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President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his regret to the Japanese Government for the suspension of the Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, which was being implemented with Japanese support.

During the official meeting in Tokyo yesterday morning (25) between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the President emphasized the need for future legislation in the Parliament to ensure that bilateral large-scale projects cannot be halted or cancelled without the agreement of both parties.

The Japanese Prime Minister warmly received President Ranil Wickremesinghe and bilateral talks commenced after a friendly conversation between the two leaders.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his gratitude to Japan for its support in helping Sri Lanka recover from its economic crisis, thanking the Japanese Prime Minister for his assistance.

The leaders also discussed new opportunities to enhance cooperation between Japan and Sri Lanka.

In another meeting held on the same day (25) in Tokyo, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki to discuss Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and the International Monetary Fund’s programme. Subsequently, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, focusing on strengthening long-term bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Japan, including increased cooperation in economic and cultural fields.

Additionally, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda participated in a breakfast meeting organized by the Japan-Sri Lanka Association in Tokyo on the same day (25).

During the meeting, President Ranil Wickremesinghe briefed the former Prime Minister of Japan on the ongoing economic recovery programme in Sri Lanka. The President highlighted the favorable investment climate in Sri Lanka and extended an invitation to Japanese investors to return and invest in the country.

Furthermore, a meeting was held between the former Prime Minister of Japan,Taro Aso, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe, focusing on potential steps to strengthen the existing close and friendly relationship with Sri Lanka.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also engaged in bilateral talks with Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in Tokyo on the same day (25). The President reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to implementing the Singapore Free Trade Agreement during discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the ‘Nikkei Forum: Future of Asia’ held in Tokyo, Japan yesterday (25). During his address, the President emphasized the Government’s approach to the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions.

In the presence of esteemed world dignitaries, including the Deputy Prime Ministers of Singapore and Vietnam, President Wickremesinghe highlighted the importance of Asian states having a voice in shaping the region’s role amidst the evolving geopolitics on the global stage.

He acknowledged the diverse nature of Asia as a contributing factor to the region’s economic growth, establishing it as a significant global player.

President Wickremesinghe elaborated on the distinction between the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean, stating that while the former possesses a structured regional organization, the latter remains an evolving space. Emphasizing the adherence to the principles established in the 1955 Asian African Conference in Bandung and the UN Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace, the President reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to fostering multi-layered connectivity in the Indo-Pacific.

Additionally, the President expressed full support for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “Principles for Peace and Rules for Prosperity” policy. President Wickremesinghe emphasized that Asian nations would refrain from taking sides in the global Big Power rivalry, as many have chosen to prioritize the progress and development of Asia.

In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe welcomed the cooperative approach of Japan and the G7 in building a stable relationship with China. He supported Japan’s vision for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and called for an open-ended dialogue among Asian nations to foster peace and cooperation in the region.

Following is the full speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe the Nikkei Forum on the Future of Asia in Tokyo today (25);It is indeed a pleasure to participate in the renowned Nikkei Forum on the Future of Asia. Asia Claiming nearly 30% of the Earth’s land mass, Asia is home to 4.75 billion people, which is about 60% of the world’s population. The region is now the world’s largest economy.

Despite setbacks on the global stage, Asia has the potential for continued growth. China’s recovery, together with a healthy domestic demand in India, will be the main supports of growth for the region. Asia also has the advanced economies of Japan and South Korea contributing to the region’s development, through foreign investments and technology transfers.

ASEAN, as the 5th largest economy in the world, is growing at a steady pace. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Report, ‘The World in 2050’, as many as six ‘Emerging Markets’ (E7) will make up the top 10 world economies. Of them, four, including the top two, are forecast to be from Asian nations.

Two other Asiatic states, Vietnam and the Philippines will also make significant advances into the top 20 nations.

What is more, West Asia continues to experience high economic growth. All in all, not only has Asia become the global economic powerhouse of our age, and the most dynamic region, but it is also on an unprecedented upward trajectory. Thus the centrality of the global economy is shifting to Asia. The region’s economy is already similar in size to those of Europe and North America. And as the global economy seeks to recoup, Asia and the Pacific is predicted to contribute nearly 70% of global growth this year.Asia’s strength is derived from its openness.

