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School supplies & meds to be exempted from VAT – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced the exemption of items such as books, school supplies, medicines, & health equipment from the VAT list.

He said this while addressing Parliament today (March 06).

The President also declared that the nation’s economy commenced its revival in the third quarter of 2023. He further highlighted that international financial institutions have forecasted a potential economic growth ranging from 2% to 3% for the year 2024.

He also announced that state revenue saw a significant increase of over 50% in 2023 compared to 2022. Consequently, all outstanding payments owed to contractors who had rendered services to the government for three to four years were settled.

President Wickremesinghe also announced that the usable foreign exchange reserves, which stood at less than USD 20 million in mid-April 2022, have surged to over USD 3 billion. He also stated that import restrictions, except for private motor vehicles, have also been lifted.

The President also noted that in 2023, for the first time since 1977, both the balance of payments & current account will show a surplus. Additionally, he highlighted that the US dollar, which stood at Rs. 363 rupees this time last year, has depreciated to approximately Rs. 308 as of yesterday, resulting in a strengthening of the rupee.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his aspiration to secure temporary relief from debt payments spanning from 2023 to 2027. He emphasized his commitment to diligently repaying the debt within the timeframe of 2027 to 2042.

The successful outcome of the debt restructuring negotiations will diminish the annual external debt payment from 9.5% to 4.0% of the GDP, he added. Additionally, if the economic growth experienced in 2022 & 2023 persists, the government revenue can be maintained at a substantial level. The President emphasized that under these circumstances, servicing the debt will not impose a burden on the country.

The President also announced that under the initiative to expand the tax network, the total number of tax files has surpassed 1 million in the year 2023. He further stated that the printing of money has been completely halted.

The President also highlighted ongoing efforts to bolster & modernize the legal framework, systems, & processes aimed at enhancing public financial & economic management. Additionally, he noted the publication of the Governance Diagnostic Report, a first in South Asia, underscoring steps taken to enhance governance & mitigate corruption risks.

The President also announced that 2 million families will attain ownership of freehold land deeds through the Urumaya program. Additionally, he emphasized that 2.4M low-income families will receive relief, with tripled social security benefits, aimed at safeguarding the poor & vulnerable from the impacts of the economic crisis.

The President also mentioned that approximately 4.5M school children will reap the benefits of the ‘Suraksha’ health insurance system. Furthermore, he announced that scholarships would be granted to 100,000 school children through the Presidential Fund. Also, the financial assistance provided to patients from the President’s Fund has been doubled, he added.

The President further noted that development initiatives have commenced in thousands of villages across 89 Divisional Secretariat Divisions as part of the ‘Kandukara Dashakaya’ program. Additionally, he stated that each Divisional Secretariat has been allocated Rs. 100 million for this purpose.

The President also emphasized that the advantages of the growing economy will be extended to all segments of society, ensuring equitable distribution throughout. He pledged to undertake initiatives aimed at uplifting the entirety of society.

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Sri Lanka Mirror wishes everyone a happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year!

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The 2024 Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawned at 09.05 pm last night (April 13).

‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ extends heartfelt New Year greetings to all our readers. May this upcoming year be filled with boundless happiness, prosperity, and success for each and everyone of you.

–  Sri Lanka Mirror team

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Derailed train causes delays on coastal line

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A train has derailed at the Kalutara South railway station on Saturday morning (13).

Trains operating on the Coastal Line are thus experiencing delays, Sri Lanka Railways said.

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Kristalina Georgieva to head IMF for a 2nd term

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The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has selected Kristalina Georgieva to serve as IMF Managing Director for a second five-year term starting on October 1, 2024.

The appointment comes ahead of the start of the fund’s spring meetings in Washington next week.

Georgieva, who has been in the role since the autumn of 2019, was the sole candidate for the position. However, it was only after European leaders signalled that they would endorse her last month that her candidacy was assured.

In a statement, the coordinators of the Executive Board, Mr. Afonso S. Bevilaqua and Mr. Abdullah F. BinZarah has said, “Looking ahead, the Board welcomes Ms. Georgieva’s ongoing emphasis on issues of macroeconomic and financial stability, while also ensuring that the Fund continues to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of its entire membership. It recognizes her focus on strengthening the Fund’s support to its members through effective policy advice, capacity development and financing. The Board looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Managing Director.”

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and support of the Fund’s Executive Board, representing our 190 members, and honored to continue to lead the IMF as Managing Director for a second five-year term,” Ms. Georgieva has said.

The Bulgarian national has served as Managing Director since October 1, 2019. The Managing Director is the chief of the IMF’s operating staff and Chair of the Executive Board. The Managing Director is assisted by four Deputy Managing Directors in overseeing the Fund’s operations, which serve its membership through about 3,100 staff.

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