“For seventy years we have had deficit budgets except for one or two years. My fundamental question is if a private company ran 70 years like this, it would have got bankrupt, not even in the books as a company but this country has survived. Does it mean it is a sustainable fiscal path? No,” [...]


P. B. wants quarterly reports from state agencies: ‘‘This is all. Manage it.’’


“For seventy years we have had deficit budgets except for one or two years. My fundamental question is if a private company ran 70 years like this, it would have got bankrupt, not even in the books as a company but this country has survived. Does it mean it is a sustainable fiscal path? No,” said none other than the President’s Secretary P. B. Jayasundara, speaking at an event this week on the National Budget 2022.

Delivering the keynote address at an event on the Future of the Sri Lankan Economy and organised by the Colombo Development Symposium, Mr Jayasundara stressed the importance of restructuring the country’s economy as it was experiencing the worst financial crisis since Independence.

One of those main restructuring needs of the national economy would be replacing the annual warrant of expenditure for all government institutions with a quarterly warrant where every state agency would need to submit reports quarterly and manage their funds within four months accordingly.

“Do not think of the whole year, this is for the first quarter-plan of your expenditure, procurement, hirings, firings and deployments,” he said.

Unlike in the past tinkering of budgets with supplementary provisions through amendments to the Appropriations bill, this time the Treasury would present supplementary budgets, which meant, “This is all. Manage it.”

On the country’s import and export ratio, Mr Jayasundara stressed that for every dollar from export earnings we were buying twice the amount through imports.

It was business as usual as non-mask wearing fans watched the match between Seychelles and Sri Lanka

COVID rules kicked out of stadium inspite of much touted ‘One Country, One Law’

The Government’s popular political slogan of “One Country, One Law”, now elevated to a Presidential Task Force, is repeatedly highlighted by its bigwigs whenever there is a controversy coming up to justify moves, but it seems the Government failed to apply the same principle to its own initiatives.

If one were to be present at the inaugural grand finale of the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa Trophy 2021 between Sri Lanka-Seychelles held on Friday at the Racecourse stadium in Colombo’s Cinnamon gardens area, they might wonder whether we have returned to the normalcy of the pre-pandemic era.

It was business as usual with disregard for the revised COVID-19 health guidelines which were issued by the Health Ministry only a few days ago. The Rs. 1,000 tickets were sold quickly and non-mask wearing sports fans were seated in a packed auditorium. There was no social distancing or mandatory face masks.

Sri Lankan football fans were disappointed when Seychelles beat
Sri Lanka to win the inaugural tournament. Though the full-time score read 3-3, the result was decided in a penalty shootout (1-3).

When asked why there was no action taken against these daytime COVID-19 violations in the stadium though random arrests of ordinary individuals were taking place for breaching the same guidelines, there was deafening silence from a senior Health Ministry official followed by the typical bureaucratic response of “We were not informed or aware of that incident.”

The Opposition was also alleging, and rightly so, that the Government introduced new COVID-19 regulations to prevent the mobilising of people who are unhappy about the skyrocketing cost of living and fertiliser crisis. Senior Government leaders continued to attend mass gatherings and public meetings this week without adhering to COVID-19 regulations. After all, it is the selective implementation of the law of the land and potential misuse of it against the Opposition parties.

Over to you
Ven. Gnanasara Thera. 

Liquid pesticides: Hold your nose

As farmers are on the streets protesting against the shortage of chemical fertiliser, they face another challenge of how to apply the newly imported liquid fertilisers and pesticides since there is little support from agricultural instructors who are supposed to brief the farming communities on how to use them.

Many farmers complain of bad odour from these liquid pesticides to an extent that daily labourers are staying away from spraying them or demand an extra stipend to do the job.

This week, Kilinochchi farmers gathered at the regional Agrarian Service Centre to secure their fertilisers and pesticides, when one of the bottles was broken inside the office. The unpleasant smell forced the farmers to disperse quickly, along with some of the staff attached to the office.

Take a cue from Foreign Ministry queues

The Finance Minister said last week there were about 1.4 million public sector employees, one wonders whether this mega force is efficient enough to serve the needs of the people.

It was chaos on Friday at the Consular Division of the Foreign Ministry located on the second floor of the Ceylinco Building at Janadhipathi Mawatha. From various parts of the country hundreds of people came to collect their documents and attested certificates on a given day.

There was no proper procedure in place to fulfil the requirements of the people, except local security officials instructing them to line up
in long queues.

Worst of all, COVID-19 regulations were disregarded as long queues developed at all counters within the office premises.

One person came from Galle. He said his whole day was spent waiting in long queues to collect his certificates, even though he was informed by text message from the department earlier that his documents could be collected on the following day.

Finally, the Police had to intervene to ensure normalcy as people continued to agitate over the chaotic situation. One of the agitators was heard asking: “Maybe we should invite the President to visit this office as he did once before when he inspected the Motor Traffic department head office following complaints of inefficiency.” Another angry complainant said: “He does not do that kind of visit anymore.”


It was not “Nandhi”  but “Nandasena”

When the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) staged a placards protest inside the Parliament chamber on Wednesday, against Police intervention of their demonstration the previous day, one of the MPs was seen holding a placard written in Tamil.

The placard read “Nandhi” – a Hindu symbolic emblem of the cow. Desperate Government supporters tried to take advantage of it by portraying it as hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. Later, SJB Parliamentarian Vadivel Suresh quickly intervened to offer clarification. He said there was a spelling mistake on the placard and what they meant was “Nandasena should go home” not “Nandhi.”

Fuel prices: when they go up, they go up; when they go down, they go down

Govt. experts suggest Samaraweera formula be re-introduced

When former Finance Minister, the late Mangala Samaraweera, introduced the pricing formula system for auto fuels (MRP = V1 + V2 + V3+ V4) in 2018, he was ridiculed by the Opposition which replaced it immediately after it took office the following year.

Now, as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) is suffering billions of rupees of losses monthly and facing an imminent fuel price hike in the coming weeks due to the forex crisis and increasing crude oil prices in global markets, the same pundits are coming up with an excuse to re-introduce the same formula which they did away with three years ago.

Senior government Ministers, including Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, called for the re-introduction of a fuel formula compiled by the Finance Ministry and Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The latest to join the “revert to the old formula” club is Justice Minster Ali Sabry.

Trade Unions alleged that the sudden change of heart from the Government to revert to the Samaraweera formula system is to put the tax burden on the shoulders of the people after the Government realised later that it is no longer viable to use public funds to maintain the fuel subsidy in the midst of
an acute shortage of dollars to import fuel into the country.

Rameswaram warns bottom trawlers their licences will be cancelled if they trespass into Lankan waters

It seems, finally Indian fisheries authorities are taking some initial steps to curb the ongoing illegal bottom trawling by Indian fishermen in
Sri Lanka’s northern waters.

Early this week, in Tamil Nadu the Rameswaram Fisheries Department summoned the owners of about 800 bottom trawlers that go in an armada and warned them not to trespass into Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

They were told that if they were found to be venturing into Sri Lankan waters, their fishing licences would be cancelled until further notice.

The apparent stern step came in the wake of a recent incident where one Indian fisherman died due to drowning last month after his trawler capsized when the Sri Lankan Navy tried to chase them away.

Hearing a petition filed by the wife of the victim, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court this week ordered a re-post-mortem to be conducted on the body of the fisherman. The post-mortem was conducted on November 18.

Meanwhile, the Point Pedro Magistrate has released the remaining 23 Indian fishermen who were in Sri Lankan custody and they are expected to be deported next week. Their fishing equipment and trawlers were declared as Sri Lankan state property.


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