Sri Lanka Missions abroad seek to re-position Sri Lanka’s exports to meet market conditions resulting from the COVID-19 crisis

23 April 2020

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has observed that even as the Foreign Ministry was preoccupied with endeavoring to mitigate a multitude of problems faced by Overseas Sri Lankans, it was in parallel also seeking to re-position Sri Lanka’s exports in the context of market conditions that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. He said if this was successful, Sri Lanka would emerge one step ahead in the global supply chain, in a post-COVID-19 world.

The Foreign Secretary made these observations earlier this week in an appearance on the Sri Lanka Rupavahini’s ‘Ethera Methara’ programme. Commenting on the efforts by Sri Lanka’s network of 67 Missions and Consulate-General Offices abroad in promoting Sri Lanka’s exports during these constrained times, he said the Ministry’s traditional ‘Economic Diplomacy Programme’ led by the Economic Affairs Division, has been modified to accommodate the changed circumstances. 

It is noted that the Ministry of Foreign Relations, together with the Export Development Board (EDB) and Sri Lankan Missions abroad, are continuing to explore access for Sri Lankan products into new markets, to support the government’s economic plan in sustaining the economy during the pandemic and mitigating the economic downturn in its aftermath. Informed by weekly updates provided by Missions abroad on the evolving world markets as well as prevailing procedures, requirements and restrictions in their countries of accreditation, in the background of COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative has thus far facilitated in connecting Sri Lankan exporters with importers in ten countries with regard to tea, spices, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), rubber gloves, face masks, reusable masks, surgical masks, surgical caps, surgical gowns, sanitary tissues, processed food, fruits and vegetables, spices and seafood. 

Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs P.M. Amza notes that, to date 56 market updates have been filed by Sri Lanka missions abroad and all of them have been uploaded in the EDB website, which can be accessed at https://www.edb.gov.lk/marketalerts. The summary of the market updates received so far revealed that there is demand for Ceylon Tea from 21 countries (including orders amounting to 336 MT to Turkey, 100 MT to Egypt and 25 MT to Libya, materialized during the last two weeks), face masks from 25 countries, protective gowns from 15 countries, PPE from 13 countries and rubber gloves from 15 countries. There are also demands for food and vegetables from 13 countries.

The Ministry is also working with Sri Lanka Tea Board in expediting the process of authentication of export documents, in respect of tea consignments to various destinations in the Middle East and Turkey, as well as several other products. Recognizing the difficulties faced by exporters the Ministry is also formally pursuing requests with the Customs and other relevant agencies in significant export destinations to facilitate the clearance of relevant documents of Sri Lankan exporters. Several Colombo based Diplomatic Missions have also cooperated in this endeavour by taking appropriate measures to also authenticate export documents. 

Additionally, the Ministry is also supporting Sri Lanka Tourism in the facilitation required for over 12,000 foreign tourists who have chosen to remain in Sri Lanka, despite the present COVID-19 pandemic and the prevailing curfews in many parts of the country. This includes over 4000 tourists from Western countries, notwithstanding the continuance of commercial as well as charter flights to return home. Visas for tourists in Sri Lanka were automatically extended in the face of the crisis situation, up to 12 May 2020.      

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations                                                                                                             

Colombo


23 April 2020

 

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Sri Lanka remembers all those lives lost on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday attacks

21 April 2020

On this day, Sri Lanka remembers all those lives lost and changed forever in barbaric acts of violence one year ago. We share the grief of families who lost their loved ones and stand in solidarity with those countries which lost their nationals.  
 
මීට වසරකට පෙර සිදුකළ ම්ලේච්ඡ ප්‍රචණ්ඩ ක්‍රියාවලින් අහිමි වූ හා සදහටම වෙනස් වූ සියලුම ජීවිත ශ්‍රී ලංකාව අද දින සිහිපත් කරයි. තම ආදරණීයයන් අහිමි වූ පවුල්වල ශෝකය අපි බෙදා හදා ගන්නා අතර, තම ජාතිකයන් අහිමි වූ අනෙකුත් රටවල් සමඟ එක්ව කටයුතු කරන්නෙමු.  
 
