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Government’s intention was to resume the negotiations on free trade agreements said Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake.
It is the vision of the President that Sri Lanka will integrate with the global value chains and with the largest economies in South Asia and East Asia and then expand to the east region linking to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Further, the Secretary to the President invited private sector stakeholders to creatively engage in this development initiative as they are the ultimate beneficiaries.
He made these observations during an awareness session on the resumption of negotiations of free trade agreements held for Trade Chambers and Industry Advisory Committees at the Finance Ministry on November (16).
Secretary to the Treasury, Secretaries of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industries, and the members of the National Trade Negotiation Committee also participated.
The contours of Global trade have been significantly changed in recent years by bringing regional and global production networks as driving factors of international trade where Sri Lanka has not yet been engaged to tap the potential. Both the growth of supply capacity and the expansion of market access are therefore, recognized as essential for revitalizing the domestic economy.
Towards this end, the government intends to operationalize the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore and has taken steps to resume the negotiations of free trade agreements with India, China and Thailand where foreign direct investment can be largely attracted to channel the benefits to the goods and services trade through the Investment Trade nexus.
A Trade Negotiation Committee has already been appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers to reinvigorate the negotiations and these agreements will ultimately pave the path to gaining membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which consists of 30% of the world’s GDP, trade and population.
During his remarks, Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardhana emphasized the importance of leveraging the non-debt creating inflows and diversification of export products as well as markets.
He also mentioned the budget proposal- 2023 of establishing the International Trade Office (ITO) which will deal with all international trade negotiations in the future. The Treasury Secretary also emphasized the necessity of engagement with chambers and other stakeholders during the negotiation process.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Aruni Wijewardana highlighted that foreign missions and diplomatic channels have fully prepared to facilitate these trade negotiations. According to the government plan, once the proposed institutional mechanism is properly established the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will bear the mandate of international trade negotiations.
The private sector representatives engaged in the session with great enthusiasm and stressed in detail the necessity of giving the highest consideration to their offensive and defensive interests.
They also made a request to focus on other non-tariff barriers such as certain quota restrictions, various issues on laboratory facilities for testing standards, not having mutual standards recognition agreements etc. that are faced by the exporters, through these agreements while removing duties on our exports.
During this kick-off session of the stakeholder consultations, the National Trade Negotiation Committee gave the assurance of conducting broad dialogue with the private sector throughout the negotiations through the responsible government institutions.

 
President Ranil Wickremesinghe assured to provide the necessary assistance to expand the scouting movement by increasing its membership to 200,000 covering all nine provinces by 2024.
The President also mentioned that he would seek the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth Affairs for this purpose.
The Sri Lanka Scout Association officially conferred the title of Chief Scout to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (21) at the President’s Office, where he made these comments.
The Scout Commissioner, Attorney-at-Law Janaprith Fernando, commissioned and presented the Scout Scarf and the appointment certificate to President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
A report on the progress of the Scout Movement was also presented to the President.
Speaking at this occasion the President further stated that he expects to get the full support of the Scout Movement for the 75th Independence Celebration.
President Wickremesinghe invited the Scout Movement to join the environment-related programmes which are being held with the intervention of the President’s Office and headed by President’s Adviser on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardena.
The commemorative medal for the 60th anniversary of the Homagama District Branch affiliated to the Sri Lanka Scout Association was presented to the President by Girl Scout Potaka Thitulu Kathya. The related commemorative souvenir was also presented to the President.
Deputy Chief Commissioner M.S.S. Muheed, Executive Committee Chairman Ransiri Perera and other officers including Homagama District Scout Commissioner Dr. Anil Perera, New District Commissioner K. A. Chandrapadma, Assistant District Commissioner Suranga Handapangoda and others participated in this event.

The Budget for 2023 is aimed at creating a modern economy targeting the country’s youth and looking to go beyond the deeply entrenched mentality of a welfare economy, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said delivering the Budget 2023 in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Reminiscing the nineteen fifties, Lee Kuan Yew once mentioned the following. In Singapore I followed the hard,but right path. Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike followed the popular path.

