Bonanza Budget

A bonanza budget, full of concessions to many sectors, including many perks for public sector employees, was presented in Parliament yesterday by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Finance.The President declared that the per capita income would be increased to US$ 4,000 by 2015, a year earlier than expected. Bonanza.

The projected revenue for 2015 is Rs 1,600 billion. Whilst export earnings are projected to be US$ 11.5 billion, US$ 7 billion is expected in foreign remittances. He said, the government is strengthening revenue efforts as concessions are given in terms of public services, welfare programmes and public investments.

Thus, the government has introduced a simplified taxation method to generate additional revenue of Rs 5,000 million. Presenting his 10th Budget to a chamber where the Opposition ranks were also present, President Rajapaksa stressed the need to protect the hard-earned safety and security of the nation, while pointing out the need to accelerate development in all spheres. While proposing a salary increase to the private sector, the President made it mandatory for private sector employers to increase their share in the EPF contribution from 12% to 14% and include a salary increase of Rs 500. The minimum wage of a government sector employee was raised to Rs 15,000 and with emoluments the total coming to Rs 25,000 per month. The changes are effective from 1 January 2015. The Budget 2015 looked much an election-oriented budget with a Presidential Election on the cards in early January. (Compiled by Zahrah Imtiaz, Gagani Weerakoon, Menaka Indrakumar, Skandha Gunasekera and Ruwan Laknath Jayakody)


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In a First, ‘Dead’ Hearts Transplanted Into Living Patients in Australia

SYDNEY: In a breakthrough, a team of doctors, including an Indian-origin surgeon, on Friday said they have successfully performed the world’s first heart transplant in Australia using a “dead heart”, a major development that could save many lives.

The procedure, using hearts that had stopped beating, has been described as a “paradigm shift” that will herald a major increase in the pool of hearts available for transplantation.

It is predicted the breakthrough will save the lives of 30 per cent more heart transplant patients.

Until now, transplant units have relied solely on still-beating donor hearts from brain-dead patients.

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But the team at the lung transplant unit of St Vincent’s Hospital here announced they had transplanted three heart failure patients using donor hearts that had stopped beating for 20 minutes.

The first patient who received a heart Michelle Gribilas said she felt a decade younger and was now a “different person”.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Kumud Dhital, who performed the transplants with hearts donated after circulatory death (DCD), said he “kicked the air” when the first surgery was successful.

It was possible thanks to new technology, he said. “The incredible development of the preservation solution with this technology of being able to preserve the heart, resuscitate it and to assess the function of the heart has made this possible, he said.

Hearts are the only organ that is not used after the heart has stopped beating -known as donation after circulatory death.

Beating hearts are normally taken from brain-dead people, kept on ice for around four hours and then transplanted to patients.

The novel technique used in Sydney involved taking a heart that had stopped beating and reviving it in a machine known as a “heart-in-a-box”.

The heart is kept warm, the heartbeat is restored and a nourishing fluid helps reduce damage to the heart muscle.

Gribilas, 57, who was suffering from congenital heart failure. She had the surgery more than two months ago.

“Now I’m a different person altogether,” she said. “I feel like I’m 40 years old – I’m very lucky.”

There have since been a further two successful operations.

Prof Peter MacDonald, head of St Vincent’s heart transplant unit, said: “This breakthrough represents a major inroad to reducing the shortage of donor organs.”

It is thought the heart-in-a-box, which is being tested at sites around the world, could save up to 30 per cent more lives by increasing the number of available organs.

The breakthrough has been welcomed around the world.

The British Heart Foundation described it as a “significant development”.


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Suicide bomber threat to Air India flights, four major airports on alert

Security was ramped up on Friday at four major airports including Mumbai and Kolkata following an email warning that suicide bombers would try to target an Air India flight. Reports said the new security measures included increased checks on passengers, tightening of access control and putting anti-hijacking units on alert. The two other airports mentioned in the email are Ahmedabad and Kochi.

The email reached the Kolkata office of the Airports Authority of India on Thursday night, following which the security at these air ports were increased.

The Ahmedabad Mirror reported quoting a letter from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security that the email warned that the suicide bombers would try to board the Air India flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai on Friday midnight and the Mumbai-Kochi flight on Saturday morning.

Airport director AKC Nair told PTI that they received the information from Kolkata. “There was a threat of bomb attack or bomb suicide attack,” he said.

Soon after an alarm was raised, security was tightened in and around Kochi airport. “After intense search and combing operation we couldn’t find anything unusual,” a senior airport official said.

A high-level meeting was convened this morning by CISF DIG Anand Mohan, who arrived in Kochi from Chennai, to review the security at the airport.

A bomb detection and disposal squad, Quick Response team, CISF and police are keeping a constant vigil at the airport.

Security at the airport perimeter entrance has also been further tightened.


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Tillakaratne Dilshan’s luxury hotel inaugurated by Mahinda Rajapaksa

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the former Sri Lankan captain’s luxury Hotel, ‘D Pavilion Inn’, was declared open by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Stafford Avenue.

It is a new venture for the attacking Sri Lankan batsman. Dilshan’s wife and other family members were present at the inauguration ceremony.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have announced a 15-member squad for the first three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) of the five-match series against India which is likely to start from November 2. Lanka will be led by Angelo Mathews. Veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will also tour. Niroshan Dickwella also makes it to the squad as ‘keeper. The Lanka tour will be played from October 28 to November 18, 2014. The tour will also include a practice match in Mumbai. Squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Ashan Priyanjan, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad, Lahiru Gamage, Chathuranga De Silva, Seekuge Prasanna, Suraj Randiv.


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After the next Presidential Election is held early January, the government could hold a referendum to extend the life of the present Parliament by a further six years, under powers vested in the Executive, Minister of Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation, Jayaratne Herath hinted.

He made this observation during an event to mark the assuming of duties of Deputy Minister of Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation, V. Radhakrishnan, yesterday. Herath also said it was the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) that is enjoying the benefits of the Executive Presidency that was introduced by the United National Party (UNP) and added it was President Rajapaksa who ended the war though there were several Executive Presidents before him. “President Rajapaksa used the powers of the Executive to end the conflict,” he said. Herath also said the President will win the upcoming election with a big margin.


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