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Possible to maintain inflation below 4-5% by the end of 2023 – CBSL Governor

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The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe stated in Parliament that customers who have been inconvenienced due to the increase in the interest rates charged for the loans obtained under variable interest rates in the past is able to get relief by negotiating with the bank.

The Governor stated this when Parliamentarians inquired regarding the aforesaid at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies held yesterday (16) in Parliament chaired by the State Ministers of Finance Hon. Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Hon. Shehan Semasinghe.

The Members of Parliament pointed out that due to the increase in interest rates, the entire income of some creditors has to be paid for loan installments.  The CBSL Governor said that customers can pay only the relevant interest for a grace period in consultation with the bank. He further added that instructions have been given to the banks in this regard.

Also, the CBSL Governor said that the average inflation which was at a value of 70% two months ago has now decreased to 66% and the food inflation which was at 95% has decreased to 85%. He further stated that with the existing fiscal policies, this figure is expected to reach 4-5% by the end of next year. Furthermore, according to the conditions of the International Monetary Fund, a new act has been drafted to make the Central Bank an independent institution and the necessary work is being done, the CBSL Governor added.

Furthermore, the committee drew attention to the difficulty in exchanging dollars to rupees by banks. State Ministers of Finance – Ranjith Siyambalapitiya asked the CBSL Governor regarding the stated issue to which the Governor responded saying that the Central Bank has not given any advice that would cause such delays.

State Minister – Shehan Semasinghe also said that according to a report of the Department of Public Enterprises, 22 out of 126 institutions have not submitted their annual reports for more than 5 years and some institutions have delayed the submission of annual reports for about 7 years. Accordingly, the State Minister said that since he will be working with the International Monetary Fund in the future, he instructed the heads of the institutions to submit the annual reports within the stipulated time.

Leader of the Opposition – Sajith Premadasa, Members of the Committee – Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi, Sahan Pradeep Withana and Parliamentarians Secretary to the Treasury/Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies, Mr. K M Mahinda Siriwardana, officials representing the Ministry and institutions affiliated to it were present at the Committee meeting held.

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Who’s behind taxing essential items instead of cigarettes?

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The government is not adhering to a correct tax policy when it comes to the tobacco company, and as a result the country is losing revenue in taxes, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam said.

He expressed these views at a joint press conference held in Colombo for the first time with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.

The MP pointed out that the tobacco company has earned Rs.40 billion in 2021 and Rs.50 billion in 2022.

However, he said the government is taxing the essential items used by the poor instead of taxing the tobacco company.

Officials in tobacco company’s pocket

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made a disclosure in this regard in Parliament and revealed that former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa cut the tax on Capstan cigarettes by 50%.

As a result, he said the country loses Rs.63 billion per year.

It was also revealed that some politicians and officials are in the pockets of tobacco companies.

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Multinational company to get lands from Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve

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The National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka is planning to hand over a large area of Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve, the largest mangrove wetland in the country, in Mannar to a multinational company, environmentalists alleged.

Declared a nature reserve in 2016, this wetland covers an area of 29,180 hectares.

Samantha Gunasekara, the former head of the Customs Biodiversity Unit and former Customs Director, said that there is a plan to cancel the Gazette Notification 1956/13 issued in 2016 declaring Wedithalathivu as a nature reserve and use it for aquaculture.

Mr.Gunasekara expressed these views at the press conference held the day before yesterday (06) by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society at the BMICH, Colombo.

He said the National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka brought a proposal in 2017 as well to cancel this gazette but an Advisory Committee suggested in 2019 that the gazette should not be cancelled.

Reptile expert Mendis Wickramasinghe said that six new snake species and two rare snake species live in this ecosystem.

Mr. Wickramasinghe said that a reptile species which was discovered by Zoologist P. E. P.Deraniyala in 1941 was found again from this natural ecosystem, and that there are several unidentified animal species in this ecosystem.

He said that a small species of python, which had not been found from other parts of the country, was also reported from this area.

Environmentalist Susantha Uadgedara said that a seagrass ecosystem is spread in the Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve. He said that 15 of the world’s 73 sea grass species are reported from Sri Lanka, and 10 of them are found in Wedithalathivu.

He said sea pigs, one of the seriously endangered species in the country, that feed on seagrass live in this Nature Reserve.

He said that seagrass is the third most important ecosystem in the world, and sea grass absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He said one hectare of sea grass provides services worth $34,000 per year.

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Orange prices increased exponentially!

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The price of a kilo of imported oranges has increased to Rs.1,990, fruit importers said.

They said the prices of fruits including oranges have to be increased due to the increase in import costs and taxes.

A few months ago, three imported oranges were sold at a price between Rs.100 and 200.

Imported oranges are the most sold orange variety in the Sri Lankan market due to the export of Sri Lankan oranges.

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