There is no future for the youth in country by continuing on this popular path. There is no prosperity for the country by giving concessions while being in debt to others. So, let’s

get out of this welfare mentality now. Let’s change our thinking patterns, the President said.

“Accordingly, I request all of you and youth to actively and proactively contribute to the effort of re-raising the country through a new economic foundation”, he noted.

A glimmer of hope on emerging from the economic abyss is currently visible as a result of the strenuous and difficult actions we have adopted during the past few months,President Wickremesinghe said.

“After the era of waiting in queues for days and protesting in various occupied places, our sufferings have been eased to some extent and we have reached an era where our peace of mind is much settled,”he said. During a special Cabinet Meeting held yesterday morning at the Presidential Secretariat under the auspices of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Cabinet of Ministers

granted approval for the 2023 Budget. President Wickremesinghe arrived in Parliament at around 1.20 pm yesterday to deliver the Budget 2023 speech “Towards a New Beginning Approach”. He commenced delivering the Second Reading of the 2023 Appropriation Bill at around 1.32pm.

In a notable departure from traditional budgets that focus on price and wage revisions, Budget 2023 is focused on a modern economy that isn’t limited to International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations, Wickremesinghe said presenting the budget to parliament on Monday November 14.

President Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance,Economic Stabilization and National Policies Minister said the country is in debt because of the past budgets’ pre-occupation with welfare measures.

“The budget is not limited to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations. We will move to create a modern economy,” the President told Parliament.

He said the Budget will aim at increasing government revenue to 15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 from 8.3 percent at the end of 2021.

The President further said that the negotiations with the IMF are currently in progress. “We are in dialogue with India and China on debt restructuring. We are confident that these discussions will lead to positive outcomes.”he said.

He further said that the inflation could be controlled to some extent due to the actions taken in the recent past. Similarly, the rupee is strengthening and the government expects to sustain these developments.

President Wickremesinghe said that he is confident that by moving along the same path, we will be able to stabilise the economy within the next year.

“But we cannot be satisfied with that. We must start a new journey” he added. Today, our country has several main revenue generating sectors. One is the plantation economy. Next is Free Trade Zones. Garment industry, Tourism and foreign employment. Looking at those, after Independence, we have been able to create only a few avenues for the country to earn foreign income. Beyond that, why have we

 

not yet been able to create large-scale foreign income generating sectors? This is something we should think about carefully, said the President.

“Is the long-term development of a country based on popular decisions? Or the right decisions?,”he questioned.

In many cases, popular decisions were taken instead of correct decisions in our country. Even today many people try to make popular decisions.

What was the result of this popular ruling tradition? To build a relief economy and a relief mentality across the country. People are used to getting concessions.

Governments do not work to create opportunities forpeople to develop. Only to provide relief.

Delivering the Budget Speech, the President invited all Sri Lankans to think anew and create innovative approaches to move the country forward. Concluding the Budget Speech, President Wickremesinghe said; “I request all of you to join and support the journey of bringing positive

change in the country through these budget proposals.We are taking these suggestions as background, let’s prepare a new economic base. Let’s come to a common consensus and create a national economic policy framework. Let’s implement that policy framework for the next 25 years.

Every five years we can review our progress. Through such a review, we get the opportunity to further develop the policies that can make our journey towards our goal successful. “I have now provided this parliament with the necessary background to contribute to this journey. On one side, parliamentary sectoral committees. On the other hand, the National Assembly represents the Parliament. In addition, we have proposed several committees on public finance

and financial services. As I recently drew the attention of the Speaker,”. The Parliament has not fully formed these committees yet.

The sectoral committees can play a big role when the budget proposals that I have presented are implemented through government officials. The finance committees can effectively intervene in the exercise of reducing public expenditure.

“Therefore, I request this parliament to implement all those committees as soon as possible. Then we can create the space to initiate a new journey with a new guise.

