Fish exports will reach 44 percent By end year: Amaraweera

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said 116 lagoons are to be developed while the development of 10 lagoons had already commenced, adding that by the end of this year, fish exports would reach 44 percent.

“There are two major issues before the Fisheries Ministry that needs to be resolved. One is the Indian fishermen issue, while the other was the EU ban. However, we were able to successfully resolve the EU issue and have the ban lifted, which has now led to a 44 percent rise in fish exports by the end of the year,” he said, joining the Committee Stage debate of the Appropriation Bill 2018 on the financial heads of Power and Renewable Energy Ministry, in Parliament yesterday.

On the Indian fishermen issue, the minister said in the past that while encroaching Indian fishermen were taken into custody and their boats confiscated, due to appeals by the Indian Government the fishermen had to be released along with their boats. However, he said after the Fisheries Ministry took a firm stand on not releasing the fishing vessels, there has been a significant reduction in the number of Indian fishermen encroaching Sri Lanka’s territorial waters. “In fact, there had been a reduction of around 50 percent. We have also introduced a new Act in Parliament and when it is enacted, we intend to further contain this issue. Our aim is to resolve this issue cordially with India and we have already held several rounds of talks, which looks promising. The Indian government too had accepted that the fishing method used by the Indian fishing trawlers was illegal and have agreed to divert these fishermen to other alternatives. In fact, already the Indian Government has removed around 200 of these trawlers and given them incentives to transform their trawlers into multi-day trawlers that could fish in open seas. Another group had been redirected to other agricultural activities. But, the most significant achievement was that the Indian Government agreed to halt the registration of these bottom trawlers in the future. The Indian Government had also allocated a large sum through their budget to construct fishing harbours to accommodate multi-day trawlers. We achieved all these by working together with the Indian government,” Amaraweera added.

The minister pointed out that Indian fishermen who are arrested for encroaching on Sri Lankan territorial waters, would be subjected to a fine prior to being released, while their boats would be confiscated. He said through Budget 2018, the allocation for the fisheries ministry was the highest allocation that has been made in history.

The country has over 10,000 tanks, but only a few of these tanks had fishlings placed in them to improve the fresh water fishing industry, amounting to only 20% of the requirement. However, now the government has increased it to 40 percent of the requirement and the minister assured that by the end of 2019, it would be increased to 80 percent of the requirement, adding that several fish and prawn hatcheries had been set up in order to improve fish resources.

Minister Amaraweera said all measures would be taken to improve the image of the fisher folk and bring dignity to their profession. He added that incentives would be given to promote larger fishing vessels over 55 feet and increase the fishing fleet, including the establishment of proper storage facilities to ensure quality standards.

IGP erred when he said police failed to control Gintota issue:Sagala

Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Rathnayake in Parliament yesterday, appreciated the services rendered by the Police in controlling the situation in Gingtota without allowing it to spread across the country as a racial issue.

He made this observation refuting a statement made by the Inspector General of Police that said the Police failed at the Gintota incident.

He made these observations in response to a question raised by Chief Opposition Whip and JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake under Standing Order 23 (2). MP Dissanayake made the special statement on November 24.

Minister Rathnayaka further said that the situation had been controlled, preventing it spreading across the country, due to the commendable services rendered by the Police. He added that the Police Special Task Force, the Navy and the Army too assisted the Police to bring the situation under control.

The minister further stated that a Police Post had been set up in the area to prevent any further tension. He added that several rounds of discussions were held to heal the broken relationship between the Sinhalese and the Muslims of the area with the participation of religious dignitaries, civil organizations, members of the community, Police and public. He also added that in accordance with a proposal made, a committee comprising intellectuals, all religious dignitaries of he seven Gramaseva Niladari Divisions that were involved in the Gintota incident would be set up soon. “Still, members of the Police, STF, Navy and Army are deployed in those areas,” Minister Rathnayake said. “We are on alert concerning the situation in the area.”

He said that statements had been taken from 134 persons in connection with the incident. He added that paying compensation for damages is not a responsibility of his Ministry and the matter would be directed to the relevant Minister.

“Although some attempted to mislead the people by saying the STF was removed from the site before the situation was brought under control, it is wrong,” Minister Rathnayake said. “In reality, when the situation subsided, the strength of the STF was reduced. But later, more personnel were deployed as soon as the situation grew worse.”

Following the Minister’s statement, MP Anura Dissanayake said that some political parties attempted to ignite an issue of racism. “At such a situation, the reduction of STF personnel amidst the situation was wrong,” MP Dissanayake said. “The IGP had said that the Police failed in that incident. Who is responsible for the failure?. We need to know.”

The Minister said that he did not agree with the IGP’s statement if he had said so. He added that he appreciated the efforts of the Police.

Govt. submits supplementary estimate seeking approval of Rs. 11,007,475,445 for expenses by various depts.