The territory comprises some of the world’s wealthiest economies and some of the poorest; large sub-continental powers as well as small states.

This diversity has only served to strengthen the region’s role in the global arena. All of our countries benefited from the cooperation between the US and China in the post-Cold War era. Yet the subsequent rapid rise of China and the inability of the two countries to agree on China’s role on the international stage have led to rivalry and needless tensions in our part of the world.

It is from this political background that Asia has to grapple with incipient as well as prevailing global challenges as the post-cold war era comes to an end. I will expand on the main challenge.

Democratic Values & Human Rights Sri Lanka is the oldest Democracy in Asia, with a Parliament tracing its origins to 1835 and universal franchise sustained from 1931. Yet, our multiparty political system is not the norm in other parts of Asia.

Similarly, understandings and definitions of Human Rights in Asia range from the recent G7’s Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué to China’s Global Civilisation Initiative.

Given this diversity, it is not possible to impose our value systems on all the Asian countries. The dilemma we face is not new.

It took the West over a century and two World Wars before Democratic Values and Human Rights became the norm. Similarly, in Asia, I doubt that there will be an immediate consensus on the fundamental values of the political system or a definition of Human Rights that is acceptable all Asian countries. Moreover, the strengthening of democratic values in a complex background of big power rivalry is also an onerous problem.

A consensus on fundamental political values amongst Asian countries will involve taking into account the distinct geographical, historical, political, economic, developmental and cultural backgrounds of nations. However the West may not agree with this position.

If the West wants a rule based order, the West must adhere to these rules all the time.Climate Change Climate change is a planet-defining challenge, and the stakes are particularly high for Asia.

Temperatures are rising twice as fast in Asia than the global average, which is also related to the escalation in weather severity and the frequency of natural disasters. Rising sea levels from global warming are eroding land and coastlines; imposing severe pressure on rural incomes, food security, and commodity exports.

By mid-century, rising waters will impact nearly a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region. It is regrettable that as many as eight of the fifteen countries affected by climate change are from Asia: Maldives, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam.

Ironically, the region is also a key cause of the climate change crisis. We produce about half of the world’s carbon emissions and have 5 of the largest greenhouse gas emitting countries.

One cannot emphasise the urgency for policies and actions to curb emissions on the part of these countries.

Meanwhile, much of Asia is already responding to mitigate the challenges of climate change; with virtually all countries having made updated commitments under the Paris Agreement.

For instance, China has pledged its goal of carbon neutrality before 2060, with Japan and Korea by 2050. In addition, many countries in the region have been in the forefront of adaptation efforts. Hence all is not lost.

However, it would be appropriate if Asia could agree on a common timeline for achieving carbon neutrality, based on the shorter period upheld by some of the industrialized countries in our region. This is possible if an agreement is reached amongst China, India, Japan, Korea and Indonesia.

Considering the magnitude of loss and damage due to impending climate change, exacerbated by inadequate funding, Asia alone will require US $1 trillion up to 2050 to finance these challenges. Therefore, it is essential that all Asian countries work together in addressing the climate change issues.

A single Asian voice devoid of disharmony needs to be present at COP 28. The success of this conference will depend on the ability of the key Asian nations to come to an agreement.

Trade Integration

The entry of the Asian juggernaut in the form of China, the ASEAN Tigers and India has effectively changed the international economic order of the 20th century. Yet these gains are at risk today, as Asia confronts debt sustainability, de-coupling, and economic coercion.

Debt sustainability consequent to COVID-19 is the critical impasse of several Asian nations, Sri Lanka being one of the first and worst affected.

As a middle-income country, Sri Lanka accepted that:

b) The only option available for vulnerable middle-income countries is to seek the assistance of the IMF to ensure multilateral coordination and cooperation in debt restructuring.

Decisions were quickly taken to enter negotiations, talks began in June last year, a Staff-Level Agreement was reached in September, the IMF Executive Board approved a US $3bn loan under the Extended Fund Facility in March 2023, and Parliamentary approval was obtained in April this year. We have now started creditor meetings and hope for a successful conclusion before end of 2023.