Let’s make the best use of that space and join together to create a better future for our true national resource, our youth,” he said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Minister of Finance will present the 2023 budget to Parliament tomorrow (14) aimed at creating long-term, stable economic growth.

The 2023 budget has given special attention to the sectors of the capital market, export market, labour market, and digital economy and it is expected to achieve the budget targets through the social market economy.
This year's budget will focus more on providing social welfare benefits to the people who need them most and creating a policy environment to build the private sector as the driving force of the country's economy.

Through the 2023 budget, the process of building a new economy tailored for the new world has been initiated aimed at creating a program to ensure a decent country for the youth.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Michael Appleton met Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr.Bandula Gunawardena at the ministry office in Battaramulla.The Minister and the New Zealand High Commissioner discussed many bilaterally important issues including strengthening diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The minister emphasized on the need for introducing energy efficient transport methods for development in the highways and transport sector. igh Commissioner Appleton assured that the New Zealand government will provide continuous support to Sri Lanka.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Secretary-General of the UN and Egypt, as the head of the COP27, to summon a meeting of all Ministers of Agriculture of all the countries to assess the food requirements of 2023 and 2024 and submit a report on the food situation. The President also emphasized the need on working closely with the multilaterals, sources of funding and the need to formulate a sustainable debt relief plan immediately to ensure the global food security.

The President further stated that it is essential to finalize this plan by February 2023 and should be implemented by the end of the 1st quarter of 2023, if not the damage caused to the political and social structures of countries will be irreparable. He also highlighted the urgent need of compiling a medium-term plan to ensure global food security At COP28.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while participating at the Round Table discussion on “Food Security” at the ongoing COP-27 Conference on Climate Change, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe met the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, upon his arrival in Egypt, Cairo.

The President briefed the Secretary-General on the Government’s plans on the National Environmental Policy.

The Secretary General recalled memories of his first visit to Sri Lanka in 1978.

The President left the island this morning (06) for Egypt to attend the UN Climate Change Conference COP 27. He was accompanied by Minister of Environment, Mr. Naseer Ahamed, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Mr. Ruwan Wijewardene, President’s International Affairs Director Dinouk Colombage and President’s Private Secretary Sandra Perera.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe left the island this morning (06) for Egypt to participate in the COP-27 Conference on Climate Change which is scheduled to be held from November 6 to 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

President Wickremesinghe is scheduled to address the conference on Climate Change issues in Sri Lanka and around the world, on November 7 and 8.

Concurrently, President Wickremesinghe will attend the Global Food Security Forum and the World Leaders’ Forum.

At COP 27, countries come together to take action towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals as agreed under the Paris Agreement and Convention. Building on the outcomes and momentum of COP 26 in Glasgow last year, nations are expected to demonstrate at COP 27 that they are in a new era of implementation by turning their commitments under the Paris Agreement into action.

Minister of Environment Mr. Naseer Ahamed, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Mr. Ruwan Wijewardene, President’s International Affairs Director Dinouk Colambage and President’s Private Secretary Sandra Perera will be accompanying the President.

As the online system has been facilitated, no press officer, photographer or videographer from the President’s Media Division (PMD) will participate in this conference. However, all arrangements have been made by the PMD to disseminate the relevant news articles to the local media institutions.

India has pledged its full support to improve the public transport sector including railway service in Sri Lanka.

This was revealed during the discussion held between Indian Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Jairam Gadkari and Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena held at the Transport Ministry in New Delhi, India recently.

 Transport, Highways and Media Minister Dr.Bandula Gunawardena was on a three-day visit to India with the aim of seeking Indian support to improve the public transport sector in Sri Lanka.

A number of issues related to cooperation and partnership in the transport sector between the two countries were discussed during the meeting.

Attention was also focused to obtain Indian assistance for the urgent improvement of railway service and its infrastructure in Sri Lanka.

