SRI LANKA NEWS
Compiled by Victor Melder.
Medical officers raised serious concerns about the surging numbers of COVID-19 patients and deaths, with statistics showing at least three to four patients dying every hour. Vice President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), Dr. Manilka Sumanatillake told the Media that if the country was to win the race between the rapidly increasing COVID infections and the numbers being vaccinated it would have to re-impose stricter travel restrictions for a short period. He also said Sri Lanka’s daily COVID-19 cases count could be several times higher than the official figures. The Ragama and Kalubowila teaching hospitals, where wards were flooded with COVID-19 patients by Wednesday (4), were seen having patients under trees and outside the buildings by last midnight. Meanwhile, with at least 20 children being admitted with COVID -19 to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital per day, measures were taken to send some of the patients to the Rajagiriya Ayurveda Hospital. From the 40 and 50 and 60s that were reported by the Director General Health Services (DGHS) during the past number of days, there was a leap to 82 deaths on Wednesday (3) comprising 41 men and 41 women between the ages of 30 to 60 years and above. This means that three COVID deaths occurred every hour. According to this, on an hourly basis, there have been three COVID deaths, he lamented. The SLMA Vice President lamented that the number of COVID cases in the COVID wards at the National Hospital Colombo and Teaching Hospital Kalubowila, had outnumbered the available beds in those wards. At the NHSL alone there are 600 COVID patients at present. According to records issued by the Epidemiology Unit on 27 and 29 July 2021 there were 1,711 and 1,940 cases respectively. However the numbers leaped to 2,370 by 29 July 2021. By Monday (2) the beginning of August, there has been a steady increase in the detections till a total 2,561 cases were recorded on Wednesday (4). The total number of fully vaccinated cases in the country was 2,645,844 while the number of COVID cases recorded in the Post New Year cluster have surpassed 205,981 by Tuesday (3). The National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) said there were 86 State hospitals treating patients with COVID-19 also by Wednesday (4) with 6,718 patients. There were 64 interim care centres (ICCs) with 14,700 patients and 45 paid ICC with another 4,880 patients being treated. Meanwhile, Deputy Director General Disaster Management and Emergency Response Dr. Hemantha Herath said that although there was an increase in COVID patients in several hospitals it has not reached a crisis situation. Responding to questions, when contacted, Dr. Herath said yesterday (5) that he had been to Galle and Matara hospitals to assess the situation. “If it comes to the worst we would have to utilise available resources,” he said noting that the available health staff could not be expanded. “Nor can we burden the other health services by cutting them down.” “However, if it comes to a critical situation we may have to do so,” he noted In the meantime, China has pledged to “keep its commitment” by delivering more Sinopharm Vaccines to Sri Lanka. The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, in a tweet, stated that it would deliver a total of four million doses of the Sinopharm Vaccine to Sri Lanka despite the increasing demand for the vaccines on domestic turf. It said that 2.14 million doses of the vaccine were scheduled to reach Sri Lanka today (6) while another 1.86 million doses were to land in the island by Sunday (Ceylon Today, 6.8.2021).
