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Public welcome to send budget proposals before Feb 11: Mangala

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera today called upon all stakeholders including the general public to submit their proposals for the 2019-Budget. 

All proposals should be sent before February 11, the Minister tweeted.

Accordingly, proposals can be sent to Director General, Department of Trade & Investment Policy, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, The Secretariat, Colombo 01. 

Interested stakeholders can also email their proposals to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Finance Ministry expects to formulate public policies in accordance with the aspirations of the community under the the three main pillars of democracy, reconciliation and development, a ministry spokesperson said.

Samaraweera said that the budget will be performance based and as such, necessary monetary allocations for projects will be made available on the basis of the action plan prepared and submitted by the respective ministries.

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Chinese firm to set up cement plant in Hambantota

A Chinese firm is to set up a cement plant in Hambantota where Beijing already controls the strategic port, in an indication of China's increasing footprint in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Nalin Bandara, said the Chinese firm would set up its plant in the Hambantota Export Processing Zone, and added that this is the first time a Chinese cement company is entering the local market directly, Lanka Business Online reported.

"This Chinese company would mainly concentrate on the Sri Lankan market," Bandara said.

"Even though, we have many manufacturers, almost 55 percent of the local consumption is imported. Therefore, there is an opportunity for a new manufacturer to market cement locally."

He said that land allocation and environmental assessment for the cement plant have been completed, and the plant is expected to start production in May 2020.

The Chinese company is expected to source 40 percent of raw material locally and intends to increase it gradually.

Sri Lanka currently has several players active in the cement industry which caters to domestic demand. It also imports cement from various plants in neighboring countries.

Sri Lanka has leased Hambantota port to the state-run China Merchant Ports Holdings Ltd for a period of 99 years, a move that has caused concern in neighbouring India.

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Chi Chi weds Tatiyana

The youngest son of Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, Rohitha Rajapaksa wed his longtime girlfriend Tatiyana Lee Jayaratne in a ceremony held at the family residence ‘Carlton House’ in Weeraketiya today. 

The wedding ceremony was attended by politicians including Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. Rohitha had proposed to Tatiyana atop the snow-covered Kilimanjaro mountain last August. 

Despite depending on Sinhala nationalist policies to obtain votes, the marriage of Rohitha to Tatiyana marks yet another interracial marriage in the Rajapaksa family.

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Sri Lanka handloom industry to go hi-tech

Sri Lanka’s textile and handloom sectors are in line for a major upgrade after many decades when a global technology platform used in complex patterns is presented to domestic craftsmen and designers this year.

"Modern techonology can greatly increase the productivity of our high quality handlooms” Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.

Minister Bathiudeen made these remarks while addressing a progress review of the institutions that fall under his purview on 17 January.
Jacquard machines are used by handloom designers to speed up their manual production looms’ speed. Jacquard machines give the strength of power-looms to hand-loom machines by speeding up complex handloom designs using a punch card system. 

Sri Lankan handloom designers already use punch-card driven Jacquard machines for their production. However, these machines are not sufficient to meet the speed of today’s handloom market. The Textiles and Handlooms Development Division of the Ministry therefore will replace these punched card machines to digital, computerised Jacquards, said Minister Bathiudeen. 

Accordingly, the Ministry plans to install the first high quality digital Jacquard system at the Sri Lanka Institute of Textile Technology, Ratmalana at an estimated cost of USD 20000. 

This system will be used to demonstrate and train national level handloom producers as well as private sector suppliers who would be encouraged to import them on their own and competitively sell to local handloom producers. The Textile Department plans to import eight more digital Jacquards to be given to each province to train the Provincial producers and encourage provincial machinery importers.

Sri Lanka’s handloom sector is one of the low cost but high earning industries. The production is labour intensive and the industry consumes less electricity and utilities but generates higher employment. It is estimated that more than 12000 personnel are engaged in it with Wayamba, Western, and Central provinces accomodating the most handloom products.

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SLFP appoints new district leaders; many party seniors with Mahinda

The Sri Lanka Freedom party district organizers received their letters of appointment from SLFP leader president Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday. However, many SLFP heavyweights who previously held district organizer posts in the party have been left out as they have aligned themselves with Mahinda Rajapaksa.  It was reported that president Sirisena had briefed the new district organizers on the party reform process.