Minister Gunawardene explained the current situation of the Transport sector in Sri Lanka while Indian Transport Minister informed about the importance of reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Two MInister also discussed the possibility of getting electric buses from India to Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, he also pledged his support to share Indian experiences on alternative energy sources that reduce fossil fuel dependency in Sri Lanka.

During this visit to India, senior officers in (RITES), (IRCON) and (RVNL) companies met the Minister. During the discussion, he said he would seek a US$ 400 million credit line from India to improve the public transport sector in the country.

This credit line was agreed upon in 20019 by India to Sri Lanka, but it has not been obtained yet. Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that he has made a request from Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay in this regard. Indian High Commissioner has communicated this issue to India.

Decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers taken at the meeting held on 31.10.2022


1. Annual General Meeting of the Asian Development Bank


The Cabinet of Ministers took into consideration the main point emphasized in the speech delivered
as the chair at the business session of the summit as the representative to Sri Lanka in the governing
board of the Asian Development Bank when the Hon. President participated in the 55 th annual
general meeting of the Asian Development Bank held in Manila, Philippines on 29.09.2022 as the
Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies as well as the bi – lateral
discussions took place with the Chairman of the Asian Development Bank, the Finance Minister of
Japan and the president of the Republic of Philippines.


2. Restructuring of Sri Lankan Airlines Company Limited and its subsidiary companies


It has been recognized that Sri Lankan Airlines Company Limited as well as its subsidiary
companies are needed to be restructured by handing over a considerable amount of shares and the
management of the entity of Sri Lankan Airlines Company Limited to investors selected through a
transparent procurement process. Accordingly, considering the resolutions furnished by the Minister
of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, the Cabinet of Ministers took the decision to hand over the
responsibility of studying the methodology of restructuring Sri Lankan Airlines Company Limited
and making recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers to State – owned Enterprises Restructuring
Unit established under the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies


3. Draft bill of Rathanathissa Saama Padanama (Rathanathissa Peace Foundation)
(Incorporated)


The draft bill of Rathanathissa Saama Padanama (Rathanathissa Peace Foundation) (Incorporated) in
which Rev. Eriyawe Rathanathissa Thero, Chief Incumbant of Sri Waapikarama, Paalukadawala,
Galgamuwa holds the post of Executive Director, has been submitted to the Parliament as a private
proposal of a member of Parliament by Hon U. K. Sumith Udukumbura, Parliamentarian of
Kurunegala district. In terms of the provisions of the standing order 52 (06) of the Parliament, the
said draft bill has been referred to the Minister of Education by the subject Minister for obtaining a
report on that. Concurrence of the Attorney General has been granted to the bill drafted by the Legal
Draftsman. Accordingly, the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was granted to for the proposal
furnished by the Minister of Education to submit a report to the Parliament recommending the said
draft bill.

4. Recommendations submitted to the Hon. President by the Finance Commission in relation to
the year 2023.


The recommendations for the financial year 2023 have been submitted to the Hon. President by the
Finance Commission in terms of the provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Accordingly,
considering the proposals furnished by the Hon. President, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval
to take appropriate measures to implement the prescribed recommendations forwarded by the
Finance Commission and to submit the said recommendations to the Parliament in terms of Article
154 R (7) of the Constitution.


5. Bill for the Revision of Approved Borrowing Limit for the year 2022


On 17.10.2022, the Cabinet has approved the preparation of a bill to revise the approved borrowing
limit for the year 2022 . Attorney General’s clearance has been received for the bill prepared
accordingly by the Legal Draftsman. As such, the proposal presented by the President hi his
capacity as the Minister of Finance , Economic Stability and National policies to publish the said
Bill in the Government Gazette and thereafter present the same in Parliament, for approval, was
approved by the Cabinet.


