A well overdue major overhaul of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic service is on the cards as the government is grappling to meet expenses of foreign diplomatic missions including the payment of salaries of staff, building rent and other expenses, foreign ministry sourcers said.
The Government aims to re-organise and make significant changes in overseas diplomatic missions. According to the news media, the reorganization will come into effect very soon.
Those diplomats who had been in service for too long, and who are over sixty years of age, and are over the age of sixty will have to return to the island. .
It would also include minor staff (such as handymen, drivers and office assistants), sent from Sri Lanka, who have passed their retirement age.
Their salaries are being paid in foreign currency according to the Sri Lankan salary structure. Still, other supplementary pr well overdue privileges such as housing allowance, entertainment allowance, and all other tax-free services including duty-free petrol, free telephone and exemption from TV licence fees etc., compensate for his salary in rupee conversions.
Several Sri Lanka embassies in leading countries have not received financial allocations to pay salaries of staff for the months of December 2021 and Janaury 2022 , official foreign diplomatic sources said.
It has also decided to conduct Sri Lanka Independence Day celebrations on February 4 in a low key way to prune expenditure.
As a cost cutting exercise, the Foreign Ministry has directed all heads of foreign missions to reduce additional expenses with a view to conserving the country’s much needed foreign reserves and minimising expenditure related to maintenance of Sri Lanka’s missions/posts overseas.
These measures are necessary to save foreign exchange while ensuring the effective conduct of bilateral relations, in the backdrop of the economic challenges posed by COVID-19, Foreign Secretary Admiral (Prof.) Jayanath Colombage said.
Although the Foreign Ministry budgetary allocation in the 2022 budget has slightly increased to Rs. 12.85 billion for recurrent expenditure from Rs.12.36 billion in 2021, it is compelled to reduce spending in diplomatic missions overseas, he said.
In another communique issued on January 12, Mr. Colombage had informed Heads of Foreign Missions that a decision had been taken to temporarily suspend the reimbursement of the representational allowance given to top officials of diplomatic missions.
Foreign Ministry announced on Monday the closure of three overseas diplomatic missions as part of a restructuring bid to save the country’s much-needed foreign currency reserves and minimising expenditure in the wake of grave economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sri Lanka High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Nicosia, Cyprus will be shut with effect from December 31, the foreign ministry said.
“The restructuring is undertaken with a view to conserving the country’s much needed foreign reserves and minimising expenditure related to maintenance of Sri Lanka’s missions overseas,” the ministry said in a statement.
Sri Lanka’s tourism-dependent economy was severely hit by the pandemic and the government in March last year imposed a broad import ban to shore up forex reserves, triggering shortages of essential goods such as fuel and sugar.