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Wrapping up Sri Lanka external debt deals critical, property tax needed: IMF

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Sri Lanka’s economy is starting to recover under a stabilization program, and further progress has to be made on debt restructuring while monetary policy decisions have to be prudent to keep inflation down, an International Monetary Fund official has said.

“A swift completion of final agreements with official creditors and reaching a resolution with external private creditors remain critical,” IMF Senior Mission Chief Peter Breuer said after a staff visit.

“Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in taming inflation, future monetary policy decisions should remain prudent with a focus on keeping inflation expectations well anchored.”

The mission called for a speeding up a “progressive property tax”.

Swift progress towards the introduction of a progressive property tax is key to ensuring fair burden sharing while sustaining the revenue-based consolidation.

The full statement is reproduced below:

Colombo, Sri Lanka – January 19, 2024: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission team led by Mr. Peter Breuer visited Sri Lanka from January 11 to 19, 2024 to discuss recent macroeconomic developments and progress in implementing economic and financial policies under the EFF arrangement. At the end of the mission, Mr. Breuer issued the following statement:

“The economic reform program implemented by the Sri Lankan authorities is yielding the first signs of recovery. Real GDP recorded positive growth of 1.6 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2023, the first expansion in six consecutive quarters. Shortages of essentials have eased, and inflation remains contained. Gross international reserves increased by USD 2.5 billion during 2023, and preliminary data point to improved fiscal revenue collections during the fourth quarter of 2023. However, challenges remain as these improvements need to translate into improved living conditions for Sri Lanka’s people.

“In this context, sustaining the reform momentum and ensuring timely implementation of all program commitments are critical to rebuilding confidence and putting the recovery on a firm footing that will benefit all people. Swift progress towards the introduction of a progressive property tax is key to ensuring fair burden sharing while sustaining the revenue-based consolidation.

Tax policy measures need to be accompanied by strengthening tax administration, removing tax exemptions, and actively eliminating tax evasion to make the reforms more sustainable and to further build confidence among creditors to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to regain debt sustainability.

“Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in taming inflation, future monetary policy decisions should remain prudent with a focus on keeping inflation expectations well anchored. Against continued uncertainty, it remains important to continue rebuilding external buffers through strong reserve accumulation. Protecting the poor and the vulnerable through improved targeting and better coverage of cash transfers remains critical.

“To safeguard the stability of the financial sector and bolster its capacity to support economic growth, the authorities need to urgently finalize amendments to the Banking Act in line with their commitment under the IMF-supported program, implement the bank recapitalization plan and strengthen the financial supervision and crisis management framework.

“Following the publication of the IMF Governance Diagnostic report, it is now imperative for the authorities to adopt their own action plan for implementing the recommendations in the report beyond the priority commitments under the EFF arrangement. At the same time, ensuring an enabling environment for governance and transparency reforms to take place is key to bolstering public confidence and facilitating implementation of these important efforts.

“The authorities have made commendable progress with putting debt on a path towards sustainability. The execution of the domestic debt restructuring was an important milestone. A swift completion of final agreements with official creditors and reaching a resolution with external private creditors remain critical. Progress in meeting key commitments under the IMF-supported program will be formally assessed in the context of the second review of the EFF arrangement alongside the forthcoming 2024 Article IV consultation assessing Sri Lanka’s economic health.

“The IMF team held meetings with President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Speaker Mr. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, Minister Mr. Kanchana Wijesekera, Minister Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse,State Minister Mr. Shehan Semasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury Mr. K M Mahinda Siriwardana, Governor of Northern Province Mrs. P.S.M.Charles, Governor of Eastern Province Senthil Thondaman, and other senior government and CBSL officials. The IMF team also met with Parliamentarians, representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.

“We would like to thank the authorities for the excellent collaboration during the mission, including during the mission’s visit to the Northern and Eastern provinces. This visit enriched the mission team’s understanding of the challenges as well as the potential of Sri Lanka. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka for a full economic recovery from the crisis.”