6. Submission of the Regulations published in the gazette to Parliament for Approval


The proposal presented by the Hone. President hi his capacity as the Minister of Finance ,
Economic Stability and National policies to present the following regulations published in the
Govt .Gazette in Parliament, for approval, was approved by the Cabinet.
I. 5 Gazette Notifications containing Regulations issued under Sections 2 and 5 of the Special
Commodity Levy Act, No. 48 of 2007.
II. 2 Gazette Notifications containing Regulations issued under Sections 2 of the Revenue
Protection Act No. 19 of 1962
III. 2 Gazette Notifications containing Regulations issued under Sections 14 of the Sri Lanka
Export Development Act. No 40 of 1979.
IV. 2 Gazette Notifications containing Regulations issued under section 3 of the Ports and
Airports Development Levy Act, No. 18 of 2011 : and
V. 01 gazette Notification containing Regulations issued under section 2 (a) of the Value Added
Tax Act No. 06 of 2005

7. Budget Debate Program -2023


The following program proposed for the budget debate related to the financial year 2023 was
presented by the Honorable Prime Minister for the approval of the Council of Ministers. The
program received the consent of the Cabinet of Ministers.

 Budget Speech (Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill): 14.11.2022
 Budget Second Reading Debate: From 15.11.20 to 22.11.2022 (07 days)
 Budget Committee Stage Debate: From 23.11.2022 to 08.12.2022
 Budget Voting : 08.12.2022

8. Restrictions on foreign travels for Ministers, State Ministers, and Government Side MPs on
sitting days of parliament and during the budget debate


The Cabinet of Ministers approved the Prime Ministe's proposal that ministers should not travel
abroad during sitting days of parliament and during the budget debate except in case of urgent
medical needs or very urgent work of the government, except in case of urgent medical needs or
very urgent work of the government.

