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Record-breaking November Tourism in Sri Lanka

The island nation’s cumulative tourist arrivals for the first 11 months of the year stand at 1.27 million, according to the SLTDA…reports Asian Lite News

Sri Lanka welcomed 151,496 international tourists in November, the highest monthly number of visitors it received in 2023, according to the latest data released by the tourism authority.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said this is the first time that the number of tourists to the South Asian country passed the 150,000 mark in a month after December 2019, reports Xinhua news agency.

The island nation’s cumulative tourist arrivals for the first 11 months of the year stand at 1.27 million, according to the SLTDA.

About 20 per cent of the total number of tourists came from India, with other key markets including Russia, Germany, the UK, Australia, China, the US and France, it said.

Tourism is one of Sri Lanka’s top foreign revenue generators.

The government waived visa fees for nationals from China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan in late November to boost tourism in the coming season.

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Sports Minister Fired in Lanka

The Sports Minister’s move to replace the Sri Lankan Cricket board was not appreciated by Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickeramasinghe who rebuked the Sports Minister for his decision….reports Asian Lite News

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sacked Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, Sri Lanka-based Daily Mirror reported. Wickremesinghe announced the decision at the ongoing Cabinet meeting.

On November 6, Roshan Ranasinghe suspended the whole Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board following outrage over Sri Lanka’s 302-run defeat against India in the Cricket World Cup, Daily Mirror reported.

Ranasinghe also appointed an Interim Committee for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), chaired by World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga. The current committee stands “Temporally Suspended.”

Ranasinghe had appointed Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain in 1996, to oversee a new interim board. A retired Supreme Court judge and a former board president are among the seven members of the newly constituted body.

Several Hours after Sri Lanka Sports Minister Roshan Ranasingha established an interim committee led by 1996 World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga to take control of SLC, the Court of Appeal on November 7 issued an interim order suspending the operation of the Gazette appointing in respect of cricket governing body’s Interim Committee appointed by the Sports Minister, Daily Mirror Online reported.

According to Daily Mirror Online, this order was issued by the Court of Appeal in response to a writ petition brought by SLC President Shammi Silva. This order is only valid for 14 days.

The court granted board president Shammi Silva’s plea, which challenged minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s decision to dissolve the Sri Lanka Cricket Board and form an interim committee on Monday.

The Sports Minister’s move to replace the Sri Lankan Cricket board was not appreciated by Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickeramasinghe who rebuked the Sports Minister for his decision.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe told me that if the Cricket Interim Committee is not removed, the Sports Act will be brought under him. I said that the committee will not be removed, I have told the President to remove me from the ministry,” the Sports Minister had said in Parliament

Sri Lanka cricket was suspended by the ICC SLC following the political slugfest. After hearing representation from SLC, the ICC Board decided that Sri Lanka can continue to compete internationally both in bilateral cricket and ICC events.

However, funding to SLC will be controlled by the ICC and the ICC Board confirmed Sri Lanka will no longer host the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024, which will now be held in South Africa. (ANI)

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Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court Holds Rajapaksas Liable For Economic Crisis

The ruling was delivered based on the majority view of the five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya….reports Asian Lite News

In a landmark ruling, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Rajapaksa brothers and other senior officials were responsible for the massive economic crisis in the island nation, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The apex court has ruled that the Rajapaksa brothers–former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa–were among those responsible for the crisis that led the country to bankruptcy last year.

Notably, the crisis resulted in major street protests last year forcing the Rajapaksas to resign and give way to the appointment of a new administration led by current President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Supreme Court also found that former Central Bank Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Professor WD Lakshman, former Finance Secretary SR Attygalle, former Presidential Secretary PB Jayasundara and the Monetary Board members of the Central Bank had violated the fundamental rights of the people, Colombo Gazette reported.

The ruling was delivered based on the majority view of the five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.

This Fundamental Rights Petition (SC/FRA/212/2022) was filed on June 17, 2022, by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), along with co-petitioners Chandra Jayaratne, Jehan Canaga Retna and Julian Bolling calling for action against persons responsible for the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

It was filed in the public interest, considering the lack of accountability and transparency in high-level decision-making that has brought Sri Lanka to its knees.

