US Treasury Secy. lauds Govt’s efforts to stabilise economy | Sunday Observer

US Treasury Secy. lauds Govt’s efforts to stabilise economy

12 March, 2023

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had a telephone conversation with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday night, March 6. She told the President that she appreciates the efforts made by the Government to stabilise the country’s economy.

During the discussion, Yellen said that they will extend their support for Sri Lanka’s efforts towards obtaining International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance.

Earlier discussion via zoom took place between the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva and President Wickremesinghe. The President made a statement in Parliament on Tuesday regarding these discussions and the approval of the IMF credit facility.

President Wickremesinghe told Parliament that he had received a financial assurance letter from the Exim Bank of China on Monday night and the letter of agreement, which he signed with the Governor of the Central Bank, was sent to the IMF.

He said that he has completed his obligation to the country and that he anticipates the IMF to fulfill its responsibility before the end of this month. A large number of Government and Opposition lawmakers lauded the President’s statement in Parliament.

A MP who met the President at the Parliament lobby informed him of the privilege issue raised by MP Premanath C. Dolawatte regarding the Interim Order issued by the Supreme Court preventing the withholding of money allocated for the LG election.

MP Madura Vithanage said, “Two Interim Orders have been given by two courts and this is the problem.”

Minister Bandula Gunawardena looked at the President and said, “If anybody goes to the web and reads the activity budget statement, they can see the true financial situation.”

MP Dolawatte who came to the venue of the President and MPs informed them that his privilege issue was referred to the Privilege Committee by the Speaker.

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga who also joined the group of MPs said the Dollar is depreciating rapidly. Similarly, the prices of goods are also coming down.

Minister Kanchana Wijesekara who joined the conversation said, “The Opposition panicked after hearing the news. They didn’t think the President would strengthen the rupee in such a short period.”

State Minister Chamara Sampath said, “The prices of goods are gradually reducing now. We were the second in the list of countries with high inflation and now we have come down to 16th place. Inflation would go down further by the end of this year. That is why the Opposition is attempting to sabotage the Government’s program.”

The President who listened to the conversation said, “Now Dollars are coming into the country and we can open Letters of Credit (LCs). Now we have enough paddy and fuel. There is also a 24-hour electricity supply. Therefore, the basic facilities of the people have been provided. The economy has expanded and strengthened now.”

MP Wajira Abeywardena said, “Sir, during this time last year, long queues were there.” The President smiled and left the place.

International Women’s Day

President Wickremesinghe who participated in the International Women’s Day celebration mentioned the names of three women who played a significant role in rebuilding the country’s economy. They were Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva.

The International Women’s Day celebration was organised by the Child and Women Affairs Ministry. However, the President didn’t wait until the end of the ceremony as he had to attend a family funeral. The President before leaving the premises told the Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle “I won’t be here to listen to your speech. However, I mentioned three friendly women who helped us.”


The President went straight to a funeral parlour in Colombo to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. As per her request, her funeral was held at the Nawala General Cemetery within 24 hours. Former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and a large number of Ministers also visited the parlour. Mahanayaka Theras and Party Leaders had also spoken to the President over the phone and expressed their condolences. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa came to the funeral parlour along with MP Harshana Rajakaruna. When the Opposition Leader and the President were seated there, Minister Susil Premajayantha came to the parlour.

Minister Premajayantha looked at the Opposition Leader and said “We can’t even come to Parliament freely because of your activities.”

The Opposition Leader retorted, “That is why we are called the Opposition. The Opposition isn’t similar to the Government.”

The President said, “These people are just shouting.”

The gathering turned into some sort of political forum as a large number of politicians attended it and expressed their views to each other.

Opposition Leader Premadasa said he appreciated Leader of the House Premajayantha accepting his proposal on sanitary napkins.

The President who also responded said, “It was a good suggestion.”

Minister Premajayantha said, “I am happy about your appreciation.”

Minister Susil Premajayantha left the place without staying for long informing the President that he had to attend some Parliamentary matters.

After the conversation in Parliament regarding the chair of the Committee on Public Finance, SJB parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva met MP Wajira Abeywardena face to face for the first time at the funeral parlour.

Dr. de Silva looked at Wajira and said, “You are against me, no?”

Wajira replied, “No. I am not against you. I told Parliament only about the provision in the Constitution regarding the Committee on Public Finance.”

Harsha: “You all didn’t give me the chairmanship.”

Wajira: “You should discuss it with the Government parliamentary group.

The Opposition Leader also cracked a joke at the Director General of Government Information Dinith Chinthaka saying that “He is also with us.”

President: “He can decide whether he should be with the Government or the Opposition.”

Opposition Leader: “I was joking.”

President visits Finance Ministry

The President came to the Finance Ministry on Thursday to discuss the prevailing economic situation and future activities. A group of Ministers had also accompanied him.

An official pointed out the issue raised by the Opposition in Parliament that the Treasury Secretary had not gone to the Security Council meeting.

The President said, “He was at the Security Council meeting. After the Prime Minister and I ended our discussions and came to Parliament, the officer’s discussion continued with a series of issues relating to the financial activities of the security forces.”

