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President hails strong economy and inaugurates Ratnapura gem tower

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasised that the government’s prudent decisions over the past two years have bolstered the nation’s economy, providing a favourable environment for political activities on the streets.

However, he cautioned that the economy still faces challenges, urging citizens to weigh the choice of either continuing with the government’s initiatives for prosperity or risking regression. Highlighting a remarkable increase of over 50% in government income in 2023 compared to 2022, President Wickremesinghe underscored the conducive backdrop for advancing confidently with a robust economy. These remarks were made during his attendance at the inauguration of the International Gem and Jewellery Trade Centre, known as the Ratnapura Gem Tower, yesterday (4).

Plans have been shown for the construction of the Ratnapura Gem Tower in Demuwawa in Ratnapura, to be executed in two phases. The initial phase saw the completion of a five-storey building, costing Rs. 365 million. The forthcoming second phase entails the construction of an additional 14 floors, with an estimated expenditure of Rs. 450 million.

The newly inaugurated International Gem Trade Centre comprises 27 business premises, with 17 allocated to local entrepreneurs and 10 designated for foreign counterparts. Financing for this venture is sourced from the National Gems and Jewellery Authority, aiming to establish an international hub facilitating seamless transactions between sellers and buyers.

Functioning akin to renowned sales centres in Bangkok and Hong Kong, the centre will offer comprehensive services including independent quality testing, laboratory facilities, and banking and export services. This initiative aims to bolster the gem and jewellery trade, positioning Ratnapura as a pivotal player in the global market.

During his visit to the International Gems and Jewellery Trade Centre, President Ranil Wickremesinghe unveiled the plaque to mark its inauguration and inspected the facilities.

The President emphasised the government’s commitment to further enhancing the gem and jewellery industry’s contribution to the national economy. He instructed officials to compile a report by the end of April outlining potential solutions to industry challenges and proposed reliefs for industry stakeholders. The President stressed the importance of ensuring benefits for gem miners as part of this initiative.

The President highlighted the significance of the International Gem Trading Centre in elevating Sri Lanka’s gems to attain their rightful value on the international stage. This initiative aims to position Sri Lanka as a prominent player in the global gem and jewellery market, fostering economic growth and prosperity for the nation.

During his address at the event, President Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged the origins of the International Gems and Jewellery Centre, noting that its construction commenced during the tenure of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He also paid tribute to the dedication of Ministers Lohan Ratwatte and Chamara Sampath to the project’s realisation.

Highlighting the significance of the centre, President Wickremesinghe emphasised that its impact extends beyond Ratnapura, positioning it as a pivotal hub for the gem and jewellery industry nationwide. He reiterated the government’s commitment to fostering the industry’s growth and its pivotal role in contributing to the national economy.

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by dailynews.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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SL – Indonesia pledge stronger bilateral ties

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In a significant bilateral meeting during the 10th World Water Summit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the longstanding relationship between their nations. The discussions, which covered a wide range of regional and international issues, underscored the importance of collaboration in addressing global challenges.

President Wickremesinghe, in his opening remarks, highlighted the historical ties between Sri Lanka and Indonesia, dating back to their joint participation in the 1956 Bandung Conference. He expressed appreciation for President Widodo’s leadership in regional, international, and bilateral matters, noting the importance of such summits in fostering global cooperation.

A major topic of discussion was the critical issue of water management. President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the World Water Summit and expressed Sri Lanka’s willingness to participate in the Global Blended Financial Alliance, an initiative aimed at addressing common financial challenges faced by countries in managing water resources. He commended Indonesia for establishing a Secretariat for the Alliance, recognizing its significance for Sri Lanka.

President Widodo, in his remarks, focused on the economic cooperation between the two countries. He stressed the need to finalize the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) by the first quarter of 2025 to enhance economic ties. Additionally, he highlighted Indonesia’s interest in entering the Sri Lankan vaccine market through Indonesian pharmaceutical companies, and called for the lifting of import restrictions on Indonesian palm oil and related products.

The Indonesian President also showcased Indonesia’s advancements in renewable energy, specifically the country’s largest floating solar power project. He emphasized the importance of hydro diplomacy and political leadership in achieving sustainable water management and development goals. Furthermore, he welcomed Sri Lanka’s leadership in the Indian Ocean Rim Association and its aspirations to become a sectoral dialogue partner.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of completing the PTA by early 2025, noting Sri Lanka’s existing free trade agreements with India, Singapore, and ongoing negotiations with Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. He emphasized the potential benefits of joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggesting that Sri Lanka’s inclusion could encourage other South Asian countries to follow suit. 

