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EDB pushes for greater product and market diversification

Sri Lanka will be embarking on a greater product and market diversification programme to increase the country’s exports in the new near normalcy situation following the COVID-19 crisis, Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe said. EDB Chairman has renewed his call for export diversification to enhance Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings amidst COVID-19 challenges.

He stressed the need to focus on export products and market diversification which is seriously lacking today.

Whilst appreciating that the US and the EU are the largest markets, the country needs to now create a significant export market in Asia including China.

"The China FTA will certainly help in this regard. Export product diversification must simultaneously happen so that we can create more billion-dollar industries for Sri Lanka," he added.

Exports in August were US$ 947.7 million, down by 19% from a year earlier.

EDB said despite the decline in exports, some products, like coconut-based products, electronics and electronic components, spices and essential oils, and food and beverages, recorded a positive growth of 22.88%, 8.32%, 19.4%, and 11.45%, respectively, in August as against a year earlier.

Export earnings for January to August were US$ 6.4 billion down by 19% from US$ 7.9 billion in the corresponding period of last year. EDB however, said it was an improved performance, compared with the decline of 21.08% recorded in January to July.

"However, EDB is being watchful of the months ahead whilst understanding the impact of COVID-19 on our key markets of US and Europe,” Subasinghe said.

Export earnings from apparels and textiles declined by 11.99 % to US$ 438.34 million during the month of August, compared with US$ 498.03 million recorded in August 2019. In apparels, there was a 6.15% decline recorded in August in comparison to July.

Despite the decline in the sector, earnings from exports of made-up textiles increased by two-hundred-fold in August 2020 in comparison to August 2019.

In addition, export earnings from rubber and rubber-finished products have decreased by 2.71 % Year-on-Year (Y-o-Y) to US$ 72.53 million in August, due to bearish performance in exports of pneumatic and retreated rubber tyres and tubes, gaskets, washers, seals etc., of hard rubber.

However, exports of industrial and surgical gloves of rubber have increased by 36.19% Y-o-Y to US$ 23.07 million in August.

Export earnings from tea in August, which made up 12% of the merchandise exports declined by 13.27% Y-o-Y to US$ 102.97 million and the export volume also declined by 16.01% in August 2020, compared to August 2019. The decline was mainly due to lower demand for tea from Iran and Iraq.

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SLT welcomes TRC's move to allow number portability

Sri Lanka Telecom Group welcomes TRC’s progressive move to bring number portability. One of the first decisions taken by the new Board of SLT was to lobby for number portability in Sri Lanka. The SLT Group, being the fastest network connecting Sri Lanka’s deep rural to the world, is excited with the new possibilities number portability brings. The SLT Group stands perfectly poised to offer its best-in-class plethora of communication solutions to a transformational nation on the cusp of unparalleled development.

SLT believes this technological convenience will support His Excellency the President’s ‘Saubhagye Dakma’ to take every enterprise to its next stage of development, while introducing a new energy to a nation determined to build an export driven economy. “We are the nation’s telecommunication service provider. Our mandate is to enable the country’s transformation. Sri Lanka Telecom and Mobitel are brands of the people of Sri Lanka and we will serve every requirement necessary for personal, professional and national growth with absolute pride,” expressed Mr. Rohan Fernando, the Group Chairman of SLT.

“We are very excited to offer the number portability solution to our customers. We have invented a basket of solutions that can transform any local enterprise. We are determined to give our pre and post paid customer base unparalleled 5G speed, convenience and affordability,” added Mr. Lalith Seneviratne, the Group CEO.

SLT applauds Mr. Oshada Senanayke, the DG and his team at TRC for their forward thinking and timely implementation plan of number portability.

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Work to rule from Monday: SLT trade union wants salary anomalies resolved

The engineers of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are to launch a work to rule campaign demanding to settle the long standing salary anomaly on Monday (14), for the first time since the induction of the new president, a SLT union leader said.

The Telecommunication Engineers’ Union (TEU) has taken this decision as the new management of SLT has failed to heed their representations with the aim of improving the dwindling financial situation and productivity eliminating corruption of the company, he disclosed

Without considering implications on administration, financial, productivity and all aspects of future sustenance, SLT top management has taken several decisions in favour of the whims and fancies of some top corrupt officials, the President of the trade union Eng. Samantha Ruwanpathiranaalleged.

