The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Sri Lanka EPF suffers billions in real losses

Sri Lanka's main private sector retirement fund has made billions real losses in in 2007 as the state used the monetary system to inflate away debt at the expense of the private sector workers in the country, the latest data shows.

In 2007, Sri Lanka's main private sector retirement fund, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) lost 23 billion rupees in real terms as inflation shot up and interest rates lagged behind.

Inflation measured by the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) was 16.5 percent in 2007, against an effective rate of return declared to members of the EPF of 11.40 percent indicating a real loss of 5.00 percent for the year, according to information disclosed in the 2007 annual report of the Central Bank, which manages the fund.

Even conservatively taking the beginning-of-the-year balance of the fund portfolio of 477.6 billion rupees, the EPF has lost 23.8 billion rupees in real terms with an effective rate declared of 11.4 percent in 2007.

The EPF is made up by contributions deducted from the salaries of private sector workers and the bulk of the funds are invested in government securities.

Debt market participants routinely refer to the fund as a 'captive' source indicating that it is mis-used by the state to keep rates down against the interests of its own beneficiaries.

The International Monetary Fund has already called for independent governance for the EPF. The ETF, another private sector retirement fund, is also managed by the state.

Critics have pointed out that the Central Bank is faced with conflicts of interest in managing the EPF.

On one hand it is responsible for containing inflation and has the power to decide interest rates. It also runs the public debt department which raises money for the government and has a responsibility to find money at the lowest rates.

The EPF on the other hand has to get the highest rates for its members. These goals are incompatible with each other.

In a Financial Sector Stability Assessment, the IMF said a "sound, robust, and independent governance structure" was needed for the EPF with a "clear objective of seeking the best investment returns for members."

Critics have also pointed out that the managers of the EPF who are central bank employees have inflation protected pensions which are topped up each year with billions of rupees from central bank funds.

The rate of return declared for members of the Central Bank provident funds were not disclosed in the annual report.

The EPF on the other hand is taxed. This year the fund paid 4.4 billion rupees in taxes.

Last year another controversy blew up after it was revealed that trained fund mangers and analysts who were recruited to help improve returns had been effectively sacked due to internal employment politics within the monetary authority.

In 2007 however the monetary authority allowed market rates to move up which analysts say will help increase returns to the EPF in the future. In 2006 the fund lost 37 billion rupees in real terms when compared to the CCPI index.

Countries with fiat (paper) money can use the monetary system to print money and drive up inflation while keeping interest rates low or negative in real terms.

This reduces the real debt burden of the government at the expense of savers, especially older people who have saved for a lifetime.

Most ordinary people who find savings of a lifetime destroyed by inflation, or the loss of purchasing power of fiat paper currency, find the concept of real losses difficult to grasp, allowing governments to create inflation through central banking without attracting serious criticism.

Fiat money and central banking has been mis-used spectacularly in monetary history, in well documented cases, especially in France both during the French revolution and in the early part of the 18th century when John Law created a paper money central bank.

But central banking came to be widely abused as a method of 'secret taxation' to finance governments only after the United States went off the gold standard after World War II.

The current sub-prime bubble is also blamed on loose monetary policy of the Federal Reserve.

Source: LBO

60 Sri Lankan(mostly Sinhalese) fishermen held

Sixty Sri Lankan fishermen, mostly Sinhalese origin, were taken into custody by the Indian Coast Guard along with 12 boats for reportedly entering the Indian waters off Andaman coast, official sources said.

The fishermen and their boats were being brought to Mandapam Coast Guard Station near here where they were expected to be handed over to police for further action, officials here said.

This is one of the rare occasions when so many Sri Lankan fishermen have been arrested for fishing in Indian waters

while the detention of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu for straying into Sri Lankan waters is a common occurrence.

Sri Lankan fishermen usually frequent waters around Andaman in search of tuna fish, available there. This variety of fish is in demand in Sri Lanka and Maldives, officials said.

Recently, tweleve Sri Lankan fishermen were arrested in the Palk Straits for entering Indian waters. They were released weeks after their detention.

Meanwhile, fishing activity in the sea here remained suspended following the annual 45-day ban on fishing imposed by the government in view of the breeding season.

In another development, a group of 37 Sri Lankan refugees arrived at Arichalmunai near here from Mannar, Vavunia and Jaffna in two boats early this morning.