Since the petitioners approached the Court in the public interest and did not seek compensation for themselves, the Court was not inclined to order compensation other than costs incurred by the petitioners.

The petition by TISL, Chandra Jayaratne, Jehan CanagaRetna and Julian Bolling claimed that the respondents named in the petition were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its hard default on foreign loan repayments and the current state of the economy of Sri Lanka. The petitioners called for the respondents to be held accountable for their illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable acts or omissions which culminated in the unprecedented crisis, Colombo Gazette reported.

The petitioners also argued that the fundamental rights of the citizens to equality, freedom of expression and the right to information guaranteed under the Constitution had been violated through the actions or inactions of the respondents, among other rights.

It added that the actions and inaction of the respondents led to the shortages of food, medicine, fuel and LP Gas in the country, victimising the entire population in an unprecedented manner.

The petition further highlighted that the reduction in government revenue caused by the tax breaks, failure to reverse the tax breaks, the decision to continue servicing sovereign debt without any restructuring, and the refusal to seek the assistance of the IMF were among the main factors that caused the economic crisis, Colombo Gazette reported.

Chandaka Jayasundera, PC, appeared for the petitioners along with SA Beling, Chinthaka Fernando, Sayuri Liyanasuriya and Manisha Dissanayake. (ANI)

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Lanka Engages Multilateral Agencies for Economic Recovery Talks

The focus of the discussions was on the government’s reform programmes aimed at economic recovery and sustainable growth….reports Asian Lite News

The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday convened a roundtable discussion with representatives from multilateral organisations on its economic reforms, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

Representatives from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and other organizations attended the discussions, the PMD said in a statement.

The focus of the discussions was on the government’s reform programmes aimed at economic recovery and sustainable growth, the PMD said, Xinhua news agency reported.

The two sides discussed challenges, opportunities and commitments for Sri Lanka’s development, the PMD said.

Following the economic crisis in 2022, Sri Lanka has held a series of discussions with these multilateral agencies.

The session was opened by the President Ranil Wickremesinghe. He delivered an address on the growth and strategic directions for Sri Lanka as it moves from recovery to a sustainable growth path.

The President also made firm commitments for the Government to work hand in hand with the private sector to unlock key investments in new and existing economic sectors moving forward, together with exploring opportunities in pursuing Green initiatives and championing Sri Lanka as a regional logistics hub in the near future.

Outcomes from the discussions in the Roundtable signaled overwhelming commitment and confidence from both the Developmental Partners and the Private Sector in the Government’s present reform efforts. The Government has also provided a clear framework to improving coordination and communications, along with detailed action plans on the implementation and delivery of the reform agenda.

To strengthen delivery, the Government has plans to set-up a Presidential Delivery Unit, conduct Economic Labs with the private sector, and hold Open days to communicate outcomes to the public of what has been achieved and delivered.

Marking the Reform Priorities, Progress, Challenges and Opportunities, Secretary to the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance, K. M. Mahinda Siriwardana made a presentation under the theme of “Progress on key stabilization measures and structural reforms undertaken since the last roundtable discussion in December 2022 and planned over the medium term to sustain stability, promote growth, and re-establish credit worthiness” while outlining the Government’s reform coordination platform around which Multilateral Development Banks can work.

Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. P Nandalal Weerasinghe highlighted the progress on debt restructuring made by the Sri Lankan Government. Alongside these presentations and remarks, international development partners including IMF, World Bank, MIGA, ADB, AIIB, ЛСА, USAID, EU, UN and private sector development partners made an interactive length long discussion and shared their views on the matter.

The session was also attended by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara and State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Senior Advisor on National Security to the President and Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga and Foreign Ministry Secretary Ms Aruni Wijewardane all representing the Government of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka to Increase VAT to 18%

Sri Lankan has approved to increase the value added tax (VAT) to 18 per cent from January, 2024, cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena said on Tuesday.