He also mentioned the ongoing removal of import restrictions and assured that Sri Lankan health authorities would address the entry of Indonesian pharmaceuticals into the market.

The discussion also touched upon regional security and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean. President Wickremesinghe supported ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook and stressed the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation regarding Indian Ocean affairs. He proposed more frequent meetings between heads of government and a specific bilateral agreement with Indonesia to enhance commercial collaboration in the region.

President Widodo thanked Sri Lanka for co-sponsoring the Global Blended Financial Alliance, emphasizing its role in achieving sustainable development goals. He called for continued collaboration between relevant ministries from both countries to support this initiative. Looking ahead, President Widodo mentioned the upcoming presidential transition in Indonesia and expressed hope that the new administration would continue to strengthen ties with Sri Lanka.

In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe expressed his eagerness to work with Indonesia’s new leadership and extended a personal invitation to President Widodo to visit Sri Lanka after his term ends in October. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations and addressing shared global challenges through continued cooperation.

(President’s Media Division)

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Sri Lanka declares tomorrow a day of mourning

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Sri Lanka has declared tomorrow (May 21) as a day of mourning in view of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The national flag will fly at half mast at all government institutions.

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2 crucial Bills to Parliament on May 22

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Acting Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe announced plans to introduce two significant bills to Parliament on May 22, aimed at bolstering the country’s economy. 

These bills, the “Economic Transformation Bill” and the “Public Financial Management Bill,” are designed to enhance the management of public finances, thereby safeguarding against future economic downturns. 

Minister Semasinghe made this announcement during a press conference at the Presidential Media Centre today, themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’.

Acting Finance Minister  Shehan Semasinghe, further stated : 

‘The government has scheduled the submission of two significant bills crucial for the country’s economy on May 22. One of these bills is the “Economic Transformation Law,” aimed at preventing future economic collapses. Notably, this legislation stems from the vision of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, rather than being proposed by the International Monetary Fund. The recent stabilization of the economy following previous downturns underscores the importance of preserving this stability going forward.

Additionally, it is necessary to maintain optimal levels of public financial management to avert future economic crises. The “Public Finance Management Bill” is set to be presented to Parliament on the same day, with a focus on enhancing accountability in managing public finances. This legislative initiative aligns with recommendations from a collaborative program with the International Monetary Fund and holds significant importance for the country’s future financial management.

It’s important to underscore the critical significance of both these bills for the country’s future. These drafts contain numerous technical intricacies aimed at bolstering confidence in the economy and maintaining the trajectory of the new economic direction implemented thus far.

Further elaborating on the Economic Transformation Bill, it holds paramount importance for the country’s economic growth. Despite experiencing economic contraction in the second and third quarters of 2023, a notable growth rate of 4.5% was achieved in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the benefits of this economic upturn have started permeating to the grassroots level within the country.

Furthermore, it is imperative to enhance the economic competitiveness of the nation and adapt the economy to confront global challenges while fostering international cooperation and growth. Additionally, this bill addresses necessary changes in various sectors.

Specifically, the legislation encompasses reforms essential for international trade, trade agreements, and climate change mitigation efforts. 

The establishment of a new Economic Commission in Sri Lanka, aimed at attracting investments to enhance competitiveness, fostering a conducive environment for investors, expanding international trade, establishing the National Productivity Commission, and developing export-related institutions, is also outlined in this bill.

Recently, Parliament endorsed the decisions made, particularly regarding economic transformation. In 2022, the public debt ratio stood at 128%, a figure slated to be reduced to less than 95% by 2032. 

Similarly, the fiscal requirement, which was 34.6% of the gross domestic product in 2022, aims to be lowered to below 13% by 2032.

Effective debt servicing is paramount, with efforts focused on establishing Sri Lanka as a debt-sustainable nation capable of meeting its obligations. The aim is to reduce the debt payment ratio from 9.4% in 2022 to below 4.5% by 2027.

A proposed bill will outline specific national goals and actions taken to address economic challenges, providing a roadmap for sustainable economic growth, debt management, agricultural modernization, import-export regulation, and economic governance.

Additionally, considerable attention has been given to the Public Finance Management Bill, aimed at identifying weaknesses in the current legislation and proposing a robust legal framework to meet future needs.

(President’s Media Division)

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