 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that the government is aiming at an agriculture modernization programme in which tea will have a prominent place. He said that the country has a very competitive tea industry that needs to be developed.
Addressing the 32nd Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association at the Water’s Edge Hotel in Battaramulla yesterday (30), he said that the main focus should be on producing quality tea be high-grown or mid-grown.
“It is useless for us to try to compete with those who are not having the quality. We have an opportunity. Let’s go for it and develop the industry, modernize our factories, look at renewable energy, the biomass, all that is there,” the President emphasized.
Following is the full speech made by the President;
“I was listening to the report by your president about a survey of the tea industry today. He came out with a tale of woes. That is understandable looking at what we have gone through this year. Now, it is my chance to come out with my tale of woes because I have taken over the titanic after it hit the iceberg. So you can just imagine where I have to start. Everything was down.
We have declared ourselves bankrupt. What have we got to do? First is to ensure that people can live and there is enough food to eat, whatever the other difficulties. With the bankruptcy that we have declared, our economy has virtually come to a halt. The inflation, the bankruptcy, and everything else that is happening have brought our economy to a grinding halt.
How do we restart it? That is what we are engaged in. In addition, I thought I’d explain to you the process. Primarily, we have to conserve whatever foreign exchange we have and limit imports so that we could get fuel, fertilizer and medicine.
It has not worked fully initially, but now it’s working much better. Therefore, that is how we started. Then as the revenue dried up, we faced the difficulty of paying our bills or meeting our commitments. We had to keep two things in mind, one is to pay the salaries of government servants, about 1.7 million people and service our debts. Therefore, we have had to work within this scope.
Now that we have declared ourselves bankrupt, the first issue was to ensure that the world would now accept that we have taken sufficient steps to wipe out the label of bankruptcy, which meant that we have to go to the IMF and discuss with them. Every country and organization wanted us to meet with the IMF and devise a plan.
We did have a plan until 2019 when we cancelled the last year. Therefore, we had to start original discussions with the IMF. We had no other option. Our growth rate this year is going to be -8%. Last year too we recorded minus growth. This year is also -8%, and next year it is forecast that it would be -3%.
However, there’s one other factor which worries me. When that forecast was made, everyone thought the global economy will do well. Now, all the indications are that the global economy will fair badly. How will it impact, because the rising inflation in European and other countries will mean that the cost of living will rise? This in turn can somehow affect exports such as less clothing, maybe less tea, and less coffee. We have to understand that.
Therefore, we have to get through this year and then go into next year. Hence, we have to somehow manage two years. Our revenue reduced from 15% to 8.5% and we are expected to get the revenue back to 15%, which I think we have to do.
The timeframe is 2026. I went in for a four-year program.
I didn’t think we could bear the burden if we tried to do it in two years and it may not have been possible. I’m happy that we went for four years because 2023 looks to be a bad year globally, not only for Sri Lanka.
So we had to first come to an arrangement which meant raising money. To raise that money, we had to tax everything, which also meant agriculture.
As someone once said, if it moves tax it. We had to come to that level and we had no way out. I wish we could have done it gradually but couldn’t because we needed the money. If you look at the taxes, those who paid taxes up to 2019 got a reduction 2019. Therefore, that’s a loss of revenue. Now what we are trying to do is bring it back first to the 2019 level and add a little bit more. So if you look at up to 2019, your taxation then and today is one figure. However, if you look at 2020 the gap seems much bigger. The fact is that we are suffering, it’s not only tax, but our rupee has also depreciated and interest rates have gone up.
Therefore, it is in this context that we have to operate. Ordinary people are finding it very difficult to live. I mean it’s in that condition that we have to come back. So the first issue is to ensure that we can restructure bankruptcy. We have to start talks with our creditors. I first went to the Paris Club where all the creditors were from the West and Japan.
However, we are in a unique position today where out of our three main creditors, only one belongs to the Paris Club. Japan. The other two are not in the Paris Club. They are India and China. I mean China only started dealing with bankruptcy in Zambia. I think India has it for the first time with Sri Lanka. I have already started discussions with Japan and now with India and China. We get down to a common platform of how we can resolve it while we also have discussions on bilateral issues that affect each other’s countries.
Now, this is the process, we had to move. If we can move and come to an agreement by December, which means coming to an agreement by mid-November, and going up to the IMF Board in mid-December, we will gain a big advantage. However, I don’t know whether we can do it for the simple reason that in China, the focus has started now after the party conference. However, we must aim to have it by January.
Therefore, this is what we are aiming at, and it means that we have to show that we have the revenue and we can go ahead. We start from there. Then how do we go ahead to ensure next year is better? In the meantime, we have started receiving assistance from many organizations and countries. Some countries have helped us through different organizations.