TEU has always extended its fullest support and cooperation to realise goals and objectives of SLT through the contribution of members who hold a majority of management positions in SLT, he stated in a letter sent to the CEO of Sri Lanka Telecom. 

TEU always tries its level best to resolve issues amicably through negotiations before opting for trade union actions, he said adding that TEU clearly clarified the salary anomaly within Grade A1 to A5 engineers in SLT with possible proposals to resolve the same.

During the last meeting with the Group CEO and CEO SLT, on 10th September 2020, they conveyed to TEU that the board paper which included proposals to resolve the salary anomaly of engineers, submitted to the last board meeting was not accepted, TEU claimed.

TEU believes that the suggestions/directions given at the board meeting is merely aimed at dragging time without a targeted outcome.

Hence TEU has informed SLT CEO that engineers are compelled to declare a work to rule campaign starting from 14th September 2020, until the salary anomaly of engineers is resolved. TEU believes that the management still possesses ample time to resolve the issue without causing disruptions to the normal operations of the organisation and its customers.

TEU says their trade union action has been launched in absence of due and timely attention of the management and that they should be held responsible for any repercussions.

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Central Bank extends deadline for application of working capital loans

The Monetary Board of the Central Bank has decided to extend the deadline of the 4% Working Capital Loan Scheme. Accordingly, COVID-19 affected businesses and individuals can submit their loan applications under this facility to respective licensed banks until 30th September 2020.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank surpassed the milestone of Rs. 100 billion loans on 18th August 2020, approving Rs.100,017 million worth of loans submitted by 36,489 applicants under this facility.

Out of approved loans, licensed banks have already disbursed more than Rs. 68.5 billion among 25,365 affected businesses and individuals island-wide as of 18th August 2020.

Out of Rs. 100 billion approved under the Scheme, 50 percent has been provided to businesses in the services sector, led by trade services, while distributing 34 percent and 16 percent among businesses in the industry sector and the agriculture sector, respectively.

The Central Bank in consultation with the Government introduced the Saubagya Covid-19 Renaissance Loan Scheme Facility in 3 phases to provide working capital loans at the interest rate of 4% per annum, with a repayment period of 24-months, including a grace period of 6-months.

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SLT Group to improve connectivity at Lankagama-Neluwa Village

Following the President’s visit to the Lankagama-Neluwa village on 29 August, where he stated that he would direct the SLT Group to provide a solution to establish high-speed broadband and voice facilities in the Lankagama village. Sri Lanka Telecom – Mobitel immediately took on the task of digitizing the Lankagama Village with high-speed connectivity solutions.

Following the instructions of the President, Engineers from SLT – Mobitel visited the village on the same day to assess and identify the implementation mechanism for a detachable guyed mast solution.

Situated amidst lush mountains, the Lankagama village is located at the Southern boundary of the Sinharaja Rain Forest, which falls into the Neluwa Divisional Secretariat, Galle District.

Despite the geographic obstacles and transportation difficulties, SLT – Mobitel will promptly implement a detachable guyed mast solution (supplied by a local company) to establish superior connectivity and broadband facilities to the area by 20 September, thereby empowering the village with digital capabilities and bridging the digital divide. The project will be implemented without any negative impact to the environment of the area.

SLT Group Chairman Rohan Fernando commenting on the initiative said: “In line with the Government’s vision of digitizing Sri Lanka, the SLT Group feels privileged to take on the venture of powering rural areas with superior connectivity solutions. As the country’s telecommunications service provider, it is our responsibility to ensure that we not only provide connectivity to all Sri Lankans but also empower them with the right knowledge and knowhow to evolve and move forward towards an info com and knowledge rich society. We would also like to thank the DG of TRCSL for encouraging and setting the right strategies for operators to innovate and bring value to the country. The implementation of this detachable guyed mast solution is another step towards reaffirming our mission of care, share and deliver and we will continue to empower Sri Lankans by providing connectivity solutions and contributing towards Sri Lanka’s digital upliftment and literacy.”

SLT, operates in the fixed ICT business. It provides telecom networks and ICT services to organizations of all sizes across all economic sectors, other telecommunications operators and internet service providers (ISPs), public sector institutions, and domestic customers. SLT has laid out nearly 50,000 kms of optical fibre throughout the island to extend fibre access through FTTH technology.