This process involves the multilateral agencies, Paris Club members, India, China and the private creditors. India is working with the Paris Club, while China, in addition to holding bi-lateral meetings, is also taking part in the creditor meetings. Sri Lanka is dedicated to ensure equal treatment for all creditors. We want this exercise to succeed because our experience will enable more middle-income countries to utilise the IMF in ensuring multilateral coordination for debt relief.

The US - China rivalry has given rise to a number of responses by the West especially to economic coercion and weaponizing of economic vulnerabilities. Yet some of these responses may result in a setback to trade integration in the region. Unlike the West, Asia is dominated by middle-income and low-income economies. Of the 12 high-income economies in Asia, only 6 are outside West Asia. The rest of us, including China, India, and Indonesia, are middle income economies. We have to overcome the middle-income trap of economic stagnation.

In addition to economic coercion, other impediments to trade integration are economic de coupling and similar measures contrary to the WTO rules.

Needless to say that we in Sri Lanka and many other Asian nations are opposed to economic coercion: whether it be by one country coercing another using its economic power; or by indirect methods such as de-coupling, or friend-shoring- manufacturing and sourcing only from geopolitical allies - contrary to the WTO.

Thus the WTO system put in place three decades ago should not be by-passed for short term geo-strategic gains. The rules of the game cannot be changed arbitrarily. The losers will be the middle-income Asian countries.

Sri Lanka welcomes the pledge made at the G7 Hiroshima Leader’s communiqué to reject de-coupling and its strategies in favour of economic resilience and economic security. To this end, the G7 has undertaken to engage in dialogue and follow a cooperative approach within the group as well as with global partners - including developing countries.

It is appropriate that the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core be upheld.

Ukraine War

Most of the Asian nations prefer not to be involved in the Ukraine war, though some in the West decry this as an over-extension of neutrality. Nonetheless, diverse opinions on the Ukraine war have emerged within Asia.

For the G7 it is direct invasion of Ukraine, a violation of the UN Charter.

Outside the West, it is seen as a more complex problem arising from the break-up of the Soviet Union and the inability of Europe to resolve this issue. Hence a disinclination to get involved in the European war.

All of us must endeavour to understand and appreciate these different views and attempt to find a common meeting point so as to end this conflict after the predicted counter offensive is concluded.

U.S. / China Rivalry

Asia has become the crux of U.S. China rivalry.The intensification of that rivalry in recent times has brought about the QUAD (between the USA, India, Australia, and Japan) and the Indo-Pacific on one hand and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the other.

One thing is certain, Asian countries do not wish to be forced to manage competing pressure from these two sides.

For example, most ASEAN countries and China are economically interdependent; and countries such as Cambodia and Laos have moved into the Sino-economic radar.

By the time the U.S. launched the comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN late last year, China had already established a similar link with the Association a year before.

Consequently, the pressure on Asian countries to choose between the US and China is being resisted by many.

We are opposed to what my friend Vivian Balakrishnan, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, calls the bifurcation of Asia.We in Asia don’t want to choose between U.S. and China. Many of us cannot make that choice because we have already made our choice, and that choice is Asia. We want an Asia that can accommodate the Indo-Pacific, the BRI, as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

The BRI is a strategy to increase China’s influence in Asia and Africa through economic means. We, the members of the BRI, have no security arrangements with China, nor do we intend to enter into any security agreements with China.

The Indo-Pacific is an evolving concept with unanswered questions.

The APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) is a structured regional organisation, which includes channels of dialogue between the U.S. and China. However, on the other hand, the Indian Ocean is amorphous. There is no effective regional political system; nor structures to deal with economic or security matters.

The only principles guiding the Indian Ocean States are the outcomes of the Asian African Conference of Bandung 1955 and the UN Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace.

These were again restated at the inaugural Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Leaders’ summit in 2017. Therefore in the absence of any structures in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka convened “Indian Ocean - Defining Our Future Conference in 2018” highlighted the need for an agreement on the freedom of navigation, over flight, and undersea cables.

Then in 2019, the ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific-the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean are distinct but closely integrated and interconnected space.

Sri Lanka is committed to multi layered connectivity in the Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, we also support Prime Minister Kishida’s Principles for Peace and Rules for Prosperity. In keeping with the Rules for Prosperity, Sri Lanka will apply for membership to RCEP with the aim of achieving a higher level of economic liberalization.

