Local businessman Cornel Perera, who promoted the Colombo Hilton project years ago, has made a claim of US$ 25 million (more than Rs 3.8 billion or Rs 3,800 million) for his role, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) has been told. The March 22 minutes of the CCEM meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Ranil [...]


With such payments, we can build another Hilton


Local businessman Cornel Perera, who promoted the Colombo Hilton project years ago, has made a claim of US$ 25 million (more than Rs 3.8 billion or Rs 3,800 million) for his role, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) has been told.

The March 22 minutes of the CCEM meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, note, “Mr Perera has been claiming about $ 25 million for all the expenditure he has made, all the losses he has incurred and all the efforts he made as a promoter.”
However, the minutes observe that Mr Perera had paid the Urban Development Authority (UDA) Rs. 27 million only. “There is no other evidence of any major expenditure by him,” the minutes add.
The minutes conclude by saying “Finally, Ms Bimba Tillekeratne, PC was instructed to obtain the Hon. AG’s (Attorney General) advice on the legality of the claim and as to how this matter should be proceeded by the Government.”

It was only at the last weekly ministerial meeting (April 4), President Maithripala Sirisena asked Premier Wickremesinghe to appoint a Committee to probe a claim made by Nihal Sri Amerasekera, a consultant. This was after Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake presented a cabinet memorandum seeking approval to pay a further Rs 300 million to him for Colombo Hilton.
Mr Karunanayake said in this memorandum that “…..considering the fact that Mr Amerasekera’s claims are on account of services rendered with regard to Hilton Hotel this matter was deliberated by me and Secretary to the Treasury with officials. Until a final decision was made to honour the undertaking of Rs 300 million given to Mr Amerasekera, an overdraft facility from Bank of Ceylon was made available amounting to Rs 100 million which was fully drawn by him and this facility was increased by a further Rs 125 million in June 2015. However, Mr Amerasekera has also borne the interest cost of Rs 52.5 million, on the amounts drawn by him, and this facility was increased by a further Rs 125 million, on the amounts drawn by him via the overdraft at Bank of Ceylon, which has to be re-imbursed by the Government…..”
A minister who is a member of the CCEM commented rather wryly; “without prejudice to the parties involved, the funds claimed could all easily ad


Packet of tea free for tourists
Tourists arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport will receive a free packet of tea, courtesy the Government of Sri Lanka.
The move follows a recommendation to the Cabinet of Ministers by Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake.
Ministers have decided that the Plantation Industries Ministry should also consult the Tourism Ministry in carrying out this task.
Some suggest it may be better to give the pack when they are leaving, otherwise they will have to carry it all over the country on their tour, or drink the blessed thing.
d up to the cost to build another Hilton.”

CCEM directs FCID to probe only pre-2015 deals
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) has asked the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) not to probe procurements after 2015.
The move means that only procurements before 2015, which were under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, would be probed.
They have been told to direct all such investigation to the National Procurement Commission. At a recent discussion, it was noted that the FCID summoned public officers for investigations on procurement issues.
The CCEM has said it is of the view that procurement issues could be handled by the National Procurement Commission.
How come the CCEM is giving directions to the FCID? This is the multimillion-rupee question.


Ex-minister victim of doctors’ strike
A former Cabinet minister turned up at the Emergency Unit of the National Hospital on Friday April 7 for treatment but learnt to his dismay that the doctors were on strike.
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) was protesting over the Government’s failure to take over the South Asian Institution of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).
Realising that the former minister is in distress, the doctors soon placed him on a bed, covered the curtains around and administered saline on him to show it was an emergency case. They could not find a room to move him to because doctors were on strike.
“If we were in power, this would not have happened to me,” the one time minister from the eastern side of the hill country said. He later moved out of the emergency room.

Pre-Davos economic forum in Lanka
Sri Lanka will host the Asia Economic Forum in October this year.
The event is a prelude to the World Economic Forum 2017 to be held in Davos, Switzerland.
Sri Lanka has been asked to make a presentation on the outcome of the Asia Economic Forum at the Davos event.

Renovated train carriages for backpacking tourists
Barely a week passes without a new hotel project being approved by the Government. Such hotels are not only in Colombo but also in a number of provincial towns and will cater to both ‘free spending’ and other tourists coming to Sri Lanka on different tour ‘packages.

But that has not prevented the Government from targeting the budget minded tourists who care for every dollar they spend. Two ministers think they could even scrape in those measly dollars and cents.
For this purpose, Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Tourism Minister John Ameratunga obtained approval of the Cabinet for a project that has evoked some laughter in the tourism sector.
They will use Railway lands to place condemned train carriages after they are repaired. As their cabinet memorandum notes, it is for “backpacking tourist accommodation.” The Ministers have decided that Tourism Minister Ameratunga should appoint a committee to ensure “the smooth implementation of the proposed project.

Most railway land to be utilised for this purpose are those lying alongside the railway lines. Preparing such land and repairing clapped out railway carriages, there is little doubt, will require considerable financial investment.
There will of course be job opportunities which politicos will provide for their supporters. The move will come as a devastating blow for those who have converted their homes along the beachfront to provide tourists Bed-and- Breakfast accommodation at budget prices.
Some have made heavy investments with bank loans to construct swimming pools, additional buildings and employ a large number of youth. The growth of this sector has also seen the rapid increase of different dependent supplementary ventures — restaurants, vendors selling handicrafts, food items, thambili and even clothes.

Harrison to bring Basil’s 20,000 cows
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government’s Rural Economy Minister, P. Harrison, has chosen to revive a project initiated by the former Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa.
The reason, he says, is because the Government has given “high priority to develop the dairy industry” in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s proposal was approved by the then Cabinet of Ministers on June 5, 2014 and involved the import of 20,000 dairy heifers from Australia. For this purpose, his Ministry signed an agreement on October 14, 2014 with Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd of Australia.

Assistance for the import of these heifers is coming from the Co-operative Bank Rabo UA of Netherlands and the Export Finance Corporation, Australia. The loan extended is US$ 73 million.
The Cabinet of Ministers has given approval to go ahead with the project.
In 2013, 1,500 dairy cattle were imported from Australia.


Big buzz for Champika’s bus lane
Megapolis and Western Province Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka’s brainchild – the Bus Priority Lane – is a success, according to a senior official who has monitored the operation. Prior to discussions on items on the agenda at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers a week ago, the Moratuwa University’s transport specialist, Professor Amal Kumarage, was called upon to make a presentation.
He made some pertinent points:

Speed of bus movements has increased “by over 100%”
Speed of other vehicles has also improved.  The Priority Lane transported 7,000 passengers in 150 buses per hour whilst other lanes transported only 1,500 passengers in 1,000 small vehicles.
Minister Ranawaka told the Cabinet, according to the minutes, that he would make further recommendations to the ministers to improve the system.


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