In 2017, Mobitel’s innovative deployment of the first Sub-1G mobile broadband network in Sri Lanka based on it Sub-1G spectrum significantly improved coverage in rural areas of the country and connecting the rural communities to high speed mobile broadband, enabling the global reach to uplift their day-to-day lives. As the national mobile service provider, Mobitel will continue to deliver better capacity and coverage, especially during the prevailing conditions at this time where networks and connectivity has become a vital human need than ever before.

SLT Group together with its Fixed and Mobile solutions (SLT and Mobitel) is at the forefront of driving the national agenda for economic prosperity by connecting the rural mass to the economic mainstream to transform them to a productive work force.

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Dialog Axiata’s Ideamart partners with Hutch to expand subscriber reach

Ideamart, a global award-winning platform for developers and content providers presented by Dialog Axiata PLC, partnered Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka (Hutch) to enable over 18,000 Ideamart app developers to access Hutch’s Network Infrastructure through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Ideamart enables any developer, technopreneur or entrepreneur with an idea to join, use unutilized telco assets, create their own mobility services, and monetize them with zero risks with no up-front fee.

 Following the integration of Hutch 072 & 078 Network Infrastructure, Ideamart will now provide Sri Lankan Developers, access to over 18 Million subscribers across Dialog, Hutch and Airtel Mobile Networks. This partnership will enable Hutch subscribers to avail thousands of applications, development infrastructure and value-added services available on the platform and the integration is set to greatly benefit the Ideamart developer community (Asia’s largest digital services eco system) through the expansion of the market place for their innovations and services.

Commenting on the partnership, Anthony Rodrigo, Group Chief Innovation Officer & Chief Architect at Dialog Axiata PLC said, “We are pleased to have partnered with Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka to empower thousands of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs with a developer platform to bring their ideas to life and to deliver exceptional services and experiences to millions of subscribers across the nation.”

“We are extremely delighted to support budding entrepreneurs with our state-of-the-art network infrastructure. We consider that digital inclusivity is of utmost importance at present and as mobile-telco providers, we need to collaborate and carry out more initiatives to create a solid market place for app developers.” shared Thirukumar Nadarasa, Chief Executive Officer of Hutch.

Ideamart will continue to deliver a host of new Mobile Network APIs, providing a platform for increasingly advanced levels of application development and service functionality. This historic partnership will open up more avenues for Hutch and Dialog Ideamart to empower entrepreneurs and encourage them to come up with innovations.

Developers and Service Providers can visit www.ideamart.io to create telco API based services.

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JKH ranked Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected’ for record 15th year

For a record 15th year, John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) was ranked as the ‘Most Respected Entity’ in Sri Lanka, in the recently released edition of LMD’s Most Respected Entities issue. In terms of the 10 attribute rankings, JKH has taken the lead in five categories; namely, Quality Consciousness, Management Profile, Dynamism, Corporate Culture, and Vision.

JKH retained its position as the Most Respected Entity by garnering the highest number of votes (1,125) in a survey commissioned and conceptualised by LMD and conducted by Nielsen.

The survey was designed to rank the ‘Most Respected Entities’ in Sri Lanka based on the perceptions of respondents – and to evaluate why they’re perceived as such. The survey covered a sample of 800 respondents (managers and above) from listed companies.

John Keells Group. which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2020, has occupied the number one position in LMD’s Most Respected rankings for 15 years since the rankings were launched in 2005.

JKH Chairman Krishan Balendra, in his interview in the August issue of LMD, said: “Our strongest attribute is our commitment to live our core values – integrity, caring, trust, innovation and excellence. Our robust corporate governance structure, professional management, and sustainable development processes stem from these values and over our rich history of 150 years, has enabled us to do the right thing, always, foster a great place to work for our people, build strong relationships with our partners and empower our communities.”

“We are humbled at being recognised as Sri Lanka’s Most Respected Entity once again in appreciation of the way we conduct our business and contribute to the nation,” Balendra added.

John Keells Holdings PLC is Sri Lanka's largest listed conglomerate on the Colombo Stock Exchange operating over 70 companies in seven diverse industry sectors. In 2020, John Keells Group celebrates 150 years of being in business and contributing to the development of the country. JKH provides employment to over 14,000 persons.

Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a participant of UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of 'Empowering the nation for tomorrow', through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, 'Plasticcycle', which is a catalyst in significantly reducing the plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.

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Commercial Bank named as the best bank in SL by Euromoney

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has been crowned the Best Bank in Sri Lanka in 2020 by Euromoney, one of the world’s leading financial magazines, at its Asia Awards for Excellence. This is the sixth time that Commercial Bank has been honored with this prestigious accolade by Euromoney.

The Euromoney awards are based on detailed submissions from market participants and extensive year-round research into the banking and capital markets in the region by the magazine’s editors, journalists and research team.

Other criteria included the size of the organization, although the size was not the emphasis, profitability, the ability to demonstrate growth, an outperformance against peers, and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions and client needs.

Each Bank was required to highlight its performance over the 12 months in consideration and its demonstrated ability to meet strategic targets, and provide updates on reaching milestones in previously announced initiatives.

Alongside financial performance, banks were asked to include details of their digital banking strategies and their approach to issues such as cybersecurity and corporate social responsibility.

Contributing factors to Commercial Bank’s win included the Bank ending 2019 with total assets of Rs 1.4 trillion, gross income of Rs 150 billion, a net profit of Rs 17.4 billion, a deposit base of Rs 1.07 trillion and net loans and receivables of Rs 930.7 billion.

Commercial Bank also achieved the highest profitability, highest credit rating, highest deposit base, largest lending portfolio, and the highest return on average shareholders’ funds amongst all private sector banks in Sri Lanka.

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Standard Chartered contributes USD 500,000 to combat COVID-19 pandemic in SL

Standard Chartered Sri Lanka today announced donations totalling USD500,000 (approximately LKR 92.5 million) to support the fight against COVID-19 in the local community. The donation, which will flow through the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), is in keeping with its brand promise to be ‘Here for good’ and is part of the Bank’s wider response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The funding is made up of two parts: USD300,000 from Standard Chartered PLC will support emergency relief activities that target the control and containment of coronavirus, precaution against infection, and public awareness to combat misinformation on COVID-19. These funds are part of the Group’s USD5 million donation to Red Cross to support urgent medical and humanitarian support in countries across Africa and Asia from its USD50 million COVID-19 Global Charitable Fund; and USD200,000 from Standard Chartered Sri Lanka for the procurement of approximately 13,000 COVID-19 testing kits to assist in identifying suspected patients of the virus.

Commenting on the donation, Bingumal Thewarathanthri, CEO, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka said: “Standard Chartered Sri Lanka is proud to be able to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and we are glad to partner with Red Cross programmes that reach the most vulnerable people in our communities. By working together, we are able to support the delivery of rapid and effective relief that aims to address some of the current and future challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to supporting our communities at this time of need, we have also gone an extra mile in contributing to the country’s economy in a holistic fashion in the wake of this pandemic.”

Dr. Mahesh Gunasekara, Director General at the SLRCS said: “Thanks to the generosity extended by Standard Chartered, we will be able to enhance the testing capacity of the country, which is vital to help keep people safe from COVID-19. It will also enable us to increase a plethora of coronavirus prevention activities including supporting safe environments for school children and raising awareness island-wide to combat the epidemic. We will continue supporting people most at risk in Sri Lanka, working alongside authorities in the face of this devastating COVID-19 pandemic.”

Standard Chartered Group has put in place a range of measures to support clients and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its USD50 million COVID-19 Global Charitable Fund commits USD25 million for immediate emergency relief. This includes the USD5 million for Red Cross, a USD5 million donation to UNICEF for educational support for vulnerable children across Asia and Africa and USD15 million allocated to the Group’s four regions to support emergency relief delivered by local NGOs. The remaining USD25 million is committed for economic recovery.

In addition to the donation pledge, Standard Chartered Group also put in place a comprehensive support programme for clients including USD1 billion in financing for companies that provide goods and services to help the fight against COVID-19, and those planning the switch into making products that are in high demand to fight the global pandemic. The funding also caters to a comprehensive support scheme for clients, including loan repayment holidays, fee waivers or cancellations and loan extension facilities.

Leading Sri Lankan apparel manufacturers Brandix and MAS Intimates were recipients of facilities under this programme, enabling them to adapt their production facilities for the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the US market, at a time when the country’s apparel industry had been severely affected by the pandemic.

