Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Sri Lanka Original Narrative Summary: 16/05

  1. President Ranil Wickremesinghe will attend the 10th World Water Forum High-Level Meeting in Indonesia from May 18 to 20, invited by Indonesian President Joko Widodo: set to deliver a statement on “Water for Shared Prosperity” on May 20 and engage in several bilateral meetings, including one with President Widodo.
  2. SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage says his party faces no challenge from the JVP: expresses confidence in the party’s prospects and states that decisions regarding elections are made collectively within the party: The MP’s response is in correspondence with reporters’ queries on the JVP-led NPP’s growing popularity in the country’s political landscape.
  3. The Colombo District Court grants SLFP MP Duminda Dissanayake permission to argue against Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s appointment as SLFP Chairman: The court will decide on an injunction today: Rajapakshe’s counsel objected, citing a previous court order, but Dissanayake’s counsel argued it didn’t apply: The plaintiff seeks to prevent Rajapakshe and another from acting in SLFP roles and invalidate decisions from a recent meeting.
  4. Sri Lanka plans to establish a domestic small arms ammunition manufacturing unit, with discussions underway with India for collaboration: Defence State Minister Premitha Bandara Tennakoon emphasises learning from India’s defence manufacturing success: adds while Sri Lanka aims to strengthen military ties with India, there are no immediate plans for equipment procurement.
  5. Tourism Minister Harin Fernando remarks to CNBC that the Maldives boycott calls among Indian travellers are benefiting Sri Lanka’s tourism industry: notes a significant rise in Indian visitors to Sri Lanka, contrasting the decline in Indian arrivals to the Maldives: Despite temporary visa price increases, Sri Lanka experienced higher arrivals in the 1Q24’ compared to the previous year: emphasises the strong ties between Sri Lanka and India, citing various attractions and robust connectivity as key factors driving Indian tourism to Sri Lanka.
  6. First Capital Research (FCR) in a report forecasts the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is expected to depreciate to Rs. 310-320 against the US Dollar by year-end due to increased import demand and foreign loan repayments post-External Debt Restructuring (EDR): In the first half, the LKR might appreciate to around Rs. 295 due to high taxes reducing consumer demand: The USD/LKR spot rate was Rs. 300.83 as of yesterday: Tourism earnings and worker remittances are projected to rise, supporting the Rupee: However, import relaxations and loan repayments later in the year may offset this appreciation: The Central Bank aims to build foreign reserves, impacting the exchange rate.
  7. The Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) responds to criticism of Sri Lanka’s garment industry minimum wage, stating that the official minimum wage doesn’t reflect workers’ total earnings: clarifies the current system includes fixed basic wages supplemented by productivity-based payments and non-cash benefits: The industry-agreed minimum wage, including government allowances, is approximately Rs. 24,000 per month: emphasises the article didn’t consider variable cash payments and non-cash benefits, like production bonuses and subsidised meals, provided to employees: also notes inflation has reduced since early 2023 and remain confident in achieving US $4.5 billion in apparel export earnings this year.
  8. The Tea Exporters Association (TEA) voices deep concern over the newly introduced 18% VAT and a 30% corporate income tax on the tea industry, adding strain to an already challenging period: With the tea sector contributing annually about USD 1.3 billion in revenue, the sudden tax increase could hinder its revival efforts: Over 90% of tea is exported, and the VAT on exports might diminish competitiveness in the global market: While the tax is reimbursed later through SVAT, the process adds administrative burden and disrupts industry efficiency: SL tea sector, unlike its counterparts, operates uniquely with over 95% of tea sold in weekly auctions, ensuring transparency.
  9. President Ranil Wickremesinghe orders the immediate construction of the “Ashraf Memorial Museum” in Kalmunai, honouring the late M.H.M. Ashraf, founder of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress: The initiative, prompted by MP H.M.M. Haris and the local Muslim community, commemorates Ashraf’s 24th death anniversary: Wickremesinghe allocates Rs. 25 million for the project, recognising Ashraf’s significant contributions to the Eastern Province’s Muslim population.
  10. Sri Lanka’s men’s volleyball team achieves a historic 3-0 victory against Iran, marking their first-ever win over the volleyball powerhouse: Led by Captain Deepthi Romesh and Vice-Captain Lasindu Methmal Wasanthappriya, Sri Lanka dominated the match, securing their spot in the Asian Championship: Today’s match against Turkmenistan is crucial, determining their fate in the tournament.

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