restructuring plan to the government and awaiting approval. Or else, the airline has implemented at least parts of the restructuring plan, whilst awaiting approval. He also claimed during the interview, the carrier required less wide bodied A330 aircraft and more A320/321 narrow bodied aircraft in order to make the airline profitable. However, only six out of 24 routes operated with A320/321 narrow bodied aircraft during 2016/17 achieved breakeven load factor. The CEO has elaborated on the reduction in the single biggest cost component i.e. fuel. It is not known what percentage of the saving is due to reduction in fuel consumption resulting from discontinuation of long haul flights to Paris, Frankfurt and Rome. He made no mention of the 12% increase in manpower costs from previous year. No meaningful response was forthcoming on the issue of high employee costs. The airline employed 7,021 staff to service 24 aircraft, a staff to plane ratio of 292 for each aircraft. Carriers known with staff to plane ratios worse than that of the national carrier are Syrian Arab Airlines 400:1 and Pakistan International Airlines with 391:1. Air India has managed to reduce staff to plane ration from 300:1 in 2012 to 108:1 by 2015. In 2016/17, Group Employee Costs including Crew Salaries amounted to LKR 20,015.81. Crew Expenses consisting of allowances amounted to an additional LKR 5,435.70 making the total Salaries and Allowances bill a massive LKR 25,451.51 Mn. Aircraft Maintenance & Overhaul Costs amounted to LKR 17,644.09 Mn. in March 2016/17, a 48% increase from LKR 11,932.41 Mn. in 2014/15, despite the induction of several new aircraft which generally results in reduced maintenance & overhaul costs. (Sunday Island 1.10.2017)

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Compiled by Victor Melder

The Handbook of Drug Abuse Information (HBDAI) – 2016 reveals that the total drug related arrests last year was 82, 482 up from 67, 025 made in 2014. The HBDAI released by the National Dangerous Drug Control Board (NDDCB) stated that drug related arrests had increased by 23 per cent last year. NDDCB has said that the total number of drug related arrests in 2012 was 47,926. When compared with the year 2013 drug related arrests increased by 1.5 per cent in 2014. Thirty five per cent of arrests was related to heroin and 65 per cent to cannabis. According to the HBDAI – 2016, 32 per cent of the total drug related arrests last (2015) year was related to heroin and 63 per cent to cannabis. Most number of drug related arrests has been reported from the Western Province (60 per cent) while the Southern and Central provinces had recorded 10 percent and eight per cent respectively. “The Colombo District contributed to 43 per cent of the total drug arrests while Gampaha and Kurunegala contributed to 14 percent and four percent respectively.” The HBDAI?states that the prevalence of drug related arrests was 397 per 100,000 of the population last year. The HBDAI says that most of the drug related arrests in 2014 were reported from the Western Province (61 per cent) while the Southern and Uva Provinces had recorded 10 per cent and four per cent respectively. The Colombo District accounted for 44 percent of the arrests and the Districts of Gampaha and Galle 13 percent and five per cent respectively. The prevalence of drug related arrests was 329 per 100,000 in 2014. (Daily Island 1.11.2016)

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SRI LANKA NEWS IN BRIEF- AUGUST  2016- Compiled by Victor Melder

Passengers purchasing items from SriLankan Airlines’ ‘Serendib Treasures’ on-board duty-free collection will from August 1 enjoy enhanced convenience and purchasing power, thanks to a new electronic credit and debit card system developed in partnership with the Bank of Ceylon to provide real-time processing of transactions. The new system gives passengers a purchasing power that is equal to their card limit, and eliminates the possibility of fraudulent transactions. It also assures passengers that they are not vulnerable to card duplication or identity theft. The system was introduced by SriLankan Airlines’ IT, Inflight Service and Engineering departments in partnership with Bank of Ceylon, Card Centre which is providing the point of sales machines and technical infrastructure. It operates through the new Internet connectivity on board SriLankan’s fleet which also provides passengers with mobile roaming and Internet/e-mail facilities. “SriLankan Airlines is one of the first few airlines in the world to use the latest GSM technology over Inmarsat’s Swift Broadband (SBB) service, operated in its newer I-4 satellites, to establish the connection between on-board POS device and the ground Gateway Server. This fast, reliable and secure system was adapted and integrated in-house by our talented team, and is innovatively designed to provide optimum convenience, security and efficiency for both our passengers and the airline.” (Daily Island 1.8.2016)

A wild elephant was killed when it was knocked down by the night mail train proceeding from Colombo to Trincomalee on the Habarana- Kantale stretch near Agbopura Police Station early on Sunday, July (31 morning. (Daily Island 1.8.2016)

The government of Japan has decided to grant a US$90 million concessionary loan (Rs.10 billion) to implement Sri Lanka’s development policies. The Japanese Government has decided to grant this loan to Sri Lanka as assistance to enable the island to implement the development proposals made by its budget 2016. This loan should be repaid within 25 years and, a seven year grace period has been given to start repayment. Sri Lanka has to pay only 1.4% interest for this Rs.10 billion loan. This is the first time in diplomatic history of the two countries that Japan granted a loan of this kind to Sri Lanka. (Daily Island 2.8.2016)

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