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Reform or perish, it’s not too late
Samsung Galaxy 5G-ready devices now available at Dialog
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A National Partnership With Busineses For Biodiversity
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Dialog Axiata PLC recently announced the pre-order availability for the all new 5G-ready Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G devices.
The latest foldable smartphone range by Samsung is now available for pre-order via Preorder.dialog.lk until 30th September 2021. Dialog Customers will also receive anytime free Data worth 200 GB (valid for 60 days) with Fold3 purchases or 150 GB (valid for 60 days) with Flip3 purchases made on or before the 30th October 2021. Club Vision members have the added benefit of redeeming their loyalty discounts when purchasing the devices from Dialog. Customers are also provided with the convenient payment method of purchasing the latest Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 and Fold3 on monthly instalment plans at 0% interest – up to 40 months with leading credit cards. All online purchases will also receive free doorstep delivery.
Opening the next chapter in foldable innovation, both devices are premium foldable smartphones built with the craftsmanship and flagship innovations Samsung users have come to love and expect. The third generation of these category-defining devices incorporates key improvements that Samsung foldable users have asked for—making them highly durable with more optimized foldable experiences than ever before. From iconic design to immersive entertainment, Galaxy Z Flip3 and Z Fold3 offer users unique new ways to work, watch, and play. For those who need the ultimate device for productivity and immersive entertainment, Galaxy Z Fold3 is a true multitasking powerhouse with next-level performance, an undisrupted 7.6-inch Infinity Flex Display, and the first-ever S Pen2 support on a foldable device. For those who want style that comes with function, Galaxy Z Flip3 is the ideal device with its sleek, compact, and pocketable design, enhanced camera features, and a larger Cover Screen built for quick use on the go.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is available in the colour Cream with an 8GB RAM + 256 GB internal storage capacity and is priced at Rs. 249,999/-. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is available in the colours of Phantom Black and Phantom Green with a 12 GB RAM + 256 GB internal storage capacity and is priced at Rs. 399,999/-.
Reform or perish, it’s not too late
BoardPAC appointed Strategic Partner of Commonwealth’s Business Network – CWEIC
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By K.D.D.B Vimanga and Naqiya Shiraz
The Sri Lankan economy faces a historical crisis. The root causes are the twin deficits. First, the persistent fiscal deficit – the gap between government expenditure and income. Second, the external current account deficit – the gap between total exports and imports. The problems have been festering for too long. Without urgent reforms, the crisis could easily morph into a full-blown debt crisis.
Sovereign debt workouts are extremely painful for citizens. A mangled debt restructuring can perpetuate the sense of crisis for years or even decades. A return to normal economic activity may be delayed, credit market access frozen, trade finance unavailable.
With the global pandemic, these are unusual and difficult times. The next five years are going to be crucial for the country. The problems can no longer be avoided and should be faced squarely. The journey ahead is going to be painful but the longer these are delayed the worse the problem becomes and the magnitude of the damage compounds.
State of the Economy
The new government inherited a fragile economy, battered by the Easter attacks of 2019, the constitutional crisis of October 2018 and the worst drought in 40 years in 2017. With the pandemic in 2020 Sri Lanka’s economy shrank by 3.6% with all sectors of the economy contracting.
Yet, the pandemic is not the sole cause – it only accelerated the decline of Sri Lanka’s economy that was weak to begin with. The country has long been plagued by structural weaknesses, with growth rates in the last few years even below the average growth rate during the war. Mismanaged government expenditure coupled with a long term decline in revenue have characterised Sri Lanka’s fiscal policy. As of 2020 total tax as a percentage of GDP fell to just 8%, while recurrent expenditure increased.
Borrowing to finance the persistent budget deficits is proving to be unsustainable. Total government debt rose to 101% of GDP in 2020 and has grown since. Sovereign downgrades have shut the country from international debt markets. The foreign reserves declined from US$ 7.6 bn in 2019 to US$ 5.7bn at the end of 2020 and to US$ 2.8 bn by July 2021. This level of reserves is equivalent to less than two months of imports. With future debt obligations also in need of financing, the situation is dire.