Sri Lanka welcomes the G7s announcement that they are prepared to build a stable and constructive relationship with China. This is essential - as espoused by Prime Minister Kishida in New Delhi earlier this year when presenting Japan’s New Plan for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP). I quote: “the approach we should take going forward is rule-making through dialogue that respects the historical and cultural diversity of each country, the equal partnership among nations.”

We appreciate this cooperative approach of Japan and give it our full support. It is crucial for the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous Asian region. We also support a dialogue between all Asian nations.

In this context, Sri Lanka is of the view that Japan, China, India, and ASEAN, should commence an open-ended dialogue amongst themselves and thereafter with the other Asian countries.

This is the first step in establishing a new framework for Peace and Co-operation in Asia.

Cabinet approval has been granted to implement the Megapolis Western Region Master Plan 2048, Cabinet Spokesman and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said.  

He was speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department.

The Cabinet of Ministers approved the combined proposal presented by the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Urban Development and Housing to appoint a Ministerial

Committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister for the guidance and co-ordination of facilities for the implementation of the plan prepared. On May 8, this year the Cabinet gave approval for awarding the Surbana Jurong (Private) Limited of Singapore to review the Western Area Megapolis Plan prepared by the UrbanDevelopment Authority in 2015. The said plan will be reviewed and the Western Region Master Plan 2048 will be prepared so that the projects identified so far under the original master plan can be implemented on a priority basis.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe left the island today for an official visit to Singapore and Japan.

While in Singapore, he will meet with Mr. K. Shanmugam, the Law and Home Affairs Minister, along with high-ranking diplomats.

The President’s visit to Japan, scheduled from May 24 to 27, will include discussions with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on strengthening bilateral relations and addressing regional and international matters.

Additionally, meetings are planned with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Finance Minister Shun’ichi Suzuki, and Digital Transformation Minister Taro Kono.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe will also address the Nikkei Forum’s 28th Future of Asia conference in Tokyo on May 25 and 26.

This international conference convenes leaders to discuss political, economic, and regional issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

The President will engage with the Japan-Sri Lanka Business Cooperation Council, the Japan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Association and the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

It is worth noting that this is President Wickremesinghe’s second visit to Japan during his current tenure, following his attendance at the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September 2022.

The visit aims to strengthen cooperation and foster friendly relations between the two countries.

The President will be accompanied by Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr Sagala Ratnayake, Senior Advisor to the President on Economic Affairs Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, the President’s Director of International Affairs Mr Dinuk Colombage, and the President’s Private Secretary Ms Sandra Perera.

In a significant move to address Sri Lanka’s fuel supply challenges, a contract agreement was signed with Sinopec, a leading international petroleum company. The agreement, signed yesterday (22), marks a crucial step in ensuring a steady and uninterrupted fuel supply for the nation.

The signing ceremony took place at the Presidential Secretariat, with representatives from both Sri Lanka and Sinopec in attendance.

Secretary of the Ministry of Power and Energy Mr. M.P.D.U.K. Mapa Pathirana and Mr. Chen Chengmin, Managing Director of Fuel Production and Marketing Department of Sinopec Company, signed the agreement in front of the President.

On the Sri Lanka side, the Secretary of the Ministry of Power and Energy, the Chairman & Managing Director of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, and the Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited participated. From Sinopec, representatives from Sinopec Fuel Oil Lanka (Private) Limited, Sinopec Fuel Oil Sales Co. Ltd (People’s Republic of China), and Sinopec Fuel Oil (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. were present to formalize the agreement.

In response to the on-going foreign exchange crisis in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Power and Energy has taken this decisive action to ensure an uninterrupted fuel supply to consumers. With the inability to provide sufficient foreign exchange for fuel shipments, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) faced significant challenges.

To tackle this issue, the Ministry explored various strategies and one of them involved inviting Expression of Interests (EOIs) from reputable petroleum companies established in producing countries. The goal was to import, store, distribute, and sell Petroleum Products in predetermined Distribution Dealer operated Networks in Sri Lanka. The Cabinet of Ministers approved this initiative.

One of the key requirements for new retail suppliers entering the market was their ability to secure forex requirements without depending on the domestic banking sector. It was mandated that these companies source their own funds for fuel procurement through foreign sources, at least during the initial one-year period of operation.