Photo Caption: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa symbolically accepting the donation from Bingumal Thewarathanthri, CEO, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka (3rd left), in the presence of Dr. Mahesh Gunasekara, Director General, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (left), Major General Suresh Sallay, Director of State Intelligence Service (2nd left), Major General Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Health (3rd right) and Anuk De Silva, Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka (right).

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Jayomi among Asia Pacific’s 40 ‘Women to Watch’ class of 2020

The influential industry magazine Campaign Asia-Pacific, has selected Sri Lanka’s Jayomi Lokuliyana among 40 outstanding women across marketing, media, technology and communications.

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HNB employees contribute a day's pay to furnish IDH training centre

Employees of Sri Lanka’s largest private sector retail bank HNB PLC, contributed a day’s pay towards furnishing of a training center for doctors at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH). "The fact that Sri Lanka has made such incredible progress in combatting the spread of COVID-19 results directly from the courageous and diligent efforts of our healthcare professionals, especially those at the IDH who were on the frontlines of this battle,” HNB Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Dilshan Rodrigo stated.

 The funds were gathered through voluntary contributions drawn from the HNB team during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be utilized towards the installation of essential furniture and fittings for the training center.

“HNB is proud to lend our support to enhance their training and skills development initiatives and we thank our employees for stepping forward at this critical moment to offer their voluntary contributions towards this noble cause. In supporting frontline healthcare workers, we are able to make tangible improvements to health outcomes. Moving forward, we will continue to seek further opportunities to assist health authorities to overcome this pandemic,” HNB Chief Transformation Officer / Trustee HNB Sustainability Foundation, Chiranthi Cooray said.

hnbpay 1000pxHNB Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Dilshan Rodrigo exchanging the MOU with National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Director Dr. Hasitha Attanayake (center), National Institute of Infectious Diseases - Anura Athukorala, National Institute of Infectious Diseases – Accountant, Hirani Ranatunga, National Institute of Infectious Diseases – Matron, Geethani Udugamakorala, National Institute of Infectious Diseases- Consultant Physician, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, HNB Chief Transformation Officer/ Trustee HNB Sustainability Foundation ,Chiranthi Cooray, HNB Head of Human Capital Management, Indrajith Senadhira, HNB Senior Manager- Facilities Management, Roshan Fernando, HNB Officer in Charge of Sustainability, Shanel Perera and HNB Sustainability Assistant, V Disharatnam (left to right)

Through the first round of employee contributions, HNB plans to install window blinds, chairs, tables and fabricate a timber podium to make the facility user ready for training sessions. HNB’s dedicated team of engineers, together with the Sustainable Business Unit recommended the project to the HNB team after visiting the facility, which is part of a larger project under construction at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH).

Previously, HNB donated 64 fire extinguishers to the hospital to protect its medical stores and supported the installation of water tanks, for a supplementary water distribution system to the wards. The bank also installed insulated flexible ducts to improve airflow at the hospital.

HNB delivered urgently required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Kurunegala and Karapitiya teaching hospitals during the height of the pandemic.

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SL mission in DC, EDB discuss diversification of exports to the US

Ambassador Rodney Perera and Chairman of Export Development Board Prabhash Subasinghe discussed ways to further diversify and increase Sri Lanka’s exports to the United States of America, in keeping with the vision of the President and the new Government to strengthen the local economy and enhance export income, at a virtual meeting held on 20 August 2020. Director General of the Export Development Board (EDB) Chitranjali Dissanayake along with officials from the Embassy and the EDB also took part.

The Chairman briefed on initiatives taken by the EDB to promote several products in the recent months and the opportunities available in the United States, being the single largest buyer of Sri Lankan goods.  

While acknowledging the new initiatives of the EDB to promote exports through practical strategies, Ambassador Perera outlined the role played by the Embassy on the key facets of economic diplomacy to strengthen the efforts of the GoSL to brand Sri Lanka as a trusted supplier in the U.S.

Ambassador Perera emphasized the importance of working closely with Sri Lankan-American professionals and entrepreneurs who are well established in the U.S. in the promotion of Sri Lanka’s business interests, among others.  He stressed the need to further strengthen linkages with key economic centers such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Seattle and San Francisco, that offer more opportunities for Sri Lankan products and services.

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