It has been recorded that 45,831 children have been infected with COVID-19 until now while 14 children have succumbed to the virus, Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi informed Parliament yesterday (5). Fifty per cent of deaths have been reported from the 0 – 5 year age group. Responding to a question by the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under the Standing Order 27/2, Wanniarachchi said that 19,688 of the cases are of children under 10 years of age. Premadasa queried whether the Government is aware of the spike in the number of COVID-19 infected children recently. He also sought an explanation regarding the Government’s plans on controlling the situation. According to the data provided by the Minister regarding COVID-19 deaths among children, seven have been reported from age group 0 -5 while three have been reported from age group 6 – 10. “Four children between 11 – 18 years have died due to COVID-19 as well,” Wanniarachchi informed. Speaking further, she said that the possibility of vaccinating children with the Pfizer Biontech jab is being studied. “Final decision regarding that will be taken by Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases,” she added. (Ceylon Today, 6.8.2021)
With another 98 deaths confirmed for Friday (06) by authorities today (07), Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 related death toll crossed the 5,000 mark. Accordingly, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 related death toll currently stands at a total of 5,017. Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena confirmed today, that 20 amongst the deceased have been identified as persons aged between 30 – 59, whilst the rest were aged above 60 years. (Ceylon Today, 8.8.2021)
Headline inflation, as measured by the year-on-year (Y-o-Y) change in the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI, 2013=100)1 , increased to 5.7 percent in July 2021 from 5.2 percent in June 2021. This was driven by monthly increases of prices of items in the Non-food category. Food inflation (Y-o-Y) decreased to 11.0 percent in July 2021 from 11.3 percent in June 2021, while Nonfood inflation (Y-o-Y) increased to 3.2 percent in July 2021 from 2.5 percent in June 2021. The CCPI, measured on an annual average basis, increased marginally to 4.2 percent in July 2021 from 4.1 percent in June 2021. Monthly change of CCPI recorded at 0.50 percent in July 2021 due to price increases observed in items of the Non-food category. Moreover, monthly changes of Food and Nonfood categories recorded at -0.05 percent and 0.55 percent, respectively. Within the Food category, prices of coconut, fresh fish and coconut oil decreased. Prices of items in the Non-Food category recorded an increase during the month due to price increases observed in the Transport (Petrol) and Restaurant and Hotels subcategories. Core inflation (Y-o-Y), which reflects the underlying inflation in the economy, increased to 3.7 percent in July 2021 from 3.2 percent in June 2021. Moreover, annual average core inflation increased marginally to 3.1 percent in July 2021 from 3.0 percent in June 2021. (Sunday Observer, 8.8.2021)
Sri Lanka’s trade deficit in the first half has widened by over $ 1 billion to $ 4.3 billion from a year earlier on account of rising imports, though exports have performed commendably. The Central Bank said yesterday the deficit in the trade account widened on a year-on-year basis for the fourth consecutive month in June 2021. “Both exports and imports were significantly higher in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Considering the first half of the year, although exports recorded a healthy growth, import expenditure increased at a higher pace,” the Central Bank added. It said the deficit in the trade account widened on a year-on-year basis to $ 652 million in June 2021 compared to the deficit of $ 161 million recorded in June 2020. The cumulative deficit in the trade account in the first half of the year also widened to $ 4,316 million from $ 3,262 million recorded in the corresponding period in 2020, and $ 3,597 million recorded in the corresponding period in 2019. Terms of trade, i.e., the ratio of the price of exports to the price of imports, deteriorated by 16.7% in June 2021 compared to June 2020, as the increase in import prices were higher than the increase of export prices, compared to June 2020. The Central Bank also said Sri Lanka maintained large trade surpluses with the USA and European countries. These countries were Sri Lanka’s main export destinations for textiles and garments, in particular. Sri Lanka maintained large trade deficits with Asian countries, which were the main import sources. On inflows, the Central Bank said a marginal net foreign investment outflow was recorded in the Government securities market in June 2021. Cumulative net outflow from the government securities market during the first half of 2021 amounted to $ 24 million, while the outstanding exposure remained low at $ 12 million at end June 2021. Meanwhile, the CSE recorded a net outflow of $ 6 million and $ 125 million in June 2021 and during the first half of 2021, respectively. Gross official reserves stood at $ 4.1 billion at end June 2021, which provided an import cover of 2.6 months. Total foreign assets, which consist of gross official reserves and foreign assets of the banking sector, amounted to $ 6.8 billion at end June 2021, providing an import cover of 4.5 months. The level of reserves reported above does not include the three-year bilateral currency swap facility amounting to CNY 10 billion (approximately $ 1.5 billion) between the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. (Daily Financial Times, 14.8.2021)