The Government yesterday, submitted a supplementary estimate in Parliament seeking the approval for a total sum of Rs 11,007,475,445 for covering additional expenses incurred by various departments and ministries from January 01 to October 31, this year.

The estimate submitted by the Leader of the House, Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella, also seeks the approval for a sum of Rs 30,000,000 to construct a memorial in honour of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera as per a Cabinet decision dated 22.08.2017.

The estimate also seeks the approval of Parliament to cover expenses of Rs 66,040,000 for additional allocations provided for paying Agriculture Ministry’s rents and local taxes.

Among other key expenses was a sum of Rs 1,672,900,000 paid by the Department of Treasury Operations to meet the shortfall of provision for loan flotation expenses.

Approval had also been sought for a sum of Rs 10,000,000 by the Southern Provincial Council to meet the expenditure made by Ridiyagama Detention Centre in rehabilitating beggars. An additional sum of Rs 9,000,000 to purchase an ambulance and two mini trucks for the centre, had also been sought to cover by the estimate. Supplementary allocations are provided strictly for the purposes specified in the approved budget estimates to relevant spending agencies having carried out a needed assessment, giving consideration to relevant financial regulations and approved procedures.

However, this supplementary provision does not change the approved total expenditure limits of the annual estimate by Parliament. The allocation for such purposes have been made under the project of budgetary support services and contingent liabilities of the Department of National Budget and it is under the limits of the approved annual budget.Therefore, either the borrowing limit or the maximum limit of total expenditure would not be increased due to granting of these supplementary provisions, a note attached to the estimate said.

Rs. 67.8 B forthcoming to CPC:Anoma

Deputy Minister of Petroleum Resources Anoma Gamage, said a sum of Rs. 67.8 billion was forthcoming to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation(CPC) from various state institutions, while the CEB alone owes the CPC Rs. 41 million.

She said Rs. Six billion was forthcoming to the CPC from private power producers, while Rs. 1.2 million has to be received from the Tri Forces and 12 million by Sri Lankan Airlines. “The Road Development Authority (RDA) has to pay Rs. 248 million and Rs. 325 million was forthcoming to us from the Maga Neguma project. Western Province RDA has to pay another Rs. 417 million, while the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) has to pay Rs. 79 million. The other state institutions was in debt to the CPC to the tune of another Rs. 5,173 million.”

She said so, joining the committee stage debate on Budget 2018 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources Development. Minister Gamage said the CPC owes the Bank of Ceylon $ 1,140 million, $ 842 million to the People’s Bank, $ 251 million to the Iranian Oil Company amounting to a total debt burden of $ 2.233 billion. The Deputy Minister said, “In 2015 Rs. 15,049 million was paid as interest. Rs. 11,405 million was paid in 2016 and until this point of 2017, the CPC has paid Rs. 8,890 million for debt interests.”

‘Fuel prices will not be increased’

The prices of fossil fuel would not be increased despite requests by the IOC, since the government had no intentions of placing extra burdens on the people, said Petroleum Resources Development Minister Arjuna Ranathunga in Parliament yesterday.

The minister said that there was a tendency of increasing the fuel price in the world market. “But the government had not decided not to increase the price,” said Minister Ranathunga. “The decision had been taken not because of impending elections, but due to the government’s reluctance to place the burden on the people.

He made these observations, while joining the Committee Stage Debate of the Appropriation Bill 2018, under the financial heads of Power and Renewable Energy Ministry, Petroleum Resources Development Ministry and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry. Minister Ranathunga also said that the sale of kerosene oil incurred a loss. He also said that petrol sheds had been instructed not to issue kerosene oil to buses, while the licenses of those petrol sheds that do so, would be cancelled. He added that stern action would be taken from the beginning of January.

Minister Ranathunga said that government institutions had defaulted a sum of Rs 67 billion to the Petroleum Resources Development Ministry. He also said that measures had to be taken to prevent substandard oil being imported, while a wrong message was conveyed to the public. “If the oil was to be imported outside tender procedures, the public would be affected,” Minister Ranathunga said. “There was a wrong media campaign through the facebook as well. We have requested for an investigation into the incident.”

No electricity hike within next two years: Ajith

Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera revealed that there would be no increase in electricity bills at least for the next two years. Elaborating on the government’s future plans for the power generation sector, he said the government’s intention to establish a solar and wind power park in Poonerin and also distribute 10 million Led bulbs without an initial payment to encourage people to use environmentally friendly and low power consuming lighting.

He said this during the Committee Stage Debate of the Budget 2018 under the financial heads of Power and Renewable Energy, in Parliament yesterday.