After receiving EOIs, the companies that were shortlisted were invited to submit detailed proposals in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) document. The Cabinet Appointed Special Committee (CASC) and the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) thoroughly scrutinized the proposals and recommended awarding contracts to the following companies, subject to negotiations:

M/s Sinopec Fuel Oil Lanka (Private) Limited, F5, Hambantota Maritime Center, Mirijjawila, Hambantota, Sri Lanka
M/s United Petroleum Pty Ltd, 600 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia
M/s RM Parks, 1061 N. Main St, Porterville, CA 93257, USA, in collaboration with Shell PLC
The Cabinet of Ministers, considering the recommendations made by the CASC and the Committee Appointed by the Cabinet, granted approval to award the contracts to the selected suppliers.

Sinopec, along with its affiliated companies, is set to commence operations in Sri Lanka within 45 days following the issuance of the license. This development brings hope for a more stable and reliable fuel supply, boosting the country’s energy sector and providing assurance to consumers.

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera, State Ministers D.V. Chanaka, Indika Anuruddha, Shehan Semasingha, President’s Senior Advisor on National Security and Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong and representatives of Sinopec Oil Lanka Pvt. Ltd, Sinopec China Pvt Ltd and Sinopec Singapore Pvt Ltd were present on this occasion.

 Be the leader in presenting a 10-year development plan - The President tells the Colombo University Alumni

 
Acknowledging the global shift towards a knowledge revolution propelled by technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, President Ranil Wickremesinghe pledged the government’s willingness to assist the Colombo University in its development, contingent on the university's presentation of a 10-year development plan that aligns with the changing times.
 
The President said this while addressing the meeting of the 2023 Alumni group of the Colombo University held at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo on the 12th.
 
The meeting also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the University of Colombo Alumni Association, where a pinnacle awards ceremony was held. President Ranil Wickremesinghe was awarded the first award, which recognizes former scholars who have made unique contributions to the country, society, and the university. 
 
Venerable Dimbulkumbure Vimaladhamma Thera, Member of Parliament Professor G.L. Peiris, Prof. Deshmanya J.B. Dissanayake, Tilak Karunaratne, and 11 others also received the award.
 
The President also acknowledged the need for innovation in the entire university system and urged the Colombo University Alumni Association to seek immediate solutions to the challenges facing the education sector. He further requested the Colombo University graduates to commit themselves to the preparation of a 10-year development plan as soon as possible, warning that the University of Colombo would miss out on opportunities to contribute to this special process if they fail to rise to the challenge.
 
The event was attended by Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe, Colombo University Vice Chancellor Prof. H.D. Karunaratne, President of the Alumni Association Mr. J.M.S. Bandara, and many others.

The Australian Government has announced that it will gift a former Royal Australian Air Force Beechcraft KA350 King Air aircraft (registration A32-673) to the Sri Lankan Government. The aircraft will be used to enhance Sri Lanka's sovereign aerial maritime surveillance capability.

This was conveyed to President Ranil Wickremesinghe when an Australian delegation led by the Australian High Commissioner HE Paul Stephens met the President at the Presidential Secretariat  May(12).

The gift of the aircraft is part of the Australian Government's commitment to strengthening and enhancing the cooperation and collaboration that is the foundation of the strong bilateral relationship between Australia and Sri Lanka. A key focus of this relationship remains the continued cooperation on countering all forms of transnational crime, including drug smuggling, as well as strengthening border management through intelligence sharing and the deterrence, disruption, interception and return of maritime people smuggling ventures under the border security operation known as Operation Sovereign Borders.

The Australian Government greatly values this cooperation, which has led to the disruption of a significant number of maritime people smuggling ventures, and has protected the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people by preventing criminal exploitation, dangerous sea voyages and loss of life at sea.

Following the Australian Minister for Home Affairs' visit to Sri Lanka in June last year, the Department of Home Affairs has driven forward a number of new initiatives in these areas, in partnership with a number of Sri Lankan Government departments. In pursuing these initiatives, Australia has emphasised the importance of supporting Sri Lanka to develop sovereign capabilities.

As part of the gift of the aircraft, the Australian Government will also provide sustainment support for a period of 12 months, after which sustainment will become the sole responsibility of the Sri Lanka Government.