So thanks to the World Bank, ADB and others, we are having FAO, and we are having enough fertilizer. Even countries like the US have assisted us. So the fertilizer issue is solved. No one will give us money for fuel. Hence, we have to use the savings on fertilizer with local foreign exchange to buy fuel.
The next issue though, is that the price of fuel has dropped now and everyone expects the price of fuel to increase in December/January due to the Ukraine war and winter. Hence, that’s the next issue that we have to face. But since we have received fertilizer, the first thing was to revive agriculture, starting with Paddy and then getting on to tea and other crops.
Therefore, this is one part where if we get a good Maha crop by March/April next year, that will help to stabilize the economy. Meanwhile, once we get the agreement, the countries will come to help us. However, it takes time to get loans from bilateral loans again. Meanwhile, the World Bank and the ADB are willing to come up with bridging finance and the whole process will start.
Therefore, we have to thirdly go all out to improve our tourism. I think if we can aim for good tourist numbers by December next year as it grows progressively, then it will start working. Finally, we need foreign exchange reserves. There is no way in which you can raise it now. The only way in which we can raise foreign exchange reserves is by selling off some of our enterprises for dollars so that we can at least put $ 3-4 billion into the reserve, strengthening the rupee further. It will make life that much more affordable if you are moving to a complete market economy and a high-growth economy. This is the only step that we can take because so far having a vast state sector did not enable the economy to grow that fast.
I know the problems you have and I know many of you in the tea sector. Factory owners as much as in the rubber, coconut sector construction sector and the hotel sector are having problems with your banks, servicing your loans etc. So that’s why we are hoping first to bring the rate of interest down gradually.
The Governor of the Central Bank has informed us that our inflation is peaking. So by about February or March, we can see the reduction of interest rates, if not earlier. If we take all these measures by mid-year, we’ll be able to give relief on the interest rates. It’s difficult when the rupee has depreciated and the interest rates rise. But you have to remember that in two years we printed Rs 2.5 trillion worth of notes. So it has to run through the system.
There is no shortcut and the only way is by getting production up again. So here it’s a question about how we could help you in the tea industry. We have got the fertilizer. I know there are deficiencies in other areas. One of the main things that I asked is that we pay the fertilizer suppliers. We have decided to pay them, but the money hasn’t gone yet.
I hope that with the new taxes and the collection that is coming in November-December we will be able to pay them off. We also have to pay the contractors. The whole industry has come down. So there’s a long list of people with debts which the government has to honour. So that’s the process. But we want the tea industry to develop. And I must assure you, the honourable minister and the State Minister have been spending a lot of their time looking at how to help you in this circumstance.
Because helping the tea industry helps us bring in foreign exchange and save rubber and additional agriculture production. Next year we have to come through with agriculture production. That is what we have to do as we add the rupee stabilizes. Certainly, people will start sending back the exchange, the foreign employment and the money will come up. But also we can’t run on this economic model anymore.
We have to pay our debts. We have to take some more debt. We are to work completely on an export-oriented economy, and that’s what we are working on. We’ll come back to you, but you have a lot of things to do too. We know you need fertilizer. Most of the major issues are that we need replanting. We are suffering because we have not replanted. As a result, our crop per hectare is coming down. Vietnam is overtaking us. Whoever thought that Vietnam will be growing tea. That’s the position. So we are looking at an agriculture modernization programme in which tea will have a big place.
We have a very competitive tea industry that we have to develop. And I think we have to go for quality tea, whether it be high-grown or mid-grown. It is useless for us to keep competing with those who are not having the quality.
We have an opportunity. Let’s go for it and develop the industry, modernize our factories, and look at renewable energy, biomass, and all that is there. So we need a modern industry and certainly, I think it’s good that you have got Price Waterhouse and Cooper. Because you can utilize their report together with the ADB report on the regional plantation companies. Some of you are doing quite well. Others are a disgrace. So let’s see how we can restructure, how we can get your help and go ahead. I thought I described this to you. I haven’t got the best picture possible, but at least I am trying to take the Titanic off the iceberg and once we do that, we’ll go ahead. Thank you very much for inviting me”.
Plantation Industries Minister Ramesh Pathirana, Chief Executive Officer of A. Baur and Company (Pvt) ltd Rolf Blazer and President of Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners’ Association Lionel Herath also addressed at the occasion.
State Minister Lohan Rathwatte, UNP leader and Parliamentarian Wajira Abeywardena, Plantation Ministry Secretary B. L. A. J. Amarakeerthi, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Niraj de Mel and office bearers and the members of the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners’ Association participated in the event.
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Decisions taken at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers held on 25.10.2022