The minister noted that the CEB pays duty and taxes to the tune of 30.28 for every litre of diesel that is imported and Rs. 4 billion as VAT, adding that the government intends to focus on low cost and efficient power sources in the future to meet the growing demand in the country. He added that despite the AAA Fitch rating, the CEB still had a long way to go. “We have planned to establish a 500 MW power plant in Sampoor, but with everything in place and even with allocating newspaper pages to call for tenders, the government notified us to stop the project. We wanted to do this as a short term measure to resolve the country’s power crisis. This was a very important project for the country. However, that was the decision taken by the government. But, now a decision has been taken to amalgamate the country’s power sources and move ahead,” Perera said.

The Deputy Minister added that within a year, the CEB would be able to achieve its goal of generating 100 MW of power through solar energy. He also noted with gratitude the contribution of the Sustainable Energy Authority in reaching the target.

Touching on the importance of wind power, Minister Ajith Perera said the corrupt permit system that was in practice would be discarded and no permits would be issued in the future. “

We have been able to call for tenders from the private sector and reduce the price of a unit of power by 40 percent. In the case of solar power, we have been able to reduce the price per unit by a huge 50 percent by calling for tenders. Therefore, despite allegations that the tender process is lengthy, we intend to conduct all projects in a competitive manner, by calling for tenders and selecting the most suitable deal and also conduct it in a transparent manner,” the Minister noted.

He added that during the past regime, a 21-year-old was appointed as the Chairman of the Coal Company which turned into a family business. Coal tenders in the past was an issue of concern being riddled with corruption, but today the government has developed an efficient system where not a single tender had any issue under the good governance regime.

Minister Perera noted that the power demand in the country grows at an annual rate of around 5 percent and it was essential to manage power consumption efficiently, while improving the power generation sector.

“A Presidential Task Force on Demand Side Management needs to be set up to manage the power sector. Further, in order to promote solar power, we have taken many measures through the Budget.

Under the ‘rivi bala savi’ loan scheme, loans of up to Rs. 350,000 could be obtained at an annual interest rate of 6 percent. Further, for roof mounted solar panels, loans could be obtained to the tune of Rs. 7.5 million at an annual interest rate of 8 percent,” he added.

With the aim of promoting renewable and environmentally friendly power sources, the government has also exempted or reduced that taxes on solar panels, inverters, bio mass and other sustainable energy sources.

JVP MP blasts former politicos, relatives for embezzling CPC funds

JVP- MP Nalinda Jayatissa accused former politicians, their relatives and henchmen for having collectively fraudulently embezzled Petroleum Corporation funds and engaged in fraudulent activities.

He noted that based on the Auditor General’s report, through the lubricant marketing promotion project in 2014 alone, a financial misappropriation of over Rs. 150 million had taken place.

Citing the Auditor General’s report, Jayatissa said Rs. 2.5 million had been approved illegally for the Fox Hill Super Cross organised to promote lubricants, pricing had been called from four fictitious companies and advertising had been given to their own companies, granting Rs. 5.4 million for advertising of Super Diesel and lubricants, Rs. 93 million had been spent on television advertising, Rs. 12 million on radio advertising and many other discrepancies had been reported. He said a person named Hudson Samarasinghe had been paid at the rate of Rs. 30,000 per month for a period of six months for promotional activities, but no promotion had taken place.

“In addition, the daughter-in-law of a prominent minister had 50 percent ownership of the Filling station at the Jaffna clock tower, Kasturi Road filling station and the Palai, Killinochchi filling station, but this had also been gained amidst several irregularities,” Jayatissa said.

Insurance scheme for farmers whose crops are damaged by wildlife:Gamini

An Insurance scheme would be introduced to farmers whose crops are damaged by wildlife activities, said the Sustainable Development and Wildlife and Buddhasasana Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera yesterday.

He made this observation in Parliament in response to a query made by MP Ananda Aluthgamage during the round of questions for oral answers.

Minister Perera said that the proposal had already been presented before the Cabinet, while the approval would be granted within a short period of time.

The minister also said that those farmers whose cultivation is damaged by elephants, monkeys, wild boar, etc., would benefit from this scheme, reducing animal - human conflicts to a certain extent. He added that the people attempt to kill animals that damage their crops since they fall destitute following the damage.

He also added that when farmers are compensated for their damage, their rage would cool down.

He further said that although the previous government paid Rs 100,000 as compensation for victims who died of wildlife attacks, this government had increased the sum to Rs 500,000. He also added that compensation would be paid to victims of elephant, leopard or bear attacks and even snake bites.

Uplift for fishermen: Niroshan

Although the fishermen had to face bullets during the last regime, the good governance government enhanced the living standards of the fishermen in numerous ways, said National Policies and Economic Affairs State Minister Niroshan Perera yesterday.

He said so in Parliament, joining the Committee Stage Debate of the Appropriation Bill 2018, under the financial heads of Power and the Renewable Energy Ministry, Petroleum Resources Development Ministry and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry.

