team in India for talks
By Chris Kamalendran
With trade unions breathing fire against privatisation
and another fuel price hike on the cards, an official Sri Lankan
delegation is in New Delhi to finalise matters relating to the privatization
of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and an Indian credit line
of US$ 150 million.
state-owned CPC, which earlier enjoyed the monopoly of fuel import
and distribution, has now as its partner the Indian Oil Corporation.
The IOC owes the CPC Rs. 400 million – the price forpetrol
purchase from the CPC. Now, the CPC wants to bring a third partner,
India's Bharat Petroleum.
IOC now buys petrol from the CPC though it imports diesel and kerosene
on its own. The petrol purchases are currently done through the
CPC until the oil storage facilities are available.
IOC on Monday deposited Rs. 195 million from the total outstanding
debt, a day after The Sunday Times reported that the Indian company
owed the CPC a huge amount.
Chairman Jaliya Medagama and Commercial Manager K.S.W. Kottachchy
are in New Delhi meeting top officials of the two Indian companies.
Talks with the IOC centre on obtaining outstanding payments and
briefing it on the ongoing privatization moves. Their talks with
officials in Bharat Petroleum cover the CPC sale of 100 fuel distribution
outlets to it. Some finality of these talks will see Treasury Secretary
P. B. Jayasundara signing a formal agreement with Bharat Petroleum.
and Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha and Indian High Commission's
spokesperson M. Malik confirmed talks were being held in India,
while CPC trade unions -- which were earlier told there were no
moves towards privatization -- have threatened trade union action.
Minister Premajayantha told The Sunday Times talks were under way
with trade union representatives on various issues.
moves come as President Chandrika Kumaratunga warned of a further
fuel price hike. She told her Cabinet this week that petrol prices
would have to be increased by Rs 3.50 a litre and diesel by Rs 2.
President Kumaratunga in a bid to reduce the burden on the consumers
had proposed that a coupon system be introduced to bus owners and
three-wheel owners enabling them to purchase fuel at lower prices,
but cabinet ministers opposed the move saying that there would be
practical difficulties in implementing the system. The President
did not give any dates for the next fuel price hike but it is likely
before the budget next month.