Colombo - Thilanga Sumathipala

Gampaha - Lasantha Alagiyawanna

Rathnapura - Athula Rahubadda

Kalutara - Mahinda Samarasinghe

Nuwaraeliya - W. Ransinghe

Galle - Shan Wijelal De Silva

Vavuniya - Cader Masthan

Kandy - S.B. Dissanayake

Kegalle - Ranjith Siyambalapitiya

Matara - Wijaya Dahanayaka

Hambantota - Mahinda Amaraweera  

Kurunegala - Dayasiri Jayasekara

Badulla Nimal Siripala de Silva

Batticaloa - H. Hisbulla

Anuradhapura - Duminda Dissanayake

Ampara - Shriyani Wijewickreme

Jaffna/Kilinochchi - Angajan Ramanathan

Matale - Lakshman Wasantha Perera

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USD 200 million from World Bank to strengthen primary health care system

Sri Lanka is to obtain USD 200 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) of the World Bank to implement the Primary Health Care System Strengthening Project
 
The development objective of the proposed project is “to increase the utilization and quality of primary health care services, with an emphasis on detection and management of non-communicable diseases in high-risk population groups, in selected areas of the country”.
 
This objective will be achieved by supporting the reorganization and strengthening of the Sri Lankan primary health care system. Specifically, the project will support the development and roll out of policies and standards and strengthening of various supportive systems. The project will lay the foundation for a more integrated, coordinated, and people-centered delivery system.
 
The primary beneficiaries of the project will be the users of public Primary Health Care (PHC) Institutions in the selected communities of the country. The primary users of the public PHC Institutions tend to be the poorer segments of the population. Within the communities supported by the project, those who are most at risk of having or developing a severe or catastrophic Non-communicable Disease (NCD) will be the primary target. Project interventions will benefit the health sector staff at the central and provincial levels by strengthening their capacities and making resources available to plan and execute the strategy for strengthening PHC services.
 
The project consists of the following components: 

·         Implementation of the PHC System Reorganization and Strengthening Strategies
·         Project Implementation Support and Innovation Grants
·         Contingent Emergency Response Component
 
A Project Steering Committee (PSC) will be established and co-chaired by the secretaries of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine and Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Governments. The additional members will consist of secretary to the Finance Commission, nine Provincial Chief Secretaries, and representatives from the central Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine and provincial Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine.  

The financing agreement of the aforementioned project was signed by Dr. R H S Samaratunga, Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and Ms. Idah Z Pswarayi – Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives on behalf of the World Bank on January 23, 2019 at the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media.

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France, Canada and Korea to assist Sri Lanka’s renewable energy drive

French, Canadian and Korean Governments have pledged to extend their support towards the development of renewable energy in Sri Lanka for a cost-effective, uninterrupted power supply. 

This pledge was given by the Ambassadors of these three countries when they held discussions with the Minister of Power, Energy and Business Development Ravi Karunanayake this week. 

French Ambassador Eric Lavertu, Canadian High Commissioner David Mckinnon and Korean Ambassador Heon Lee and their respective delegations joined Minister Ravi Karunanayake on Monday (21) and Tuesday (22) for separate one to one meetings held at the Ministry premises for discussions on impending world energy crisis in 2020. 

France Ambassador 1

Minister Ravi Karunanayake and French Ambassador Eric Lavertu at the Ministry of Power and Energy

Minister Karunanayake told the Ambassadors Sri Lanka has limited resources and needs to find a solution to meet the energy demand in the years to come. "We need to find a permanent solution to the problem," he added. 

The envoys said as a government, paying special attention to the infrastructure facilities for the people in a developing country like Sri Lanka is a great achievement.

Minister Karunanayake also pointed out that the government has taken steps to direct its directives towards renewable energy sources for a cost-effective, uninterrupted power supply without being a burden to the consumers. 

The Power and Energy Ministry this week received Cabinet approval for the construction of 150 Mw solar and 60 Mw of wind power plants. 

The proposal takes note that as per country’s electricity generation plan, one-third of the entire necessity is to be generated by non-traditional and alternative renewable energy sources by 2030. 

The new additions are set to be connected to the grid by 2020, under the 2018-2037 Long-Term Generation Expansion Plan prepared by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), the Cabinet proposal presented said.

The Long-Term Generation Plan presented by the CEB was earlier under dispute with the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka refusing to give its approval, opposing the inclusion of coal plants.

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New Political Alliance in the offing - PM 

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickramasinghe says a new political alliance will be formed soon. Named as the National Democratic Front (DNF) Wickramasinghe said it will most likely be formed in two weeks time. 

“Other political parties can and are welcome to join this broader political alliance,” he said. The Prime Minister made this announcement at the ceremony held to handover 266 houses under the 2nd phase of the 'Siyapath Sevana' Housing Scheme in Dematagoda yesterday (22). 