At a press conference here on Tuesday, Gunawardena said that increased VAT will also be imposed on certain goods and services that are currently not being taxed.

He said that the government has taken significant steps to increase tax revenue. The tax revenue in the first nine months of 2023 was 51 per cent higher than in 2022, he added, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, the government has failed to reach tax collection targets agreed on with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), leading to the IMF delaying the release of the second tranche of its financial aid package, he said.

The South Asian country reduced VAT from 15 percent to 8 percent in 2019, and raised it two times to 15 per cent in 2022.

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Sri Lanka Allows Chinese Ship to Conduct Research

Last year, security concerns prompted Sri Lanka to restrict a spacecraft-tracking Chinese vessel from conducting research within its waters last year due to Indian reservations….reports Asian Lite News

Despite India’s concerns, Sri Lanka has granted permission to a Chinese research vessel, Shi Yan 6, to conduct marine research off the west coast under close supervision. Ministry spokesperson Kapila Fonseka announced the vessel’s two-day research allowance starting Monday, indicating oversight during its activities.

Previously limited to port entry solely for “replenishments,” Sri Lanka responded to India’s apprehensions regarding potential spying activities by the ship. New Delhi remains wary of China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean and its growing influence in strategically positioned Sri Lanka, situated along crucial international shipping lanes.

Last year, security concerns prompted Sri Lanka to restrict a spacecraft-tracking Chinese vessel from conducting research within its waters last year due to Indian reservations.

Spokesperson Fonseka announced that local scientists, along with Sri Lankan naval monitoring, would oversee the Shi Yan 6 during its two-day research stint off the island’s western coast.

Anchored at Colombo harbour, the 90-meter Shi Yan 6 operates under a Chinese state-run company managing a deep-sea terminal. Previously, in 2014, the docking of Chinese submarines at this port drew protests from India.

While Sri Lanka provided limited approval for the Shi Yan 6, there has been no immediate comment from Chinese or Indian diplomatic missions in the country.

Described as a “scientific research vessel” by China’s state broadcaster CGTN, the Shi Yan 6 and its 60-member crew conduct tests in oceanography, geology, and marine ecology.

Another Chinese research vessel, Yuan Wang 5, specialising in spacecraft tracking and labelled a “spy ship” by New Delhi, visited Sri Lanka last year. It docked in Hambantota, a port under a 99-year lease to a Chinese company, the result of Sri Lanka’s inability to service a $1.4 billion loan for the project.

Sri Lanka faced unprecedented economic turmoil, defaulting on its $46 billion external debt, attributed partly to Chinese loans for largely unproductive infrastructure projects between 2005 and 2015.

With China holding 52 percent of Sri Lanka’s bilateral debt, Beijing’s approval is critical for any restructuring efforts on outstanding loans by Colombo.

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IMF, Lanka Edge Closer with Staff-Level Agreement

The island nation will have access to about $330 million in financing once the review is approved…reports Asian Lite News

An official confirmed on Friday that Sri Lanka has achieved a staff-level agreement concerning the initial review of its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This development paves the way for the country to access the upcoming disbursement of funds as part of its $3 billion bailout program.

The island nation will have access to about $330 million in financing once the review is approved, Xinhua news agency quoted IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka Peter Breuer as saying at a virtual press briefing.

Sri Lankan authorities remain committed to the reform agenda under the EFF and their reform efforts have been commendable, including rapid disinflation and a significant fiscal adjustment expected by the end of this year, according to a statement issued earlier by Breuer and Deputy Mission Chief Katsiaryna Svirydzenka.

Inflation is down from a peak of 70 per cent in September 2022 to 1.3 per cent in September 2023, gross international reserves increased by $1.5 billion during March-June this year, and shortages of essentials have eased, said the statement.

Despite these early signs of stabilisation, full economic recovery is not yet assured, as growth momentum remains subdued, with real GDP in the second quarter contracting by 3.1 per cent on a year-on-year basis and high-frequency economic indicators continuing to provide mixed signals, according to the IMF.

Sustaining the reform momentum is of paramount importance in steering the economy towards a sustained recovery and fostering stable, inclusive economic growth, said the IMF.