This was the first time in last six months that such a large number of refugees arrived in a single batch.

According to officials, the refugees had fled the island due to bombing by the Sri Lankan forces since Saturday. There was also acute scarcity of food.

The refugees said thousands of Tamils were waiting in jungles to flee to India. Schools and colleges in Jaffna peninsula had been closed, they said

Source: chennaionline

SuchirIndia to build twin towers in Lanka

Suchirindia, a Hyderabad-based real estate business group, has ventured into construction of twin towers of 30 floors and 70 floors at Colombo in Sri Lanka.

The tower complex, to be undertaken in collaboration with NEB Rapid Infrastructure and the Government of Sri Lanka, will be developed at a cost of $ 255 million, of which which debt funding will be $ 102 million and equity funding $ 18 million. The balance would be mobolised from various institutions.

The project is scheduled to be completed by March 2012. Speaking to the media here on Monday, CEO of Suchirindia Y Kiron said that the complex would comprise a 30-floor commercial tower and a 70-floor residential tower and the total builtup area of the twin towers would be three million square feet.

He said that Metro Rail in Colombo was being developed by a joint venture partner, NEB Rapid Infrastructure Project Private Limited. Suchirindia was planning more such projects overseas, especially in the African continent, he said.

“We expanded our operations to Karnataka and are now going to enter Madya Pradesh and Bihar soon,” he claimed.

Source: siasat

Sri Lanka supports Iran's peaceful use of nuclear energy

Sri Lanka said Tuesday that it supports the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-day state visit to Sri Lanka, "the two sides confirmed the full and non-discriminatory implementation of Article IV of the NPT on peaceful nuclear co-operation."

They also stressed the importance of global nuclear disarmament, particularly the need for the nuclear powers to destroy their nuclear weapons, based on the decisions of the relevant international meetings.

The two countries "recognized the inalienable rights and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people at the highest level, and will continue to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people."

The two countries also expressed the hope that the differences among the different groups in Palestine will be resolved amicably.

Both sides emphasized the need for the preservation of the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and the participation of all Iraqi groups in the political process and expressed their support for the efforts of the elected Iraqi government to restore security and stability in Iraq.

The two sides expressed concern over the escalation of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan, and supported the endeavor by the Afghan government to restore peace and stability.

Ahmadinejad left for India after concluding his Sri Lankan leg of South Asia tour Tuesday afternoon.

Source: Xinhua

Fresh influx of Sri Lankan refugees worries Indian officials

An increased influx of Tamil refugees from across the Palk Straits following fresh violence in northern Sri Lanka is keeping officials in Tamil Nadu on tenterhooks. Official sources revealed Tuesday that 37 displaced people crossed the Palk Straits illegally without any identification papers claiming to be victims of the war between the Sri Lankan Army and Tamil militants seeking a separate homeland.

“Each person is believed to have paid Rs.10,000 (Indian Rs.5,000) for the trip. The 37 persons transported in two fishing craft were stranded in Arichalmunai (a sand dune two nautical miles from here) by unscrupulous boatmen,” an official of the “Q” Branch of the Tamil Nadu police said after sending the refugees to the Mandapam camp on the mainland.

Situated 600 km south of capital Chennai, this temple town has recorded the entry of 21,251 refugees since 2006, according to the statistics available with the state government.

“The worsening situation in north and northeast Sri Lanka will result in a bigger influx of refugees, certainly a worrying factor. We have no way of knowing the individuals’ identity - whether they are harmless victims of war or operatives from the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” a Coast Guard official said.

Meanwhile, a boat load of 15 Tamil fishermen from the island were being ferried towards capital Chennai by the Coast Guard for further questioning by “Q” Branch, the Coast Guard official added.

Source: thaindian

Three arrested in UK for 'funding Tamil Tigers'

Three men have been arrested in dawn raids by counter-terrorism police in London and Wales in connection with an investigation into the Tamil Tigers separatists.

The arrests were made in connection with allegations that money, equipment and weapons manuals have been stock-piled for use by the rebels in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Tigers, who have been fighting a 30-year war against the Sri Lankan government, are a proscribed organisation in Britain under the Terrorism Act.

Raids took place at three residential properties and one business in Newtown, Powys, one residential and one business address in Mitcham, South London and one further address in Harrow, North West London.