ஓராண்டிற்கு முன்னர் வன்முறைகளில் இழந்த, பாதிப்புற்ற அனைவரையும் இன்றைய தினம் இலங்கை நினைவு கூர்கின்றது. தமது உறவுகளையிழந்த குடும்பங்களின் துன்பங்களை நாம் பகிர்ந்து கொள்வதுடன், தமது பிரஜைகளையிழந்த நாடுகளுடன் துணை நிற்கின்றோம்  
 
 
 
Ministry of Foreign Relations
Colombo
 
 21 April 2020
 
 
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Facilitation of outward remittances to Sri Lankan students & Sri Lankans on short term visits abroad

20 April 2020

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) informs that there is no restriction on outward remittance of foreign currency to Sri Lankans for current transactions (i.e. for educational and medical purposes, living expenses, etc.).

The CBSL Press Release dated 9th April 2020 in this regard can be accessed at the following link:

http://www.dfe.lk/…/02cdc58f4b56b103c5b216754233325a-DFE-Pr…

On 19th March 2020 the Foreign Exchange Department of the Central Bank had issued a directive to Authorized Dealers (Ads) on Release of Foreign Currency Notes for Travel Purposes with a ceiling of USD 5,000. However, this is not applicable in the context of persons who had already left Sri Lanka for short term visits.

Accordingly, remittance of funds from Sri Lanka to cover expenses of university/tuition/training fees, living expenses, medical charges or as any related fees through Authorized Dealers, is already permitted as Current transactions under the Foreign Exchange Act (FEA).

Persons who have gone abroad for pursuing education (i.e. students) are recognized as persons resident in Sri Lanka for the purposes of FEA. Accordingly, such students can obtain Electronic Fund Transfer Cards (EFTFs) (i.e. credit/ debit cards) from Authorized Dealers in terms of the Directions issued under FEA to that effect.

If anyone stranded abroad needs to get his/her credit limit enhanced, it is a decision for the respective Authorized Dealer (AD) and there are no credit limits imposed under FEA on EFTCs.

Persons who have gone abroad for short term purposes (other than the persons who have migrated or those who have left SL for employment abroad) are permitted to obtain EFTCs from ADs for making payments in foreign exchange to persons resident outside Sri Lanka in respect of personal nature current transactions.

Foreign currency earners who have to repay loans in foreign currency and whose incomes have been adversely affected due to the Covid-19 outbreak can obtain a 03 months postponement of repayment of loans. These borrowers should contact the respective banks before 30 April 2020.

 

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COVID- 19 crisis spells a new Sri Lanka

18 April 2020

In the Global Response to Infectious Diseases index, Sri Lanka and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been ranked ninth position. This is an index designed to rank the efficiency and effectiveness of the leadership of the country and the preparedness of its health system to combat COVID-19.

While it is clear that Sri Lanka has been successfully containing and controlling the COVID 19 threat, it is also clear that the crisis is far from over. We are still fighting with an invisible enemy that we have not yet understood fully. The fact that this is a global pandemic further complicates the issue. Staying safe while rescuing our economy from a changing world are the challenges before us.

Still, we have reasons to be optimistic. We have already begun our return journey to normalcy. If the current progression continues, by mid-May schools and universities can reopen for the second term. It is hoped that General Elections too could be held before June, allowing people to exercise their franchisers to select the Government that they see fit.

At a recent meeting with the secretaries to the ministries, President discussed the need to ease the curfew to allow public and private sectors to return to work without undue impediments. The need to protect the local economy was emphasized. Ministries were instructed to provide the necessary support for agrarian and fisheries sectors as well as other businesses to recover. President also advocated exploring business avenues to create new economic trends.

A People’s Movement Gathering Against COVID- 19

The Administration is clearly not alone in the war against this deadly virus. People from across society have risen to the challenge. Many young adults have found novel solutions to pressing problems. They have made contributions in manufacturing health and medical equipment locally that are otherwise very expensive, social service activities to help the vulnerable and extending general cooperation despite worries over their income and financial obligations.

The special COVID 19 Healthcare & Social Security Fund that was initiated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on March 23 with LKR 100 million from the President’s Fund has already exceeded LKR 703 million.

From the inception, contributions have been pouring in from individuals and organizations to this special Fund’s account 85 73 73 73 at Bank of Ceylon. On April 1, Akbar Brothers (Pvt) Ltd contributed LKR 50 million. This took the balance to over LKR 242 million. A week later, among many contributors was retired teacher Mr. Sarath Kumara Gurusinghe who donated his entire month’s pension. Mr. Uyanahewage Ashoka, whose vision is impaired in both eyes gave LKR 500,000. Their contributions tipped the balance and surpassed LKR 585 million.