The IMF in March this year approved a 48-month extended arrangement under EFF of about $3 billion to support Sri Lanka’s economic policies and reforms. 

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Sri Lankan President Arrives in Beijing For BRI Forum

Sri Lanka’s total external debt exceeds USD 50 billion, with a significant portion, roughly ten per cent, owed to China…reports Asian Lite News

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday arrived in Beijing to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China’s official state news agency Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, recently reported that a multifaceted interplay of economic troubles, strategic dynamics, and regional influence is currently unfolding in Sri Lanka. This island nation grapples with mounting debt and is navigating China’s growing presence and influence in the region.

Sri Lanka’s total external debt exceeds USD 50 billion, with a significant portion, roughly ten per cent, owed to China. This debt encompasses official loans and less visible commercial borrowings from Chinese commercial banks.

Notably, Sri Lanka owes USD 119 million to the China Development Bank Corporation, USD 232 million to the China Development Bank, and USD 232 million to the Export-Import Bank of China, according to Daily Mirror, a daily English-language newspaper published in Sri Lanka.

Despite China’s promises to assist in debt restructuring, tangible actions have been limited. Sri Lanka urgently requires a USD 3 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the first instalment already received. The release of the crucial second tranche hinges on China and other bilateral lenders restructuring their debt terms with Sri Lanka.

According to Daily Mirror, China initially participated in discussions with other creditors, including India and Japan, offering a two-year moratorium on debt repayments and even exploring the possibility of providing new loans. However, China later altered its stance, creating roadblocks in Sri Lanka’s efforts to secure IMF aid.

Other leaders from Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Mideast will attend the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin is also expected to attend. (ANI)

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China Agrees to Debt Restructuring with Sri Lanka

The agreement with the largest single creditor is to help clear one of the biggest barriers the debt-stricken island nation…writes Susitha Fernando

China has at last agreed on a much-awaited debt restricting process with Sri Lanka after the island nation reached an agreement with the China Exim Bank for around $4.2 billion of debt, the Finance Ministry announced on Thursday.

The agreement with the largest single creditor is to help clear one of the biggest barriers the debt-stricken island nation had been facing with regard to engaging in the ongoing IMF bailout process. 

“The Sri Lankan government is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement on the key principles and indicative terms of a debt treatment with the Export-Import Bank of China. The agreement in principle covers approximately $4.2 billion of outstanding debt,” the Ministry said in a statement. 

It announced that the agreement with the Beijing will constitute a key step towards restoring Sri Lanka’s long-term debt sustainability and will pave the way to a prompt economic recovery.

“The indicative terms agreed will provide the necessary fiscal space for Sri Lanka to implement its ambitious reform agenda. The Sri Lankan government commends the engagement and continuous support of China Exim bank in reaching this agreement in principle, which demonstrates a mutual commitment in line with the goal/objective of restoring public debt sustainability consistent with the IMF-supported program.” 

The Ministry further said that Sri Lanka hopes the achievement would provide an anchor to their ongoing engagement with the Official Creditor Committee and commercial creditors, including the bondholders. 

“It should also facilitate approval by the IMF Executive Board of the first review of the IMF-supported program in the coming weeks, allowing for the next tranche of IMF financing of about $334 million to be disbursed,” it said.

“This agreement constitutes a key milestone in Sri Lanka’s ongoing efforts to foster its economic recovery,” Treasury Secretary K.M. Mahinda Siriwardana noted. 

The Ministry said in the next few weeks, the Sri Lankan authorities and China Exim bank would actively work on formalizing and implementing the agreed parameters of the debt treatment.

Initially as China did not join the other creditor nation of Sri Lanka, in April India, Japan and France announced a common platform for talks among creditors to address the debt restructuring programme for the island nation that has been grappling with its worst economic crisis.

The largest single creditor, China holds nearly 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s external debt.

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Jaishankar Holds Extensive Talks With SL President

Two nations inked three new bilateral agreements to promote greater collaboration…reports Asian Lite News

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has met with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, focusing on elevating neighbourly relations. Jaishankar, in Colombo for the 23rd Council of Ministers Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), held extensive discussions with President Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat. The discussions primarily revolved around enhancing the rapport between India and Sri Lanka, as reported by the President’s office.