Two men, aged 39 and 46, were arrested at separate addresses in Newtown, and a third, aged 33, was held in Mitcham.

All three men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and have been transferred to the high security Paddington Green police station in central London for questioning.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “At 6.30am today officers from Counter Terrorism Command supported by Dyfed-Powys Police executed search warrants at a number of residential and business addresses in Newtown, Powys.

“Further warrants were executed at addresses in Mitcham and Surrey. Three men were arrested.

“This is part of a long-term investigation into alleged funding and procurement activity in support of terrorism overseas and two people have already been charged in connection with this investigation.

“It is not linked to al Qaida-type activity or inspired terrorism. It is in relation to support, procurement and fundraising for a proscribed organisation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers).”

The latest arrests were made as part of an investigation into two other men from South London who face trial later this year.

One of the men is accused of arranging meetings of the Tamil Tigers and addressing an event in Hyde Park, central London.

He is also accused of amassing a hoard of military equipment including machetes, combat boots, camouflage clothes, spades, handcuffs and weapons manuals.

Last November, the renegade Tamil Tiger leader Colonel Karuna Amman was arrested in a joint operation by British police and immigration officials in Kensington, West London.

He had arrived using a diplomatic passport under a false name, which he said was supplied by the Sri Lankan Government, and was sentenced to nine months for holding false identity documents.

There have also been allegations that the Tamil Tigers have used a network of petrol stations across Britain to skim credit cards, using the proceeds to fund their activities abroad.

A Dyfed Powys Police spokesman said: “We would like to reassure our communities that arrests of this nature in the force area are rare and they should not be unduly alarmed.

“The investigation is not linked to al Qaida and we don’t believe there was a risk to the local community. We would like to stress that this inquiry relates to alleged fundraising and procurement in support of terrorism overseas.

“We have the neighbourhood, local officers and the mobile police station in the Newtown area in a bid to keep the community informed and reassured.”

The LTTE has waged a violent secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan government since the 1970s in order to create a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

The conflict is rooted in a rivalry between the predominantly Hindu Tamils and the largely Buddhist Sinhalese, who control the Sri Lankan Government, with Sri Lanka’s Muslim community caught in the middle.

More than 70,000 people have died in more than three decades of fighting and thousands have been forced to leave their homes.

The LTTE has conducted dozens of suicide bombings, conducted by a special arm of the organisation called the Black Tigers.

Last year saw a clampdown on the LTTE, which is banned in more than 30 countries, with arrests in Britain, France and the US.

Source: telegraph

Iranian President in Colombo

picture: dailymirror

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived here on Monday evening on a two-day official visit. He will hold talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on issues of bilateral interest.

Sri Lanka believes the visit will provide a major boost to expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is accompanied by a high-power delegation that includes Foreign Minister Mottaki and Commerce Minister Mir Kazema.

Key events during the trip will be the inauguration of the Iran-funded Sapugaskanda Petroleum Refinery expansion project funded by Iran and a visit to the Uma Oya project.

The project receives $450 million from Iran for construction to generate 100 MW of electricity and provide water to the Moneragala and Hambantota districts.

Separately, the air force claimed to have attacked and severely damaged a building complex adjacent to an LTTE air strip in the Irnamdadhu jungle.

Source: Hindu

Lankan Navy arrests 6 Indian fishermen

Tension prevailed in Rameswaram today, following reports that the Sri Lankan Navy had arrested six Indian fishermen and seized an outboard engine fitted country boat used for poaching into Sri Lankan territorial waters.

A senior official of state Fisheries Department said they had received information from the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka about the arrest of six fishermen - Pastin (27) hailing from Tuticorin, Selvam (35), Jesu Abraham (50), Vellaichamy (24), Pitchai (22) and Antony (22), all hailing from Thangachimadam and Pamban coastal hamlets here.

The fishermen sailed into sea for fishing in an outboard engine fitted country boat on April 24, from Rameswaram.

They were detained by Sri Lankan Navy yesterday for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and poaching near Dwelft Island well within the Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The Indian fishermen were produced before Keits court and were remanded to custody and lodged at Jaffna prison.

The matter had been informed to the state government which was working on the necessary arrangements to get them released, he said.

Police stepped up security measures to prevent any untoward incident in Rameswaram. Various fishermen associations appealed to the Central and state governments to take immediate steps for the safe release of innocent fishermen.

Source: deepikaglobal