The import restrictions placed to combat this foreign exchange crisis have failed to achieve their purpose and are doing more harm than good. imports rose 30% in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020 despite stringent restrictions.
The problem lies not in the trade policy but in loose fiscal and monetary policy that has increased demand pressures within the economy, drawing in imports and leading to the balance of payments crisis and consequently the depreciation of the currency.
Measures by the Central Bank to address this by exchange rate controls and moral suasion have caused a shortage of foreign currency leading to a logjam in imports.
Fundamental and long-running macroeconomic problems were intensified by the pandemic.Import restrictions, price and exchange controls do not address the real causes.
Treating symptoms instead of the underlying causes is a recipe for disaster.
The continuation of such policies will lead to the deterioration of the economy, elevate scarcities, disadvantage the poor who are more vulnerable and in the long run lead to even higher prices and lower output due to lack of investment.
Sri Lanka’s GDP growth over the last decade has been alternating between short periods of high growth and prolonged periods of low growth. This is a result of the state-led, inward looking policies of the last decade.
A comprehensive reform agenda must be built around five fundamental pillars:
i) fiscal consolidation – The need to manage government spending within available resources and to reduce debt are paramount. Revenue mobilization must improve but the control of expenditure cannot be ignored. Budgetary institutions must be strengthened and there must be reviews not only of the scale of spending but also the scope of Government.
ii) Much of government expenditure is rigid – the bulk comprises salaries, pensions and interest so reducing these is a long term process. Reforming State Enterprises, especially in the energy sector and Sri Lankan Airlines is less difficult and could yield substantial savings. Continued operation of inefficient and loss-making SOE’s is untenable under such tight fiscal conditions. Financing SOE’s from state bank borrowings and transfers from government reduces the funds available for vital and underfunded sectors such as healthcare and education. Excessive SOE debt also weakens the financial sector and increases the contingent liabilities of the state. Therefore SOE reforms commencing with improving governance, transparency, establishing cost reflective pricing and privatisation are necessary. This can take a significant weight off the public finances and by fostering competition contribute to improvements in overall economic productivity.
iii) Tighten monetary policy and maintain exchange rate flexibility. Immediate structural reforms include, Inflation targeting, ensuring the independence of the central bank by way of legislation and enabling the functioning of a flexible exchange rate regime. Further significant attention has to be placed on the financial sector stability with a cohesive financial sector consolidation plan, with special emphasis on restructuring of SOE debt.
iv) Supporting trade and investment. Sri Lanka cannot achieve economic growth without international trade which means linking to global production sharing networks. Special focus has to be given to reducing Sri Lanka’s high rates of protection which creates a domestic market bias in the economy along with measures to improve trade facilitation and attract new export oriented FDI.
Attempts to build local champions supported by high levels of protection have
(a) diverted resources away from competitive businesses,
(b) created a hostile environment for foreign investment,
(c) been detrimental to consumer welfare,
(d) dragged down growth
v) Structural reforms to increase productivity and attract FDI – Productivity levels in Sri Lanka have not matched pace with the rest of the growing economies. The reforms mentioned above are extensively discussed in Advocata’s latest publication “Framework for Economic Recovery”.
Sri Lanka stumbled into the coronavirus crisis in bad shape,with weak finances; high debt and widening fiscal deficits. It no longer has the luxury to delay painful reforms. Failure to do so will not only jeopardize the economy; it could even spawn social and humanitarian crises.
Naqiya Shiraz is the Research Analyst at the Advocata Institute and can be contacted at [email protected] Vimanga is a Policy Analyst at the Advocata Institute. He can be contacted at [email protected]
BoardPAC, the Sri Lanka-based multinational Board meeting automation solutions company, has been appointed a Strategic Partner of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), the organization officially mandated by the Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote trade and investment between the 54 Commonwealth member countries, a company news release said last week.
“This prestigious appointment will see CWEIC relying on BoardPAC’s award-winning solutions to conduct board and committee meetings with members and maintain relationships across the Commonwealth network at a time when the global pandemic’s complete disruption of business activity has resulted in a surge in the demand for efficient board meeting automation,” it said.