The Central Bank said yesterday that workers’ remittances declined in June 2021 year-on-year though they were up in the first half in comparison to the corresponding period of last year. It said workers’ remittances decreased to $ 478 million, recording a year-on-year decline of 16.4% in June 2021. However, workers’ remittances in June 2021 remained higher than the $ 460 million recorded in May 2021. During the first half of the year, workers’ remittances recorded a growth of 11.6%, year-on-year, to $ 3,324 million. (Daily Financial Times, 14.8.2021)
Sri Lanka has decided to purchase 100 metric tonnes of oxygen from India per week for COVID-19 treatment centres. The need to import oxygen was recognised, as locally produced oxygen is being utilized to the fullest at hospitals and treatment centres. Owing to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the simultaneous lack of oxygen, several medical associations and health authorities have warned that the COVID-19 death toll could increase in the future. (Ceylon Today, 15.8.2021)
Following the detection of 3,245 COVID-19 infectees today (14), the total number of cases recorded exceeded the 350,000 mark. Accordingly, a total of 351,515 cases have been reported thus far.With another 160 deaths confirmed for Friday (13) by authorities, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 related death toll currently standing at 5,935.(Ceylon Today, 15.8.2021)
An Extraordinary Gazette Notification has been issued imposing a Special Commodity Levy on several items, including Sprats, Dried fish, Kurakkan flour, mustard seeds and salt. The Gazette Notification was issued by the Finance Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, for a variety of products. Accordingly, a special commodity levy of Rs.100 will be imposed on sprats and dried fish per kg. Rs. 880 special commodity levy will be imposed on one kg of butter and dairy spreads. Meanwhile, Rs. 50 for one kg of Mathe seeds, Rs. 150 for one kg of Kurakkan flour, Rs. 62 for one kg of Mustard seeds, and Rs. 40 for a kg of salt. The tax will be valid for one year from August 12, the Gazette Notification said. According to the gazette, in order to waive-off the balance amount after collecting Rs. 10 per kg from the applicable Special Commodity Levy of Rs. 40 per kg on the importation of salt, classified under the HS Code of 2501.00, listed out in the Schedule of the above, by any pharmaceutical manufacturing enterprise registered with the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) for the purpose of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, not for commercial purposes, on the recommendation of the Secretary, State Ministry in charge of the subject of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals. (Daily Mirror Online, 15.8.2021)
Countrywide quarantine curfew implemented at 10 p.m. yesterday will be in effect until 4 a.m., 30 August, but a special vaccination program for persons over the age of 60 will be carried out during this time. The Inspector-General of Police has been advised to strictly enforce the law against any person violating quarantine curfew. Functions of airports and flight operations, essential services such as agricultural activities, garments and construction industries, export industries, and pharmacies will also continue.
According to National Operations Centre for the Prevention of the COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head Gen. Shavendra Silva, a special permit will not be required for persons attached to the above sectors to travel to and from while quarantine curfew is in effect. Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardana meanwhile said free delivery will be offered for a period of two weeks for orders placed with Lanka Sathosa.“While quarantine curfew is in effect, the Government has decided to carry out a special vaccination program for all persons above 60 who are yet to get vaccinated. This will be carried out by the Tri-Forces and health sector,” Gen. Shavendra Silva said. According to a statement issued by the President’s Media Division (PMD), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed the relevant authorities to complete vaccination of persons over 60 by 1 September. These persons will be identified through the Divisional Secretary, local Government authorities, and rural COVID-19 prevention committees and relevant information should be reported to the health division by 23 August. Registration can also take place via the 1906 hotline or the NOCPCO. “The President instructed the State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development and Community Health to take steps to provide indigenous medicines to the people in the rural and urban areas during this period,” the PMD statement read. (Daily Financial Times, 21.8.2021)
An extraordinary gazette notification was issued for the adoption of safety measures for elephants, including the erection of electrical fences, trenches, reforestation, and standards and specifications for traditional tools used by mahouts. The gazette notification was issued by Wildlife Protection State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayaka under section 22A of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Chapter 469). The gazette notification includes the protection and wellbeing of tamed elephants, regularizing the registration of tamed elephants, obtaining tamed elephants for historical cultural processions, standards and specifications of traditional tools used by mahouts, the Application Form for the Registration of a Tamed Elephant, the Application Form for the Registration of an Unregistered Elephant that is currently in the custody of an owner, the Licence Form for the Registration and Detaining of Tame Elephants, the Form for the renewal of the annual licence, the Data Record Book and the Application Form for Obtaining Elephants for a Historical Cultural Procession. (Daily Mirror Online, 21.8.2021)
Workers’ remittances continue to decline with July seeing a low of $ 453.3 million, down by a massive 35% from a year earlier.
