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IMF completes 1st review of EFF, enabling disbursement of US$337 mn.

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The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has completed the first review of the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement for Sri Lanka.

The completion of the first review allows for an immediate disbursement of around US$337 million, bringing the total IMF financial support disbursed so far to about US$670 million.

Following the Executive Board discussion on Sri Lanka, Mr. Kenji Okamura, Deputy Managing Director has issued the following statement :

“Macroeconomic policy reforms are starting to bear fruit and the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization, with rapid disinflation, significant revenue-based fiscal adjustment, and reserves build-up.

“Performance under the EFF-supported program has been satisfactory. All quantitative performance criteria for end-June were met, except the one on expenditure arrears. All indicative targets were met, except the one on tax revenues. Most structural benchmarks were either met or implemented with delay by end-October 2023. The publication of a Governance Diagnostic Report, the first in Asia and a structural benchmark under the program, is a commendable first step towards addressing deep-rooted corruption weaknesses. Continued commitment to improving governance and timely implementation of the report’s recommendations can deliver tangible economic gains to all citizens.

“Sri Lanka’s agreements-in-principle with the Official Creditors Committee and Export-Import Bank of China on debt treatments are consistent with the EFF targets. They are an important milestone putting Sri Lanka’s debt on the path towards sustainability. A swift completion and signature of the Memoranda of Understanding with the official creditors is important. Timely implementation of the agreements, together with reaching a resolution with external private creditors on comparable terms, should help restore Sri Lanka’s debt sustainability over the medium term.

“To ensure a full and swift recovery, sustaining the reform momentum and strong ownership of reforms is of paramount importance. Key priorities include advancing revenue mobilization, aligning energy pricing with costs, strengthening social safety nets, rebuilding external buffers, safeguarding financial stability, eradicating corruption, and enhancing governance.

“Reinforcing the revenue-based fiscal consolidation supported by revenue administration reforms is critical to recover from program slippages and promote a break from past policy shortcomings.

“The Central Bank of Sri Lanka should continue to focus on the multi-pronged disinflation strategy to safeguard the credibility of its inflation targeting regime. Accumulating reserves, supported by exchange rate flexibility, remains an important priority under the EFF.

“Implementing the bank recapitalization plan and strengthening financial supervision and crisis management framework are crucial to safeguard financial sector stability.

“Further strengthening the social safety net and protecting social spending remains critical to safeguarding the poor and vulnerable.’’

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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Lankan convict in Gandhi assassination case passes away

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Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national who was one of the six convicts released in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, died on Wednesday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai.

Santhan, who was released by the Indian Supreme Court in November 2022, was kept at the special camp near the Tiruchirapalli Central Prison.

Last week, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport Santhan to Sri Lanka, however, he was admitted to the RGGH for treatment for a kidney-related ailment.

Addressing the reports, E Thenirajan, Dean, RGGH, said that based on the directions of the Tiruchirapalli district collector, Santhan was admitted to the hospital on January 27.

Thenirajan said a team of doctors were treating him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and constantly monitoring him. He said Santhan was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis or a liver disease.

“He suffered a setback to his health yesterday (Tuesday) night. He had lost consciousness and we were providing treatment. Around 4.30 am today (Wednesday), he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was revived following a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure and was on ventilator support. However, he failed to respond to further treatment and passed away at 7.50 am,” he said.

Thenirajan said they would carry out the post-mortem procedures now and take further measures to send his body to Sri Lanka.

According to court documents, Santhan is believed to have fled then strife-torn Sri Lanka in 1991 and reached India by boat, along with Sivarasan, who led the assassination team and was never caught alive, and a few others. According to the Supreme Court order, Santhan’s role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was direct and active.

Santhan was initially sentenced to death for his involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in November 2022, along with five other convicts, after spending over three decades in prison.

(The Indian Express)

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