The Australian Government is confident that this gift will further strengthen the strong bilateral relationship between Australia and Sri Lanka, and will help to enhance Sri Lanka's ability to counter transnational crime and protect its borders.

Deputy High Commissioner Ms Lalita Kapur, First Secretary Mr Brett Zehnder and Defence Advisor Captain Ian Cain were also present at this meeting.

President’s Media Division (PMD)

A meeting of the heads of state of the Commonwealth of Nations was convened in London yesterday (05), with the presence of King Charles III and President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

During the event, President Wickremesinghe extended his congratulations to King Charles III and engaged in a cordial conversation. Prof. Maithrie Wickramasinghe was also in attendance.

During the gathering, President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of the Commonwealth playing a more significant role in supporting education reforms that encourage youth involvement. He also called on the Commonwealth to bolster connectivity through digitization.

In addition to this, President Wickremesinghe held a bilateral meeting with H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, to discuss ways of strengthening relations between their countries.

Meanwhile, Prof. Wickramasinghe participated in the Fireside Chat program, which was organized as a parallel event to the Leaders Meeting. The Fireside Chat program provided a platform for discussions on various topics and issues related to the Commonwealth and its members.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe also met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in London to discuss potential areas of cooperation between their countries. The meeting was held yesterday (05), and both presidents expressed their interest in exploring opportunities for collaboration, particularly in the agriculture and healthcare sectors.

President Wickremesinghe proposed an exchange of visits by relevant ministers, which would enable officials from both countries to explore potential avenues for cooperation. The two leaders also discussed the possibility of further military cooperation, with President Wickremesinghe offering to provide training by Sri Lanka’s defence forces for rapid responses to natural disasters.

The meeting was attended by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to London, Ms. Saroja Sirisena, and the President’s Director of International Affairs, Mr. Dinouk Colombage.

This thrice blessed day of Vesak being most important in the Buddhist calendar, dawns with sacred significance.

While commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away, it is a revered occasion, to venerate his Teachings based on the concept of compassion, by participating in activities of piety and giving of alms, through devotion to service of humanity.

At this juncture of the country’s unprecedented economic crisis, the timeless philosophy of the Buddha becomes a source of solace. Therefore during these troubled times, it is imperative to rise above all differences and join together in unity and service as espoused by the Buddha, to overcome the dangers in pursuing a life of normality. This path should be guided by the four Noble States of loving-kindness (Metta), compassion (Karuna), sympathetic joy (Mudita) and equanimity (Upekkha), as upheld in the Buddhist philosophy.

On this hallowed day, let us seize this instance of religious sanctity, and pay tribute to the Buddha’s sagacity, by uniting in solidarity to rebuild an affluent Sri Lanka. May the full moon today remove the darkness of ignorance from our lives, and guide us on the path of Sri Lanka’s renaissance.

May all beings be happy and content, as we unite to commemorate this blessed day of Vesak.

LABOUR DAY MESSAGE

On International Workers' Day, it is important to recognize the significant role that the working people play in the economic progress of a country. In Sri Lanka, they have been a driving force behind the country overcoming challenges and leading the nation forward throughout history.

Last year, the country endured a severe economic collapse. The workers played a crucial role in patiently and courageously supporting the country as we waited to take the difficult initial steps in stabilizing the economy. As we celebrate this year's May Day, we should take the opportunity to show the world the pride of the workers of Sri Lanka.

It is crucial that we put the country first and not fall prey to narrow political interests at this critical juncture. The government has always worked to secure the rights of the working public. By ensuring their rights and privileges, we hope to create a brighter future where the value of labour is recognized.

The government is committed to protecting the Employees' Provident Fund, which was established for the benefit of the working people. Despite attempts by some parties to create undue fear regarding the Provident fund, I give my assurances that we will not allow it to be misused.

We invite all the working people of Sri Lanka to join hands as we undertake a new reformist path of building a prosperous Sri Lanka by 2048. We congratulate them on this meaningful International Labour Day where their rights are secured. The working people are a social force that can exert a stronger influence on the entire economic process of the country, and we must continue to value and support their contributions.

