Lending agencies threaten to unplug CEB

Feb 15 (IL) The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB) and the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC) is reportedly pressurizing the Government to go ahead with the restructuring process of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) despite mounting opposition, sources said yesterday.

Sources told the Daily Mirror that the ADB, WB and JBIC had warned the officials that if the CEB failed to go ahead with the restructuring process, the agencies would not release any more funds, thus putting the already debt ridden CEB into a financial crisis.

The funding agencies during recent meetings with top Government officials had pointed out that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had gone through at least part of the restructuring process despite strong opposition from workers, but the CEB was still at square one.

The ultimatum by these funding agencies comes amidst a warning by a federation of 129 trade unions and a JVP Minister who have demanded the scrapping of the Electricity Reforms Bill passed by parliament in 2002. Sources claimed that the donors had expressed dissatisfaction at the way even the previous UNF Government handled the CEB restructuring process. The sources noted that according to the initial plan, if the CEB did go ahead with the restructuring, the Board would have been separated into eight independent companies.

The trade union federation, in a statement last week stated that the CEB was a national asset providing a crucial service to the working class and the public. There was a move to sell the board from a long time. During the UNP regime, the Electricity Reforms Act No. 28 of 2002 was passed despite opposition from all members in the opposition, including the present Power and Energy Minister who voted against.

"Recently, the CEB Chairman announced that the Act would come into force from February 28 this year. The National Trade Union Federation will oppose the move because such a decision was never expected through the Ministry led by the UPFA General Secretary. We will join the people to defeat the move if the Minister tries to introduce it," the statement added.

Initially the restructuring of the CEB was to be completed by October 1, 2003, but had to be postponed indefinitely due to the continuous opposition by thousands of CEB workers who claimed that they would lose their jobs after the restructuring