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SL – Thai FTA : 5th round of talks begin

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The 5th Round of Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA) negotiations commenced in Colombo this morning (26), aligning with President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vision of strengthening economic ties with major and emerging economies, with a particular focus on ASEAN countries.

 Mr. K.J. Weerasinghe, the Chief Negotiator, International Trade Office (Leader of SL delegation), expressed satisfaction with the progress of the Free Trade Agreement discussions, which are proceeding according to the agreed-upon timeline. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Thailand from August 21st to 23rd, 2023. Three additional rounds are planned to conclude the Agreement by February 2024, with the signing expected to occur in March 2024.

During the opening session at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo, Mr. Weerasinghe welcomed the SLTFTA delegation and emphasized the Sri Lankan Government’s objective of integrating into the global economy. Sri Lanka aims to expand its economic reach first within South Asia and then extend further eastward to become a part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Sri Lanka will formally request the member countries of RCEP to support its application. Given Thailand’s active participation in both ASEAN and RCEP, Sri Lanka will seek Thailand’s support in joining RCEP.

The Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations and Chief Negotiator of Thailand, Ms. Arumon Supthaweethum, participated in the negotiations virtually. The Thai delegation, including H.E. Ambassador of Thailand in Sri Lanka Poj Harnpol, and the Sri Lankan delegation, including Mrs.Kshenuka Seneviratne Senior Advisor to President on International Media, Mrs. Chandani Wijayawardana Senior Additional Secretary to the President, Mr. K.J.Weerasinghe Chief Negotiator, International Trade Office (Leader of SL delegation), Mrs. S.W.C. Jayamini Additional Secretary to the President (Deputy Chief Negotiator) also attended the event. The 5th round of discussions is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday (28).

(President’s Media Division)

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Draft constitution for Sri Lanka cricket board presented to president

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The draft constitution for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, prepared by the Judge Chitrasiri Committee, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (15). 

The draft was handed over by Committee Chairman, retired Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chitrasiri, alongside other committee members.

The initiative to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide suitable recommendations led to the appointment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on November 6, 2023. 

Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the sub-committee included Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara, and Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles.

After extensive discussions with stakeholders involved in cricket, the sub-committee presented its report to the Cabinet on January 8, 2024. 

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Possible extension of president’s term by one year discussed

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The “Maubima” newspaper has reported ongoing discussions about the possibility of extending the term of office of the President by one year through a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without the need for a referendum.

According to the report, parties loyal to the President have consulted legal experts, who believe there is a legal pathway to extend the presidential tenure from five to six years. 

This mirrors the constitutional change made by the 19th Amendment in 2015, which reduced the presidential term from six to five years without a referendum.

Pratibha Mahanama (lawyer), a former professor at the University of Technology Jamaica, has been cited in the news paper report, stating that just as the term was reduced without a referendum in the past, it can now be extended with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, Article 83(b) of the Constitution stipulates that any bill extending the term of office of the President or Parliament beyond six years must be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and be subjected to a referendum.

The newspaper further mentions that if the President fails to secure a two-thirds majority, the extension could still be put to a national referendum as a matter of significant national importance.

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IMF acknowledges progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that there is sufficient progress for Sri Lanka’s Debt Restructuring process to move forward.

However, the IMF further said Sri Lanka’s economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife- edged hence the country need to sustain the reform momentum.

Meanwhile, joining the IMF press briefing on Sri Lanka’s second review of EFF program held virtually this morning (14), IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka Peter Breuer stated that the IMF fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and they adapt to the relevant process.

Furthermore, he mentioned that the elections may affect the timing of IMF’s missions they conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward.

“We of course fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and we adapt to that process. So, this may affect a little bit the timing of our missions that we conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward”, he said.

“The elections have not been called yet. We will await that and discuss with the authorities how we can adapt our schedule to that of the elections”, Mr. Breuer added.

In response to a question raised by a journalist whether there is scope to adjust the programme and reduce taxes by a newly appointed government following the elections, the IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka expressed that it is significant how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka.

He further said: “I just pointed you to these two charts [in the IMF report] to tell the story how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka. Re-building these revenues is an important objective of the programme in order to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from the crisis.”

“Of course here we should bring revenue closer to the expenditures that the government is facing to reduce the gap between expenditure and revenue, and that will help to make the debt sustainable again and force Sri Lanka to be able to finance itself at interest rates it can afford and the debt are sustainable.”

“More broadly speaking, we are willing to listen to different views of how the programme objectives can be reached. These need to be realistic and achievable within the time frame of the programme”, he added.

Moreover, the IMF representative also stated that the ‘Public Financial Management’ law has now been sent to Parliament, which will help to strengthen the fiscal framework and enhance fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Breuer highlighted that the law will help to ensure that the funds are being spent by the government as intended.

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

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