(economynext.com)

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No train tickets needed this evening?

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The Sri Lanka Railway Stations Masters Union is poised to commence several trade union actions from this evening (14  June).

They are protesting against recruitment issues, among others.

Among the trade union action planned, the decision to not issue tickets this evening has been trending.

This would mean passengers will be able to travel without tickets, the railway department would incur a loss of revenue, as well as a disruption would occur in accepting parcels and delivering them.

The Union’s chairman Sumedha Somarathna said that management of the railway and its staff, acceptance and distribution of parcels, issuing tickets and providing revenue reports to the Railway department are among their duties.

He added that a final decision on their trade union action would be taken this evening.

The Union’s general secretary Sanjaya Jayasundera said that they have requested a written answer to their grievances by 2 pm today.

Though the locomotive operators, controllers, station masters and operation managers belong to the same cadre, a special cabinet paper has been approved to promote the locomotive operators, controllers and operation managers every five years. The station masters request they too be granted the same frequency of promotions, adding that at present it is every 10 years and that it is unfair to them.

He further stated that there are 1372 posts of railway masters and yet, only 900 are filled at present; the number could decline further in the next two years and the Union wants the vacancies filled as soon as possible.

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Shooting incident ‘targeting’ former MP Uddika was self-orchestrated : Police

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Sri Lanka Police says it has been uncovered that the incident where several gunshots had been fired at the vehicle belonging to former Anuradhapura District parliamentarian Uddika Premaratne, had been orchestrated by the actor-turned-politician himself with the assistance of an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in the area.

Speaking during a press conference held in Colombo today (13), the Police Media Spokesman DIG Nihal Thalduwa said that the suspects connected to the incident have been identified so far following investigations carried out by the CID.

On September 17, 2023, a group of unidentified gunmen had opened fire at Premaratne’s car soon after he returned to his residence in Anuradhapura at around 10:35 p.m. The parliamentarian had managed to escape unharmed.

The perpetrators, who had arrived in a car, were said to have targeted the parliamentarian who was walking towards the house after parking his vehicle. The left rear door glass of Premaratne’s car was damaged in the shooting incident for which the gunmen were believed to have used a pistol.

Anuradhapura police initiated investigations soon after the incident was reported and Special Task Force (STF) personnel were deployed to beef up the security near the MP’s house. Later, investigations into the matter were handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

However, the former MP claimed that the existing system within the country was the reason behind the recent shooting incident targeting him.

Speaking in Parliament in this regard, MP Premaratne said that while he believed the system was the cause behind the recent shooting outside his residence, it is also the reason why the country is in the state it is today.

Later on 27 February 2024, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP resigned as a Member of Parliament, following which S.C. Muthukumarana of SLPP was appointed to fill the vacant MP seat.

However, Premaratne was later reported to have flown to Canada, seeking political asylum, which he refuted, and claimed that he was expecting a work visa in Canada.

In 2020, the popular actor was announced as a candidate for the 2020 parliamentary election from the Anuradhapura District as a member of the Sri Lanka People’s Freedom Alliance, a political alliance led by the SLPP formed in 2019. 

He obtained 133,550 votes and won a seat in the 16th Parliament of Sri Lanka.

(adaderana.lk)

(This story, originally published by adaderana.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Apple is the world’s first $1 trillion brand: Kantar

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Kantar BrandZ’s Top 10 Most Valuable Global Brands 2024 has named Apple as the world’s first trillion-dollar brand, holding onto pole position for the third consecutive year. 

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon join Apple atop the rankings, with McDonald’s rounding up the top 5.

Demonstrating how effective AI has become for driving brand value, NVIDIA has lept 18 places to crack the top 10 for the first time, holding sixth position with a 178% year-on-year brand value increase. 

Facebook rejoined the Top 10 after a one-year absence, while Oracle joined the Top 10 for the first time. 

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