The President instructed Finance Ministry officials to reduce the Rs.200 Special Commodity Levy imposed on dates to Rs.1 per kilo to provide relief to the Muslim community for the upcoming Ramazan festival.

UNP group meets President

A group of top UNP officials met the President to discuss party matters and the prevailing situation in the country. One of the key topics highlighted at the discussions was the protests launched by the university students.

Shamal Senarath said, “It is said that the police entered universities and attacked students. It is also said that the police can’t enter universities without the permission of the Vice Chancellor.”

Then UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara said, “As far as I know, the Police don’t need permission to enter any place at any time to safeguard law and order.”

UNP Chairman Wajira Abeywardena who recalled his university days said, “The universities are not a separate state or entity. As far as I know, it is a tradition to get permission from the Vice Chancellor to enter universities. Whether the Vice Chancellor is summoned or not, the Police can enter universities when there is a violation of law and order.”

UNP National Organiser Sagala Rathnayaka who also joined the conversation said in some countries there is separate Police called ‘University Police.’ When UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene asked if there was any proposal to set up such University Police in Sri Lanka, the President nodded and endorsed that fact. The President left Colombo on Friday for personal reasons.

Opposition leader meets two Diplomats

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa last week met two leading diplomats.

A meeting between New Zealand High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Michael Appleton and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa took place on Monday at the Opposition Leader’s office.

The duo discussed economic and political conditions of the two countries. The Opposition Leader requested the New Zealand High Commissioner to provide support to rebuild Sri Lanka during the economic crisis. He also requested the New Zealand Government’s support to eradicate poverty in Sri Lanka. He stressed the importance of political stability in the country. Premadasa reminded the High Commissioner that the SJB as an Opposition political party has added value to the country through the implementation of Sakwala and Husma programs.

A meeting between a diplomat, journalist and scholar of India Gopalswamy Parthasarathy and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa took place at the official residence of the Indian High Commission in Colombo on Monday.

Parthasarathy was the official spokesperson of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and he has served as the Prime Minister’s Media Spokesman. During that time, he visited Sri Lanka on many occasions. He is currently the Chancellor of the Central University of Jammu and the Director of the Centre for Wind Energy Studies, New Delhi, India. He has also been a television commentator on national security and foreign policy issues for the past twenty years on English and Hindi channels.

The Opposition Leader said that he expects the support of the Indian Government to develop Sri Lanka and also recalled the long-standing and strong bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and India.

Negative sentiments

Lots of negative sentiments are being expressed by many people on the appreciation of the rupee.

The Opposition Leader told his MPs, “If the economy is strengthened and the country is rebuilt, we are not hypocrites to deny that. However, we all should keep in mind what we have pledged to get the IMF credit facility. It looks like some have been hypnotised now but we are not in such a mentality. When the electricity bill with a 200 percent increase comes to their homes, most of them will be jolted out of their hypnotised state.”

The Fitch Ratings agency has predicted that amid the hopes of approving the IMF credit facility, the Sri Lankan rupee which has strengthened during the first quarter of the year will collapse by the end year.

SJB MPs Dr. Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickremaratne and Kabir Hashim also focused their attention on this. Dr. Harsha de Silva told his Parliamentary group that the IMF facility will be approved soon.

Fitch Ratings has stated that the economic crisis and Local Government election will create a disturbing situation in the country making it difficult to fulfill the agreements reached with the IMF.

SJB MP Ashok Abeysinghe said the serious situation is that the Fitch Ratings has predicted that the value of the Dollar might go up to Rs. 390 by the end of this year.” Dr. Harsha de Silva said the IMF will provide a US$ 2.9 billion small loan. “At this juncture when we have suspended the repayment of loans, US$ 2.6 billion is required to repay bilateral loans. For example, if the entire IMF loan is obtained at once, that money will have to be paid back to the IMF, World Bank and ADB during the course of this year. Then there is no use of obtaining the IMF credit facility. Why is IMF assistance necessary? It is necessary to build the confidence that other countries have on us. That is why we drew the Government’s attention on this issue before President Ranil Wickremesinghe came to Parliament as a National List MP.”

Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya affiliated to the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) organised a Women’s Day program on March 8 to mark the International Women’s Day.

First, the Opposition Leader went to Parliament and made a statement. Later, he participated in the program organised by the Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya at the Viharamahadevi Park.

The Opposition Leader said the world is changing rapidly. “In developed societies, equal opportunities are given to women. Of the total number of Ministers in the French Cabinet, half are women. French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed a woman who obtained five Olympic medals as the Sports Minister. Their Defence Minister is also a woman.

“Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also filled half of his Cabinet of Ministers with women. A similar situation prevails in Scandinavian countries as well. In our neighbouring country India, its ‘Panchayana Sabha’ has given a prominent place for women’s representation. However, women’s representation in the Sri Lankan Parliament is only 5 percent.

“It is important to increase women’s representation when there is public displeasure on politics. The majority of the university students are also women. The majority of those in the teaching profession are women but there are so many obstacles and challenges for women to move forward. Amid thousands of challenges, when the opportunity is given, the majority of women display their talent,” he said.