The July dip also reduced the first seven months’ inflows growth to 2.6% to $ 3.77 billion.
In June, workers remittances inflow was $ 478 million, whilst in May, the figure was $ 460 million. As of end-May, the year-to-date growth was a high 18% from the corresponding period of last year and it reduced to 11.6% in the first half. In June, the year-on-year drop was 16.4%. In 2020, workers’ remittances increased by 5.8% to $ 7.1 billion compared to a decline of 4.3% in 2019 to $ 6.7 billion. The Government was originally expecting remittances to grow to $ 8 billion this year. The Central Bank attributed the 2020 growth to the increased stay period of migrant workers as a result of the closure of most international borders, increased use of formal channels, and a possible increase in the amount remitted by migrant workers to families in Sri Lanka to manage the pandemic-driven hardships. However, the loss of momentum from April onwards was due to sharp disparity in rates offered by formal banking channels and the unofficial grey market prompting migrant workers to opt for the latter when transferring funds. Other analysts opined that the lower contribution could also be linked to reduced COVID-induced uncertainty following vaccinations in most countries where Lankan migrants are based in. (Daily Financial Times, 24.8.2021)
The spread of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country has led to a dip in tea exports for the first time in recent months, according to sources. Tea exports declined by 2.5 million kilos year-on-year (YOY) to 25.54 million kilos in July, a development which Forbes and Walkers Tea Brokers attributed to a combination of restricted shipping and logistics and perhaps COVID-19 pandemic-related constraints. It said all main categories of exports (Bulk Tea, Tea Bags and Packeted Tea) have shown a decrease compared to July last year. Value wise exports amounted to Rs. 23 billion, down by Rs. 1.3 billion from a year ago. Forbes said the resulting FOB value of Rs. 901.35 per kilo ($ 4.56) was an increase of Rs. 33.69 compared to Rs. 867.66 ($ 4.72) of July 2020. “Whilst the Rupee FOB values have increased in 2021, in USD terms it reflects a lower value,” Forbes added.
Despite the dip in July thanks to improvement in previous months, the cumulative tea exports are on the up. Shipments in the first seven months of 2021 amounted to 162.52 million kilos up by 10.39 million kilos in the corresponding period of last year.
Forbes said all main categories of exports (Bulk Tea, Tea Bags and Packeted Tea) had shown an increase in 2021.
Tea export revenue within January to July 2021 rose by Rs. 20.4 billion to Rs. 150.85 billion. The total FOB value of Rs. 928.18 per kilo ($ 4.76) reflects a gain of Rs. 70.91 from the first seven months of last year. According to data compiled by Management Services Ltd., on behalf of the Colombo Brokers’ Association, the National Sales Average (NSA) for July 2021 totalled Rs. 591.35 per kilo ($ 2.99) up marginally by Rs. 4.84 per kilo from June 2021 but down by Rs. 19.90 from a year earlier.
In analysing the respective elevational averages – High Growns, totalling Rs. 555.26 ($ 2.81) for July 2021, was an increase of Rs. 4.82 month-on-month vis-à-vis Rs. 550.44 ($ 2.79) of June 2021. From a year ago, it was an increase of Rs. 21.58.
