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Cabinet nod to provide rice to 2 mn. low-income families



The Cabinet paper presented by President Ranil Wickremesinghe for the provision of  10 kg of rice per month for two million low income families, including Samurdhi beneficiaries for a period of two months, has been approved.

Accordingly, the government will purchase 61,600 metric tons of paddy to meet the requirement of 40,000 Metric Tons. This program is proposed to be implemented by District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries with the assistance of small and medium-scale paddy mills.

Under the District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries, rice will be distributed among the identified Samurdhi beneficiaries including low-income earners using the existing system and the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment will coordinate the District Secretaries and issue necessary instructions to them.

The total estimated cost is Rs.8,040 million, which includes Rs.6,200 million for paddy purchase, Rs.290 million for rice drying, Rs.590 million for milling charges, Rs.200 million for packing costs, Rs.160 million as additional payment to mill owners, and Rs.600 million for transportation.

However, the program’s estimated cost will vary depending on market fluctuations, and a budget provision of around Rs.10,000 million will be allocated to be used if the need arises.

According to data from the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Development, the land extent used for paddy cultivation in the 2022/2023 Maha season is approximately 732,201 hectares, and the expected yield is 3.3 million metric tons, while approximately 2.2 million metric tons of rice can be produced. Given the country’s monthly rice requirement of approximately 210,000 metric tons, it has been observed that the next Maha season may see a paddy surplus.  As a result, in order to protect both the paddy farmer and the consumer, the government must intervene in the purchase of a specific amount of paddy during the 2022/23 season.

Furthermore, due to the country’s extremely difficult economic situation, it is necessary to protect low-income groups of society from the negative effects of the crisis by assisting them in maintaining a good nutritional level. This group consists of approximately 2 million families, including Samurdhi beneficiaries. Although the government has provided additional funds for this group until April 2023, there is a need to care for these low-income earners for a further period. Because the paddy harvest in this season of 2022/2023 is expected to be higher than the previous Maha season, it is appropriate to use a portion of the paddy to provide additional support to identified low-income earners in order to maintain their standard of living. This program will benefit both farmers and low-income groups in the country.

The Treasury Secretary, officers of the Presidential Secretariat, the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, the Secretary to the Ministry of Women, and Child Affairs and Social Empowerment, all District Secretaries, the Department of Samurdhi Development, and other related institutions will participate in the discussions on the method of implementing the proposed program. It is also expected to discuss and decide on the proposed rice distribution mechanism. In addition, the production cost of rice varieties to be purchased by farmers, a certified price for rice, paddy owner participation, transportation methods, and paddy milling charges will be discussed in depth.


New evidence surfaces on health ministry’s controversial emergency procurement scheme




More documentary evidence has emerged on the Health Ministry’s disastrous “fast-track” emergency procurement scheme that led to counterfeit drugs entering public sector hospitals.

Letters between key officials show the plan was in place as early as September last year. That month, a Health Ministry Additional Secretary wrote to the Deputy Director General of the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) stating that it was decided at a meeting chaired by former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to buy drugs using the Indian credit line (ICL) through private suppliers.

The purchase would be under an “emergency procurement method”, it said, adding that pending orders must be disregarded.

This meant that, even if required stocks were on the way, the Health Ministry would farm out additional contracts under the ICL to handpicked suppliers. And it would be done through a new system that a small coterie of officials—with the Health Minister’s endorsement—had floated to facilitate walk-in, unsolicited offers from unvetted suppliers, bypassing the national drug regulatory process.


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Tsunami Alert Lifted 




The Philippines lifted a tsunami alert early on Sunday as waves receded from a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that struck the south of the country, triggering coastal evacuations and some waves in there and in Japan.

There were no initial reports of casualties or serious damage from the quake in the Mindanao region, although some residents reported damage to buildings in the area, which is less populated than some parts of the archipelago.

More than 500 aftershocks were recorded, and the Philippines’ Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) urged caution as people resumed normal activities.

“The tsunami threat associated with this earthquake has now largely passed the Philippines,” Phivolcs said in a statement but advised people in threatened communities to heed the instructions from local authorities.

It had earlier urged people living near the coast of Surigao Del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to move inland.

The national disaster said it was assessing the impact of the quake, with a team on the ground collating information.

The Philippine Coast Guard put all its vessels and aircraft on alert for potential dispatch.

“We started going back to our homes early on Sunday, although we are still shaking because of aftershocks,” Julita Bicap, 51, a front desk staffer at GLC Suites hotel in the seaside town of Bislig, said after power was restored around 5 a.m. (2100 GMT)

“There are aftershocks even now. Last night we were at the evacuation centre including my two foreigner guests. One of them came back to the hotel already,” Bicap told Reuters, adding that she noticed a small crack in the hotel’s front wall.

The largest aftershock was magnitude 6.5, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is prone to seismic activity.

Scores of residents were seen in an evacuation centre in photographs posted on social media by the authorities in Hinatuan province, 30 km (20 miles) from the quake’s epicentre.

Philvolcs’ Hinatuan-Bislig Bay station recorded maximum waves of 0.64 metre (2 feet). Japan’s Hachijojima island, some 290 km (180 miles) south of Tokyo, recorded waves of 40 cm (1.3 feet), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The U.S. Tsunami Warning System had initially warned of waves of up to 3 metres (10 feet) above the usual high tide level.

The quake, which struck at 10:37 p.m. (1437 GMT) on Saturday, was at a depth of 25 km (15 miles), Philvolcs said.

James Soria, who owns a small hotel in Hinatuan, said there had been significant damage to his home. “It’s shaking again here now,” he told Reuters before the call was disconnected as another aftershock hit.

Cosme Calejesan, 47, said there had been damage to his house in Surigao City 185 km (115 miles) from the epicentre, but the structure was intact.

“I was already asleep, but I was woken up by the creaking sounds of my cabinets when the tremor occurred,” he said. “It was frightening. It was sudden and abrupt and I was worried for my children.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by srilankamirror staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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President leads talks on six renewable energy projects for next year




President Ranil Wickremesinghe along with Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera and Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake has spearheaded discussions for six renewable energy projects next year.

The projects will generate over 1500 MW and transform Sri Lanka’s energy landscape. The inaugural project is a 700 MW solar power initiative, harnessing sustainable energy sources. A senior Government spokesperson said that all six projects are slated for completion within the next 12-24 months.

President Wickremesinghe initiated these discussions with the relevant parties before leaving for the United Nations International Conference on Climate Change (COP 28) in Dubai.

Presidential Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake last week held a meeting with officials to address the challenges and devise solutions to commence these ground-breaking projects.

The Ministry of Power and Energy anticipates a marked reduction in Sri Lanka’s electricity tariffs following the successful implementation of these energy projects. This is in line with the country’s broader vision for a sustainable and eco-friendly energy future.


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