Moreover, the two nations inked three new bilateral agreements to promote greater collaboration. Jaishankar’s visit, initiated on Monday evening, marked his participation in the IORA Council of Ministers meeting, the top decision-making body of IORA, the foremost organization in the Indian Ocean Region with 23 members and 10 dialogue partners.

At this meeting, India assumed the Vice Chair position of IORA for 2023-25, paving the way to chair the organization from 2025 to 2027. Notably, this was Jaishankar’s second visit to Sri Lanka in 2023. His previous trip to Colombo in January involved discussions with Sri Lanka’s top leadership, covering various facets of their close bilateral partnership and strategies to reinforce it comprehensively.

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Pakistan Stuns Sri Lanka

This was the first time in men’s Cricket World Cup history that four centuries have been hit in the same match…reports Asian Lite News

Mohammad Rizwan and Abdullah Shafique scored superb centuries to guide Pakistan to the biggest-ever successful chase in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup history, beating Sri Lanka by 6-wicket here at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka, sparked by a brilliant Kusal Mendis (122) and anchored by Sadeera Samarawickrama’s (108) century, posted a big total of 344/9 after being put into bat first.

Chasing the total, Shafique (113) and Rizwan (131 not out) set the platform with a 176-run partnership for the third wicket, after Babar Azam departed in the eighth over with the score at just 37/2, and wrapped up their superb six-wicket, completing the highest-ever chase in the tournament’s history.

This was the first time in men’s Cricket World Cup history that four centuries have been hit in the same match, with Pakistan coming out on top in a high-scoring thriller.

Pakistan’s chase began on a disappointing note as both Imam-ul-Haq (1) and Babar (10) were dismissed during a slow start in the initial powerplay, Dilshan Madushanka claiming both the wickets.

However, the men-in-green stabilized their innings and set a foundation, with Shafique achieving a hundred for the first time in his early ODI career. He reached this milestone with a powerful four through the leg side, one of the 13 times he hit the boundary in his impressive 113 off 103 balls.

Then, it was wicketkeeper-batter Rizwan, who collapsed with cramp at one stage during his brilliant innings, fittingly struck the winning runs to finish on unbeaten 131 from 121 balls and steered Pakistan to six-wicket win.

Earlier, Kusal Mendis was the star of the show for Sri Lanka for the second successive game, slamming a majestic century to get his side off to a phenomenal start to the innings.

However, Mendis was taken to the hospital after the he suffered cramps upon returning from the field after his brilliant knock of 122 runs from 77 balls.

Dushan Hemantha replaced him in the field, while Sadeera Samarawickrama has taken over the wicketkeeping duties in his absence.

Sri Lanka’s innings began in troubling fashion as Hasan Ali dismissed Kusal Perera for duck, the second duck for a Lankan opener at the tournament.

Mendis countered the Pakistani attack, hitting an impressive total of 20 boundaries, including six maximums, in his outstanding innings, propelling his side towards a substantial total.

Pathum Nissanka (51) batted well at the other end, before Samarawickrama joined Mendis out in the middle.

It was Samarawickrama, who steadied the ship as Hasan returned to pick up the key wicket of Mendis and Charith Asalanka (1) in his next over to dismantle Sri Lanka’s lower to middle order.

Samarawickrama then reached his century as Sri Lanka accelerated in the final overs. However, he fell victim to Hasan, who claimed his fourth wicket, attempting a reverse pull to locate a gap in the outfield.

Hasan finished with figures of 4/71, and Pakistan did well to keep the scoring in check late on as wickets fell at useful and regular intervals.

Brief scores: Pakistan 345/4 in 48.2 Ov ( Abdullah Shafique 113, Mohammad Rizwan 131; Dilshan Madushanka 2-60) beat Sri Lanka 344-9 ( Kusal Mendis 122, Samarawickrama 108; Hasan Ali 4-71) by 6 wickets.

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