Mediums, averaging Rs. 521.70 ($ 2.64) for July 2021, was a decrease of Rs. 9 from June 2021 and by Rs. 2.87 from July 2020. Low Growns, totalling Rs. 626.22 ($ 3.17) for July was an increase of Rs. 6.13 from the previous month but significantly down by Rs. 42 from July last year. The January-July 2021 cumulative national average of Rs. 623.11 ($ 3.20), reflects a marginal decrease of Rs. 2.10 (decrease of $ 0.20) as against the corresponding period of last year. Forbes said High Growns NSA for the period January-July 2021 was Rs. 596.48 ($ 3.06) up Rs. 20.56 (decrease of $ 0.08) from a year ago. Mediums average was Rs. 557.66 ($ 2.86), reflecting an increase of Rs. 8.82 (decrease of $0.13). However, Low Growns NSA totalling Rs. 651.57 ($ 3.34) was a decrease of Rs. 15.48 ($ 0.29) from the first seven months of 2020. (Daily Financial Times, 24.8.2021)
Sri Lanka entered into an agreement today with China Development Bank for a Rs. 61 billion term facility According to the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, the agreement was firmed up following a request from the Sri Lankan government. The Chinese Embassy in a tweet shared that the RMB 2 billion facility will be used to support the COVID-19 response effort, economic revival, financial stability, and livelihood betterment. (Daily Mirror Online, 24.8.2021)
Headline inflation as measured by the Year-on-Year change based on the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) has been compiled at 6.8% in July as against 6.1% in June. The July figure also shows a 12-month high and confirms the rising trend witnessed since January this year. Core inflation, which reflects the underlying inflation by excluding volatile items of food, energy and transport groups in the economy as measured by the Year-on-Year change based on NCPI for the month of July 2021 was increased to 4.4% from 4.1% reported in the month of June 2021. The Department of Census and Statistics said contributions to the inflation rate of July 2021 from food group and non-food group are 5.1% and 1.7% respectively. Whilst contributions of food and non-food groups to the inflation in July 2020 were 5.6% and 0.5% respectively, resulting in a headline inflation of 6.1%.
With respect to July 2020, the reported increase in percentage of food group was mainly due to higher price levels prevailing in July 2021, particularly prices of rice, vegetables, coconuts, coconut oil, big onions and Mysore dhal.
Comparing the month-on-month changes, NCPI in July 2021 has increased to 146.6 from 145.7 reported in June 2021. This shows an increase of 0.9 index points or 0.6 percentage as compared to June 2021. The month-on-month change was contributed by increases of index values of food items by 0.37% and non-food items by 0.27% respectively. Price increases of food items were reported for sugar, vegetables, dried fish, fresh fish, eggs, potatoes, Mysore dhal, chicken, rice, biscuits, canned fish, fresh fruits, rice flour, turmeric powder, kurakkan flour and wheat flour. However, decreases in index values were reported for coconuts, coconut oil, big onions, red onions and green gram. The increases in index values of non-food groups in July 2021 compared to the previous month was mainly due to the price increases in groups of items ‘Transport’ (petrol, diesel and taxi/three wheelers fare), ‘Restaurants and Hotels,’ ‘Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco and Narcotics’ (arecanuts), ‘Clothing and Footwear,’ ‘Furnishing, Household equipment and Routine household maintenance,’ ‘Recreation and Culture’ and ‘Miscellaneous Goods and Services’. Further, very slight price increases were reported in groups of ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other fuels’ and ‘Health’. The price indices of ‘Communication’ and ‘Education’ groups remained unchanged during the month. (Daily Financial Times, 25.8.2021)
Currency in circulation has gradually reached almost a trillion rupees by mid-August, in response to the extraordinary support extended by the monetary policy by way of liquidity made available and the fast descent in the interest rates since the onset of the pandemic last year. According to the latest data made available by the Central Bank, the currency held by the public by August 18 was at Rs.967.6 billion, which is a marked increase of Rs.133 billion since the end of 2020 and Rs.289.6 billion from the end of 2019. There was a massive increase in the currency in circulation from the end of February 2020 through December 2020, measured at Rs.151 billion, during which time the Central Bank was forced to resort to provide assistance to the public by way of cash transfers to those who lost their daily incomes, maintain adequate liquidity in money markets to ensure the banks and other firms have access to liquidity when their cash flows came to an abrupt halt. The Central Bank also helped the government to fight against the virus while sustaining its day-to-day activities, including the payment of salaries to over 1.6 million public servants. All