He further said that this government could get the fish export ban to Europe lifted, while illegal fishing by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters were also reduced.

“The fishermen had to face difficulties during the last regime due to the increase of fuel price,” the State Minister said.”We have provided facilities to go deep sea fishing and have plans to increase those facilities.”

He also said that the Government had plans to convert the country into a hub that provides fish to the entire world.

Excise duty hike for non-potable spirits

The Finance Ministry issued a Gazette Extraordinary to charge an excise duty of Rs. 15 per bulk kilo of non-potable spirits imported into the country with effect from November 10.

The Gazette submitted for the approval of Parliament yesterday said that non-potable Methanol, Propanol, Isopropyl alcohol, Butanol, Isobutnaol, Secondary Butyl alcohol and tertiary butyl alcohol would be imposed the new tax of Rs 15.

According to the Gazette, the new provisions would not in any manner influence the orders that exist at present in relations to potable liquor, denatured spirits and molasses.

“Any person shall not import, export, manufacture, keep in possession, store sell, transport, submit or exhibit for sale any non-potable spirit specified i.e.

Methanol, propanol, Isopropyl alcohol, Butanol, Isobutnaol, Secondary Butyl alcohol and tertiary butyl alcohol except under the authoritative power of a license issued in that behalf to a person by the Commissioner General of Excise,” says the Gazette issued under the signature of Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Govt. should take an initiative to develop marine resources: Wedaarachchi

State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Dilip Wedaarachchi, said the dignity of fishermen should be upheld and the government has taken an extensive initiative to improve marine resources, while developing the fisheries sector.

He said this in Parliament yesterday, joining the Committee Stage Debate of the Appropriation Bill 2018, under the financial heads of Power and Renewable Energy Ministry, Petroleum Resources Development Ministry and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry.

“A sum of Rs. 200 million had been allocated for the development of the Ghandara and Welimankada Fisheries harbours and also for the purchase of new boats.

Through this blue green budget, measures have been proposed to provide fishermen with small refrigeration units. This is a welcome move as the fishermen could fetch a good price for their catch,” he said.

The State Minister noted that during the previous bout of bad weather, several fishermen had lost their lives. He said the Fisheries Ministry had proposed to provide fishermen with life jackets and life boats for their fishing boats.

“We need to promote community based management. We have also allocated a large sum for the propagation of aquaculture. We also intend to develop the fresh water fishing industry as well. In 2016, we allocated Rs. 808 million for the development of the fresh water fishing industry, while in the 2018 Budget, Rs. 2,435 million had been allocated.”

Wedaarachchi said the fishing industry should move forward utilising modern technology, while digital technology could be made use of in marketing fish products.

Marine resources are so vast that it could have benefits for economies of many fields. He noted that these poor fishermen should be afforded every possible measure to improve their livelihood and income.

CEB employees salary anomalies to be taken up within next three weeks: Siyambalapitiya

The decision to rectify salary anomalies of the Ceylon Electricity Board(CEB) employees, would be taken within two to three weeks, said Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya in Parliament yesterday.

He said that several rounds of discussions by the Cabinet of Ministers in this connection had been completed with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He made these observations joining the Committee Stage Debate of the Appropriation Bill 2018, under the financial heads of the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry, Petroleum Resources Development Ministry and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Ministry.

The minister said that the government could reach the electricity provision a record making rate of 99.7 percent. “When I was appointed the Minister, there were 275,000 houses without power, although they had power lines right in front of their houses,” Minister Siyambalapitiya said. “By now, we have been able to provide electricity to 250,000 houses. If there were 2 children in those houses studying with under a kerosene oil bottle lamp by now, those half a million children are learning under electricity.”

The minister said that some opposition members spoke of CEB employees being under contract. He added that the CEB had recruited 6,700 employees under this government. He also added that under the Soorya Bala Sangrama project, the CEB had been able to generate 100 MW and the same achievement was celebrated recently. “These projects should have been initiated a long time ago, but under President Maithripala Sirisena’s guidance, the projects were expedited,” Minister Siyambalapitiya said. “Now we have a plan to set up solar power generating villages. In addition, there is a plan to permit the people to generate solar power as a source of income. They would be provided with low interest loans.”

He also said that many questioned of the grant of tenders for wind power generation. He added that due to this reason, the price of a solar power unit had been reduced to Rs 12.29 from Rs 20.42. He also said that the price of a unit of solar power could be reduced to Rs 17.06 from Rs 23.10 due to tenders being granted. He added that due to the revolutionary decisions taken by the Ministry, the solar power unit importers have increased to 200. “We have several power plants that have the capacity to use liquid gas, but runs on diesel,” Minister Siyambalapitiya said. “Due to this reason, we incur a loss of Rs. 30 billion. Cabinet approval would be given to convert the change soon.”

(Daily News)

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