The Company said the partnership will also effectively promote the BoardPAC platform to new users and facilitate its expansion into new territories and focus markets. BoardPAC already has a global user base in excess of 50,000 and a presence in more than 40 countries.
Noting that BoardPAC’s latest partnership serves as yet another testament to the quality of its solutions, BoardPAC Co-Founder/CEO, Lakmini Wijesundera stated: “Our growth plan includes expanding our worldwide network, and our strategic alliance with CWEIC will strongly help us extend our presence into Commonwealth territories. The strategic cooperation between CWEIC and BoardPAC is especially relevant in light of the worldwide pandemic, and the emerging need for secure remote working and filling the void in virtual board meetings.”
CWEIC Chairman, Rt. Hon. Lord Jonathan Marland said: “We are looking forward to work closely with BoardPAC. The alliance will not only help CWEIC to conduct virtual board meetings securely and safely, but also align ourselves with all governance, risk and compliance as well as environmental, social, and governance frameworks.” Echoing this sentiment, CWEIC Deputy Chair, Sir Hugo Swire stated: “We are excited to partner with BoardPAC and extend modern digital governance and compliance solutions to organisations operating in the Commonwealth.”
A commercial, not-for-profit membership organisation, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council’s network includes around 100 business and government Strategic Partners (members) including Standard Chartered, Zenith Bank, Trade & Investment Queensland and the Government of the Maldives from 30 countries and territories. Every two years, CWEIC hosts the Commonwealth Business Forum in association with the host country of The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
BoardPAC is an award winning, multinational, paperless board meeting automation solutions provider, recognized for driving simple, secure, sustainable and experiential communications for Board and Executive members. Leading corporates such as Petronas, Deloitte, EY, Mercedes Benz, Prudential, Hong Leong Group, Stock Exchange of Malaysia, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Bombay Stock Exchange, Bank Negara, Maybank, Power Grid Corporation of India, Colombo Stock Exchange, and Sri Lankan Airlines are just some of BoardPAC’s success stories, and the Company said the partnership with the CWEIC will pave the way to several more high-profile additions to this list.
Safeguarding biodiversity is integral to sustainable development, competitiveness, economic growth and
employment. Many of the services that biodiversity and ecosystems provide are currently severely threatened. In an attempt to address this issue, Biodiversity Sri Lanka (BSL) was initiated in August 2012 by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Dilmah Conservation. It was created to respond to a demand for the establishment of a facility where businesses can come together to share experiences and best practices, learn from their peers, and voice their needs and concerns, aiming to strengthen the link between the business sector and the conservation community. BSL aims to assist the private sector to make a paradigm shift in efforts to place true and realistic values on Sri Lanka’s natural heritage.
BSL is a member of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity (GPBB) established under the Convention on Biological Diversity. For facilitating forums of dialogue with businesses, among Parties, Governments and other stakeholders, the Government of Sri Lanka has recognized BSL to play this role, as an independent, and autonomous platform. BSL has helped to establish National Business and Biodiversity Initiatives in Pakistan and Viet Nam. For increased collaboration between the state and the private sector, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), through the Ministry of Environment, to use combined advantages for enhancing biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the country.
Members and priority benefits
The membership of BSL is open to Sri Lanka-based businesses ranging from national to multinational companies, as well as small and medium enterprises. Currently, 40 leading corporates – all with high standards of environmental custodianship have backed BSL by becoming its invited Patron Members. BSL has also 38 General Members and its SME Members are growing. The United Nations Development Programme, the German Development Co-operation (GIZ) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) are Associate Members.
Membership benefits include access to a comprehensive technical database carrying information on expertise available in conservation related fields, priority seating in events hosted by the BSL Academy in which best practices are disseminated, use of an Online Project Bank setting out project ideas and recognition to resource efficiency pledges, A Biodiversity Projects Ranking Scheme awards Star Ranks and exclusive use of a dedicated logo aiding companies to improve the design and implementation of biodiversity conservation-related projects. An online repository www.lifecommitment.lk, maintains information on private sector contributions towards multiple national and international biodiversity commitments, assessing also hitherto unavailable financial investments made towards these initiatives over a determined period.