this helped to mitigate the immediate adverse effects of the pandemic to the public and the broader economy while helping the recovery. “The Central Bank was compelled to do the heavy lifting of the pandemic response, given the lack of fiscal space,” the Central Bank said listing down its estimated direct benefits to the economy from tits monetary easing measures since the onset of the pandemic. However, as the excesses started emerging by way of imbalances in the external sector and price pressures, which increasingly appear to be more persistent than transitory, the Central Bank last week decided to roll back part of its extraordinary monetary policy support and thereby absorb part of this massive currency stock pile back into the banking system. The Central Bank last week raised its key policy rates by 50 basis points while increasingly the banks’ statutory reserves ratio by 200 basis points, effective September 1, enabling it to draw part of the money in circulation back into the banking system by way of deposits (Daily Mirror, 26.8.2021)
Shortage of essential food items is being forecast by the private sector due to multiple issues, including the foreign exchange crisis and the Government’s mismanagement. They said the buffer stocks of sugar, milk powder, tinned fish, dhal and flour that are remaining will be only sufficient for another month. According to the importers, too much intervention, shortage of US dollars, the rupee depreciation and insufficient buffer stocks were the key reasons for the price hike that the consumers are experiencing in the market at present. “The Government had been controlling everything – imposing price ceilings, import restrictions and allocation of resources, leading to this distortion in the market now,” Essential Food Importers Association of Sri Lanka Spokesperson said .He said importers had been warning the Government on the repercussions of such extreme measures at each sitting of the CoL meetings, but they turned a deaf ear to their pleas. It was also pointed out that since the Government stopped importation of sugar from May, authorities have not taken any steps to bring down new quantities required for consumption. Amidst these allegations, the Cabinet of Ministers has approved importation of rice, sugar and dhal. Last month, the Government decided to import 2500 MT sugar and dhal on a monthly basis. These stocks of sugar will be imported from India, whilst dhal will be imported from Australia through the reserves of the Co-operative Development Fund. In June, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to use the government-to-government (G2G) import scheme to purchase 100,000 tons of samba rice. Last week too, they decided to import 6,000 tons of rice immediately, as per the provisions of the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Government justified that these importation steps were taken to secure sufficient stocks of essential goods whilst stabilising prices in the local market. The importers said Sri Lanka requires about 50 tons of sugar per month and currently it only has about 25 tons — which are stuck in the Colombo port at present. During the past six months, the country has imported 600,000 tons of sugar and the quantity is sufficient for the consumption for one year. As a result, the country now has an excess 120,000 tons of sugar stocks. Sri Lanka’s average sugar consumption per year is 350,000-400,000 tons. The members of the Association said even if the Government permits imports, the banks are not supportive due to the scarcity of foreign exchange. “We are not allowed to do forward exchange contracts. There are bills worth around $ 10 to $15 million waiting to be settled. The Government has to relax certain controls and let the supply and demand determine the prices. Inaction to take quick measures will lead the country towards a massive economic crisis,” they cautioned. National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection (NMCRP) President Ranjith Vithanage claimed the Consumer Affairs Authority’s (CAA) enforcement of price control mechanism was not effective, as traders are selling goods at exorbitant prices ignoring the Gazette notifications. “The price of sugar kilogram is now over Rs. 200, rice kilogram is now around Rs. 230 to Rs. 240, dhal kilogram is around Rs. 250. The price of vegetables is no longer affordable for the general public. The traders are selling these vegetables 10-fold more than what it is quoted at the economic centres. Even when the Government has imposed a Maximum Retail Price (MRP), they have failed to execute an effective mechanism to regulate the prices in the market,” he charged. Vithanage said the prices of all essential commodities are likely to skyrocket in the next couple of weeks. The allegations poured in following the Cabinet of Ministers approving an increase in the fines against traders selling essential consumer goods beyond the maximum retail price (MRP) from a minimum fine from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 10,000.