01. Bi-lateral aviation accord between Sri Lanka and the Kingdom of Netherlands

The diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the Kingdom of Netherlands were inaugurated
back in 1951 and an aviation accord may lead to initiating direct flights for passengers and
crates between the two countries. It may further develop tourist, education, trade, investment,
agricultural and cultural relations between the two countries. Therefore, the Cabinet of
Ministers granted approval to the resolution furnished by the Minister of Ports, Shipping and
Aviation to sign a bi-lateral aviation agreement based on the particulars agreed at the
discussions held between the two countries.

02. Declaration of the National Supply Chain Day

The entire process of converting raw - materials to end products is called the supply chain
management and it enables to maximize the customer value as well as to formalize the supply
sector activities of an enterprise actively for maximizing consumer value and for achieving
competitive profits within the market. The Institute of Supply and Material Management has
brought into attention the appropriateness of declaring a national supply chain day with the
objective of improving the awareness about the importance of developing the supply chains
among the local enterprises and entrepreneurs. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers granted
approval to the resolution submitted by the Minister of Industries for declaring the 24th October
of each year as the ‘National Supply Chain Day’

03. Providing incentives to emigrated employees who send remittances through legal means.

Approval of the Cabinet of Ministers has been granted by the decision on 08.08.2022 to provide
identified relief with the objective of encouraging the migrant Sri Lankan employees engaged
in overseas employment to send remittances through legal means. Accordingly, the Ministry
of Labour and Foreign Employments has issued the relevant circular in the regard and the
eligible migrant employees are facilitated to import a two – wheel electric vehicle subject to a
maximum of USD 25,000 and a four wheel fully electric vehicle subject to a maximum of
USD 65,000. The concurrence of the Cabinet of Ministers has been granted for the following
steps that have been taken with the objective of further encouraging the foreign exchange
earned by emigrant employees to be further remitted to Sri Lanka:
• Granting approval to import a two - wheel electric vehicle with a CIF value up to 50% from
the foreign exchange value remitted up to either 30.04.2023 or up to the date an application
is submitted for the import of a vehicle.
• Granting approval to import a four – wheel electric vehicle with the CIF value up to 50%
from the foreign exchange value remitted from 01.05.2022 to 31.12.2023 to this country.

04. Amendment of Licensing of Shipping Agents Act No. 10 of 1972.

The tanker operators’ regulations have been issued in the year 2005 subject to the provisions
in sections 8 to 10 of the Licensing of Shipping Agents Act No. 10 of 1972. The judiciary has
decided that the 10th regulation of that act should be revised and the approval of the Cabinet of
Ministers has been granted by the decision dated 04.07.2022 to introduce amendments required
to the Licensing of Shipping Agents Act No. 10 of 1972 including the relevant revisions.
Accordingly, the clearance of the Attorney – General has been granted for the draft bill
prepared by the Legal Draftsman. Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to the
resolution furnished by the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation to publish the draft bill in
the government gazette and submit to the Parliament for the approval thereafter.

05. Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedures Act (Chapter XXX Post-Mortems )

A committee headed by Prof. Ravindra Fernando was appointed to make recommendations
for suitable amendments to the existing laws, procedures and practices regarding the conduct
of post-mortems. The need for amending the Code of Criminal Procedure Act has been
identified to provide for the application of the recommendations of the said committee. The
Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal to amend the Code of Criminal Procedures Act,
presented by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms accordingly.

06. The Bill on the Singapore Convention on Mediation

The United Nations Convention on the International Settlement Agreement resulting from
Mediation alias the Singapore Convention on Mediation has been approved by the member
states at the United Nations General Assembly on 20.12.2018. Sri Lanka has signed the said
agreement on 07.08.2019 and domestic laws should be enacted to enforce it in Sri Lanka.
Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of
Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms to prepare a appropriate bill taking into
account the provisions of the relevant convention.

07. Validity period extension of the loan taken for National Transmission and Distribution
Network Development and Efficiency Improvement Project .

The agreement related to obtaining a loan of 24930 million Japanese Yen from the Japan
International Cooperation Agency for this project was signed on 11.08.2015 and the validity
period of the loan is scheduled to end on 28.10.2022. Due to the prevailing situation in the
country, the project could not be implemented as scheduled and the need of extending the
validity period of the relevant loan has arisen accordingly. As such, the Cabinet of Ministers
approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Power and Energy to extend the validity
period of the respective loan till 28.04.2026.

08. Revision of rooftop solar tariff rates

At present, about 580 megawatts have been added to the national grid through the system of
solar power plants installed on roofs. According to the long-term Generation Expansion
Plan prepared by the Electricity Board, it has identified the need to obtain another 1800 MW
of electrical capacity through this. A committee has been appointed to revise the electricity
purchase rates from approved solar power plants as an incentive. Accordingly the Cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Power and Energy to revise the
rates in accordance with the recommendation of the said Committee.

Page 12 of 96

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