The PM also assured despite the false accusations by political opponents, he has no intention to divide this country. According to the PM, those threatened by the development projects being carried out by the government have now resorted to spreading false rumours to destabilize the government. 

The Premier handed over 266 housing units to the recipients yesterday under the 2nd phase of Siyapath Sevana Housing project implemented at a cost of Rs. 1.064 billion. Earlier 437 housing units were handed over to low-income families under the first phase of this project.

PM

PM1

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U.S. Navy Conducts Temporary Cargo Transfer Initiative

The U.S. Navy will perform a transfer operation to move cargo between planes at Bandaranaike International Airport outside Colombo till January 29, the US embassy in Colombo said. 

This is part of a larger temporary cargo transfer initiative that promotes Sri Lanka's efforts to become a regional hub for logistics and commerce.  The January transfers will contribute approximately LKR 25 million to the country’s economy.  

This is the third iteration of the temporary cargo transfer initiative.  It follows two successful transfers that took place in August 2018 at Bandaranaike International Airport and Trincomalee and in December 2018 at Bandaranaike International Airport.

“Sri Lanka's leaders have outlined their vision for the country’s regional engagement that reflects its location at the nexus of the Indo-Pacific and seizes the opportunities that this unique position presents,” said U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz. 

“We are happy to support this vision through a range of mutually beneficial initiatives, such as contracting Sri Lankan services and goods to support U.S. military and commercial vessels that often transit the Indo-Pacific’s busy sea lanes.”
 
Under the initiative, several U.S. naval aircraft are scheduled to land and depart from the commercial airport, bringing in a variety of non-lethal supplies. The supplies will be transferred between planes and then flown to the U.S.S. John C. Stennis at sea.  Supplies may include personal mail for sailors, paper goods, spare parts and tools, and other items.  No cargo, military equipment, or personnel associated with this initiative will remain in Sri Lanka after the completion of the cargo transfer. 
 
U.S.-Sri Lanka security cooperation encompasses a variety of joint exercises and training that has developed the skills and interoperability of both countries.  This cooperation was designed by both countries to address our mutual security interests, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and maritime domain awareness.

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SriLankan owed over LKR 122 million for Rajapaksa flights

The Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to pay Rs. 122.3 million to SriLankan Airlines for several flights chartered for former Head of State Mahinda Rajapaksa’s delegations, Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka was informed yesterday. 

According to Sumudu Priyanka Upatissa, the Manager of Revenue Management and Network Planning of SriLankan Airlines, it was revealed that the airline had attempted to secure these payments by writing to the Secretaries of these institutions. 

He said most of these flights involved the then Head of State and he used to travel by the charter flights. In the normal process, he said they charge a 2 percent interest for the chartered flights, but they had never charged interest for this outstanding amount. “Rather they wanted to obtain the capital amount,” he added. 

Rajapaksa's flights included trips to Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Rome and Bolivia, where SriLankan had no regular flights. A chartered flight to Johannesburg in December 2013, carried only 26 passengers though it had seating facilities for 243 passengers. The Presidential Secretariat paid the airline Rs.36 million for the flight. The aircraft, A340, had 38 business class seats and 205 economy class seats. 

Upatissa further said that for another chartered flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, in January 2014, the Presidential Secretariat had paid the airline Rs.46.3 million. Only 48 passengers had traveled in the flight, which could carry 312 passengers. The plane landed first in Amman, the capital of Jordan, where 42 passengers got off, while only six people flew to Tel Aviv.

The Presidential Secretariat had also refrained from paying Rs. 43.4 million for a chartered flight to Rome in October 2014. Only 69 passengers had traveled in that aircraft, which could carry 312 passengers.

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Maldivian President to attend Sri Lanka's independence day celebrations

Newly elected Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be travelling to Sri Lanka to join the Independence Day celebrations, stated the President’s Office. 

This is Solih’s first official trip to Sri Lanka since becoming President. However, he had made on an unofficial trip to the neighboring nation last December.


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Mangala meets UK's Minister of State to discuss reconciliation

Finance and Media Minister Hon. Mangala Samaraweera called on the United Kingdom's Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, at his office in Westminster, London, yesterday (21), to discuss progress made in the areas of human rights and reconciliation and other matters of mutual interest. 

Lord Ahmad is also Prime Minister Theresa May's Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Freedom of Religion and Belief. 

Samaraweera also called on the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland QC in London on Friday (18) for a cordial discussion. The Minister tweeted that they discussed matters of mutual interest.

Minister of State lord tariq

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