April 16 was significant as on this day alone LKR 48 million was collected. Among the notable contributors was Chief Incumbent Venerable Dr. Kirinde Assaji thero from the Gangaramaya temple. The venerable thero gave LKR 10 million from the Gangaramaya Vesak Fund. On behalf of the Kelani University Professors’ Association Venerable Dr. Malwane Chandrarathana thero handed over LKR 2.5 million. The Engineers Association of the National Water Supply & Drainage Board also handed over LKR 2.5 million to the Fund. Huawei Technologies Lanka (Pvt) Ltd gave LKR 1.5 million. The Fund also received LKR 1 million from Mr. S. D. Amarasinghe.

This Fund will be managed by a 17-member committee headed by the Central Bank Governor Prof. W.D. Lakshman. The Secretary to the Committee is the Chief Financial Officer at Presidential Secretariat Ravindra J Wimalaweera. Among the office bearers are also Secretary to the Treasury S.R. Attigala, Defense Secretary (Rtd) Major General Kamal Gunaratne, Director General Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Acting IGP CD Wickramarathna, Director General Sri Lanka Customs Major General G. Wijitha Ravipriya and Lanka Sathosa Chairman Nushad M Perera.

The committee is tasked to utilize this Fund to invest in,

 Securing the necessary purchasing in medicines and testing kits as well as increasing the healthcare capacities;

 Ensuring the health and safety of those in the health sector and in the essential services;

 Financial needs of children, women, low-income earners, elders, physically challenged and other vulnerable sectors;

 Integrating public health systems, rural and remote dispensaries, testing and treatment centers and health care systems to reduce the risk of infectious diseases;

 Supporting the health sectors through innovation and production of indigenous medicines via resources, knowledge and skills in the country;

 Promoting in the global market the protective clothing and hygiene products developed through our knowledge and experience in medical and scientific fields;

 The media and educational campaigns to promote a healthy lifestyle centered on our traditional values and organic food.

In the meantime, Chief Incumbent of Lankarama Venerable K Gunarathana thero who is the Religious Advisor of the Mahakaruna Buddhist Society in Singapore along with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Shashikala Premawardena and Chairman of Humanity Matters Association Ong Keng Yong handed over to the Presidential Secretariat LKR 10 million worth medical equipment to combat the COVID 19 crisis in Sri Lanka.

Turning the Economic Tide Around

On March 10 the first Sri Lankan was found to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. As a precautionary measure April vacations were given to all schools, including universities on March 13. The special public holiday given soon after was extended to an all Island curfew by March 20. Everyone was asked to work from home except those in essential services, agrarian sector, and media. Naturally, this disrupted the speed of the economic machinery and many business processes stalled. Sectors like tourism that were just recovering after last year’s Easter Sunday massacres were seriously affected

By March 30 the Sri Lankan Rupee began to feel the pressure and began to slide against the US dollar. It fell to LKR 191.99 and from that point onwards began to steadily fall. However, on April 07 the Rupee suddenly plunged from LKR 193.75 to LKR 199.40 per USD. Two days later the Rupee fell to LKR 200.47.

The Administration, however, kept a very steady hand. The State machinery continued to support the vulnerable societies including low-income families, Samurdhi beneficiaries, pensioners and differently-abled. They were given an additional LKR 5,000 as a means of financial support. The State also bought 900,000 kg of fresh produce from the farmers

Steps were also taken to rescue a number of Sri Lankans who were trapped in vulnerable places overseas. The other Sri Lankan expatriates are asked to remain in their host countries until the situation in Sri Lanka settles. However, the Sri Lankan missions are all functioning and ready to assist Sri Lankan expatriates in this difficult time period.

At the same time, non-essential imports were banned. An appeal was made to the Sri Lankan expatriate community to remit foreign currency to ease the pressure off the LKR. Economic activities have been allowed to resume in a controlled fashion.

As citizens, Sri Lankans are responding very positively. Many corporate top executives have decided to take pay cuts instead of laying off their employees. The Rupee has already started to recover because of this collective effort. On April 15 it appreciated to LKR 195.49 against the USD.

It is very clear that we are walking on a tightrope. Balance is of utmost importance to meet the current challenges as well as the ones ahead. However, people have shown the commitment and courage. The State machinery from security to health and social services has complimented the political will. Victory over COVID-19 deadly virus is well within our hands. It is up to all of us not to let this victory slip out through our fingers.

 

President’s Media Division

17.04.2020

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