Ranil Wickremesinghe
President
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
30-04-2023

 
 

Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe and senior officials handing over the Annual Report to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday. Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena was present.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in its Annual Report 2022 released yesterday said that the Policy measures and reforms implemented by the Government and the Central Bank have yielded notable success.

The report said that Inflation returned to an impressive disinflation path following a historic peak in September 2022, and the exchange rate remained stable and registered an appreciation in early 2023, having depreciated sharply during the first half of 2022.

This report consisting of four main parts was presented to Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies Minister and President Ranil Wickremesinghe by CBSL Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe at the Finance Ministry yesterday. It highlighted that the external current account deficit remained modest alongside the gradual accumulation of official reserves, thereby enabling the reinstatement of exchange rate flexibility.

“The envisaged normalisation of foreign exchange flows and the completion of the debt restructuring process during 2023, and the sweeping reforms in the public sector, are expected  to pave way for the country’s progress towards improved and sustainable economic prospects”, the report said.

The Central Bank in its report insisted that the consistent and well co-ordinated policies, including those outlined in the IMF-Extended Fund Facility supported programme, should be executed in a timely manner to avert another crisis in the period ahead in the country’s efforts to emerge from the current crisis.

“The Government initiated measures in early 2022 to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after months of indecisiveness. The IMF had already assessed that Sri Lanka’s public debt had reached unsustainable levels, hence, any funding assistance from the IMF needed to be preceded by efforts to restructure public debt”, the report said.

“When it reached a critical point of inability to service debt payments, the Government announced a debt standstill in mid-April 2022, thereby suspending the servicing of external debt, mainly bilateral and commercial debt, as an interim measure, while soliciting support from official and private creditors to restructure outstanding debt.

The CBSL report outlined how steps were taken to enhance enhance government revenue, curtail expenditure, introduce reforms to major State Owned Enterprises (SOE), implement import controls, and ration energy supply, while exploring bridging finance from bilateral and multilateral partners for essential expenditures as well as supporting the most vulnerable segments.

“With a multitude of goals to be achieved under the IMF-EFF arrangement, restoring public debt sustainability through the debt restructuring process will be one of the key milestones in the path towards attaining a sustained growth in the economy.

However, debt restructuring could pose near term challenges in the financial sector that need to be addressed proactively by the Government and Central Bank, thereby reinforcing the financial system stability in the period ahead.

“Having run an unsustainable macroeconomic model in tandem with the longstanding deficits in the budget balance and the external current account, the economy had fully exhausted its buffers by early 2022 as it was straddled by a myriad of vulnerabilities that emanated from both global and domestic sources”, the report said.

The first part of the CBSL report consists of eight chapters and 30 sub-chapters explaining the state of the economic affairs of the year, while the second part consists of a collection of gazettes and circulars related to various policy measures taken by the Government and the CBSL. The third part of this report explains the departments of the CBSL and their related roles and the

fourth part includes a list of laws and ordinances related to the banking system connected to the Government and the CBSL.

In accordance with Section 35 of the Monetary Law Act, the Monetary Board of the CBSL is required to produce an annual report on the economic conditions and the policies taken for that year and submit it to the Minister of Finance within four months after the end of the relevant year.

Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Mahinda Siriwardana, Director of the Economic Research Department of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. P.K.G.Harishchandra, Additional Directors of Economic Research Dr. Mrs.S.Jegajeevan and Dr. L. R. C. Pathberiya participated in this event.

 

The dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year subsequent to the transition of the Sun from the house of Pisces to Aries, is considered as an extremely momentous occasion by the Sinhala and Tamil communities in the country.
On this propitious celebration, people traditionally engage in observing New Year customs at stipulated auspicious times, with the wish of securing abundant prosperity.
Last year, amidst the unprecedented economic crisis which disrupted our daily lives, we partook in the New Year rituals with untold hardship and was confined to a struggle in alleviating from this adversity.
However, I am gratified that the commencement of this year has presented a salubrious environment for us all, and therefore we should strive to be more affluent and prosperous, than today. We can undoubtedly achieve this aspiration by unitedly moving forward as one Sri Lankan nation. Accordingly, despite differences in political affiliation, ethnicity and religion, a fresh beginning is imperative to create a brighter future for us and our nation, in this New Year.
I wish all Sri Lankans here and abroad a happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year!
Ranil Wickremesinghe,
President,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

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