Awarding genuine efforts towards biodiversity conservation
In recognition of the positive work being carried out by companies, the ACCA and BSL collaborated in offering a joint award for excellence in environmental/biodiversity project implementation. Recognizing its relevance to current needs of the current job market, BSL provides technical assistance to the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo in the Honours Degree in Business & Environment, connecting the students and enabling industrial placements with eminent partners representing leading corporate entities in Sri Lanka.
Encouraging Public-private-community partnerships
Working with its members on public private community partnerships has been an integral part of BSL’s work. Joining hands with the Forest Department, IUCN Sri Lanka, and Patron Member – HSBC, BSL worked to conserve the Puwakpitiya Oya, to serve as a replicable model for mini watershed conservation and management. Through a science-driven, community-centric approach, the initiative resulted in substantial improvements in ecological functions, and improved living standards. Methodology, results, and best practices are documented for use in longer-term planning and learning. Together with contributions to SDGs and to national biodiversity priorities.
Tools for restoration
BSL’’s flagship project “LIFE” carried out in partnership with the Forest Department, IUCN Sri Lanka and eleven member companies, has developed a forest restoration plan for a degraded block within the Kanneliya Forest Reserve, restoring connectivity using scientific principles. Enhancement of habitat quality, species diversity and increased biodiversity and ecosystem services are monitored. As a first for Sri Lanka, working with experts both locally and internationally, a Biodiversity Credit Accrual System is being designed with the objective of assigning a unit value for enhanced biodiversity and ecosystem services, in par with international requirements and standards. The aim of the project is to support the development of policies and tools to utilize accrued credits sustainably.
Tackling the plastic menace
According to the Marine Environment Protection Authority of Sri Lanka, the country dumps 1 billion pounds of plastic and polythene a year and 4 million polythene bags alone each day. BSL together with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce developed an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Roadmap to minimize plastic loadings into the coastal and marine environment. Building the capacity of stakeholders, to accelerate plastic waste management, using a participatory approach was an integral part of this initiative. To maximize sustainable utilization of our beaches, BSL’s Life to our Beaches campaign takes measures to keep our beaches clean and free of hazards allowing for public movement and recreation.
For showcasing hidden best practices in environmental conservation, initiated by the plantations and tourism sectors, two BSL publications enhance awareness and provides learning opportunities to others in the industry, on the benefits and value of engaging in environmental conservation efforts and in the enhancement of biodiversity. These are available for sale in leading bookshops.
Biodiversity Sri Lanka aims to assist the private sector to make a paradigm shift in efforts to place true and realistic values on Sri Lanka’s natural heritage, setting and then reaching new ambitious targets to value and conserve the fundamental riches of the life support systems and the wildlife and people that depend upon them.
A Board of Directors consisting of a permanent representative each from the three Initiating Partners and two representatives each from the Patron and General Members, together directs the activities of BSL. The board consist of Dilhan C. Fernando, Board Chair, Representative- Initiating Partner, Trustee, Dilmah Conservation Mr. Chandrarathne Vithanage, Representative – Initiating Partner, Senior Assistant Secretary General Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Ananda Mallawatantri, Representative – Initiating Partner, Country Representative, International Union for Conservation of Nature. Mr. Mahesh Nanayakkara, Representative – Patron Members, Chief Executive Officer, Citizens’ Development Business Finance PLC. Mr. Nandana Ekanayake, Representative Patron Members, Chairman, Siam. Mr. Shahid Mohomed Sangani, Representative, General Members – Director – Dynawash Ltd. Mr. Subramaniam Eassuwaren, Representative General Members – Deputy Chairman, Eswaran Brothers, Exports (Pvt.) Ltd. Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Expert in Business, Sustainability and the Environment / Secretary, Ministry of Irrigation and Former Secretary Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment. Mr. Prema Cooray, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman, Rainforest Ecolodge (Pvt.) Ltd.
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