The NMCRP President called on both Ministers and the CAA Chairman to resign from their positions, as importers and intermediary agents have figured out that the authorities cannot take any action against them. (Daily Financial Times, 27.8.2021)
The Department of Immigration and Emigration has increased the penalty for overstaying foreigners without a valid visa to USD 500 in addition to the visa fee, a senior official said. He said the earlier the penalty was imposed in three stages until the new fine was announced yesterday .Until yesterday, the penalty for overstaying the visa between seven to 30 days was US$ 25, for 30 to 90 days US$ 50 and above 90 days US$ 100. Under the new system enforced from yesterday, a blanket penalty of US$ 500 would be imposed. “The sharp increase was to discourage foreigners who entered the country under various visa categories and overstayed for a long time,” the senior official said, while stressing that the number of foreigners charged for overstaying saw an increase in recent years. Amending the Immigration and Emigration Regulations Act through a Gazette notification last week, the Immigration and Emigration Controller General revised 13 visa categories. Accordingly, under the Residence Visa-1 category in which investors, employees, students are eligible to apply, the visa fee applicable for one year is fixed as US$ 200. Earlier the visa fee for this category was Rs 10,000 along with a tax of Rs 10,000. For South Asian tourists, the revised visa fee is US$ 25 on arrival whereas for other countries, it is revised to US$ 40. (Sunday Times, 29.8.2021)
Money printing that has taken place in Sri Lanka since January has not resulted in expanding the monetary base at a rate that is unsustainable (overheating of the economy) or increased inflation, Finance Ministry data showed. The Central Bank has issued new currency amounting to Rs.94.5 billion this year up to July 2021 compared to Rs.156 billion in the same 2020 period. In the meantime, Sri Lanka’s face value treasury bill holdings (which includes money printing) has gone up by Rs. 33.68.billion to Rs. 1.31 trillion by the end of last week, Finance Ministry data revealed. Money printing causes reserve losses, foreign exchange shortages and asset price inflation as well as commodity price inflation which will lead to rationing of goods, price controls and shortages, several economic experts said. When money is printed after repayment of foreign loans, there is an immediate loss of forex reserves but it does not cause domestic inflation because the money does not come into circulation, a high ranking Treasury official who wished to remain anonymous told the Business Times. The Central bank’s Treasury bill stock jumped by Rs. 53.9 billion to 1.19 trillion on August 2 from Rs. 1.14 trillion the previous day after the US$ I billion bond settlement day. Treasury bills were issued to the Central Bank to get rupees for dollars in order to make the repayment of sovereign bond and thereby increasing the Treasury bill holdings, the official explained. Reasons for the recent hike in overall monetary expansion by money printing were the payments for foreign debts and the defending of the Treasury bill yield. (Sunday Times, 29.8.2021)
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared Emergency regulations on the provision of essential foods with effect from midnight today, Presidential Media Division (PMD) said. The decision has been taken to prevent essential commodities such as rice, paddy and sugar being sold at exorbitant prices and hoarding stocks. The President has declared these regulations under the powers vested in him in terms of the Article 2 of the Public Security Ordinance. Major General N.D.S.P Niwunhella has been appointed as the Commissioner General of Essential Services to coordinate the distribution of consumer goods such as paddy, rice and sugar which were required for daily life. (Daily Mirror, 30.8.2021)
A total of 216 COVID-19 related deaths were confirmed for yesterday (29), making it the highest number of deaths recorded in a single day, so far. With this, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 death toll currently stands at 8,991. Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena confirmed today (30) that five amongst the deceased were aged below 30, while 41 persons were aged between 30-59 years and the rest were aged above 60 years. (Ceylon Today, 30.8.2021)