By Rohan Parikh
From the COVID-19 pandemic to its current economic turbulence, Sri Lanka has tackled many challenges thrown at them with resilience. Today however, Sri Lanka is under tremendous unrest and pressure and faces a challenging macroeconomic situation today. There are a bunch of contradicting factors that need to be mitigated – and this will require some difficult decisions. One of the things that can change the fortunes of Sri Lanka is foreign investments.
The role of foreign real estate investment
By its nature, the construction industry opens many opportunities for a foreign investor to consider a country as the ideal spot for their investment. Real estate is an infrastructure asset that adds to the wealth and asset base of the nation. It enables the creation of a stable middle class and secure working class.
Nearly 3/4th of construction sites in Sri Lanka are currently halted due to varying reasons: ever-rising cost of raw materials, unavailability of essential goods due to import restrictions, ongoing forex crisis and more. This has dealt a massive blow to the labour market as construction sites employ large numbers of labourers. It has also impacted many local suppliers of the hundreds of items needed for construction from doors, windows, steel, locks, tiles, glass, wood, and more. Thus it is critical to get the real estate industry moving again. To achieve this, it will be critical to make Sri Lanka an attractive destination for foreign investment.
Tools of change that the leaders of the nation have in their belt
Now, more than ever, it is critical that foreign investment in real estate be tax exempt. This exemption was mistakenly removed several years ago, at a time when taxes on domestic industries were disastrously slashed. The lack of tax benefits to foreign investors led to a slowdown in future projects funded by foreign exchange and impacted forex inflows.
Simultaneously, the tax cut on local companies led to a draining of the state budget. It left the country extremely vulnerable to a shock like COVID. Today, we hope that strong financial incentives are put in place to attract foreign investors back to Lanka. Without these, markets like India, Pakistan, Thailand, and Dubai will always seem like better avenues for investment.
It is important for foreign investors to perceive the country as having a stable regulatory environment. The period from 2016 to 2018 saw a lot of sudden changes in policy and processes that resulted in a great amount of uncertainty and trepidation amongst foreign investors. This needs to be avoided during any change of administration as it does long term damage to the country’s reputation amongst investors. Just as an example, the rule on VAT and NBT was changed 3 times in the space of a year during that period.
Protection of investors: A foreign investor must be made to feel welcome and safe. Despite the efforts of an overwhelming majority of forward thinking leaders and bureaucrats, a small minority can do a lot of damage.
In my own case, we were hounded and harassed by some politicians without cause, and were slandered in an extremely unfair and untrue attack by local media. We were attacked for being a foreign company and we lost a lot of business due to this slander. This frightened our staff and made many of our investors decide not to invest in Sri Lanka again. In the same breath, I am also happy to report that in the end, the legal system in Sri Lanka came to our rescue and the courts passed an order protecting us. We survived, shaken but still resolute in our commitment to Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, not all foreign investors have that kind of resolve, especially when there are other markets that offer more welcoming access. The need here is to empower the Board of Investment with real powers to tackle such roadblocks and to protect foreign investors.
I have been investing in Sri Lanka for over 15 years now. We were the first company to invest in Sri Lanka once the war ended. I have seen the resolve and strength of the nation and I am confident that this crisis will pass. I hope that we are able to learn from the crisis and come back better and stronger.
Ceylinco Life now offers cash rewards to Family Savari winners
Ceylinco Life has announced that going forward, it will reward winners of its popular ‘Family Savari’ promotion with cash prizes in a response to the mercurial economic situation in the country, ensuring that policyholders continue to receive the same values corresponding to the prizes they win.
Now in its 15th year, the Family Savari promotion has since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic been rewarding winners with gold instead of overseas holidays and local excursions. However, due to the foreign exchange issues in the country, the company said it hopes to provide the full value of the prizes through cash rewards.
“In the current context, we believe that our Family Savari winners would appreciate receiving the full value of their prizes in cash,” Samitha Hemachandra, Ceylinco Life’s General Manager – Marketing said. “Now, each first prize winner at the bi-monthly draws will receive Rs 1 million in cash, while another 75 winners will receive cash prizes totaling Rs 3 million.”
In all, more than 1,000 policyholders will be rewarded when ‘Family Savari 15’ concludes in August 2022, with a prize bag worth over Rs 30 million. This includes supermarket shopping vouchers with a cumulative value of Rs 6 million as consolation prizes.
To be eligible to win prizes at the six bi-monthly draws, all Ceylinco Life customers have to do is to continue their existing policies with the Company or maintain a minimum account balance in their retirement plans during the promotion period. Additional winning chances are given to customers who pay their premiums directly to the company and further chances are assigned corresponding to the time they have been Ceylinco Life customers.
Intended to stimulate interest in life insurance, encourage policyholders to keep their policies active, the ‘Family Savari’ programme has benefitted more than 26,600 people to date. Grand-prize winning families at previous Family Savari promotions have visited Australia, Italy, England, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and France, while other winners have toured China, Dubai, and Singapore.
Adjudged the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand in Sri Lanka’ in 2022 by Brand Finance, Sri Lanka’s Service Brand of the Year by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) in 2021 and the winner of the SLIM Kantar Peoples Award as the Most Popular Life Insurance Company in Sri Lanka for the 16th consecutive year, Ceylinco Life has been the country’s leading life insurer for more than half of the 34 years it has been in existence. Other accolades won in respect of 2021 include the ‘Most Popular Service Provider’ in Sri Lanka’s Life Insurance industry in 2021 by LMD, the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand’ in Sri Lanka by Brand Finance, one of the 10 Most Admired Companies in Sri Lanka by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and one of the 10 Best Workplaces in Sri Lanka’s Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector by Great Place to Work.
Ceylinco Life has close to a million lives covered by active policies and provides innovative life insurance solutions which offer protection while de-risking the goals and ambitions of the Company’s policyholders.
Fimco Estate bags Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka award
Fimco Estate is honoured to have been awarded as winners for the Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka at the Asia Pacific Property Awards for the year 2022-23 powering up its capacity to serve more in the fast-growing apartment industry.
The award winners were announced on the 23rd of June, 2022, bringing glory to the apartment industry in Sri Lanka. It’s a tremendous victory for Fimco Estate (www.fimcoestate.com) to position itself as a highly recognised real estate marketing company. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are the largest, most prestigious, and widely recognised programme throughout the region. Established in 1994, the Asia Pacific Property Awards distinguish the best in the property industry, across five sectors as Development, Real Estate Agency, Architecture, Interior Design, and Hospitality. The Awards are in their 29th year and cover over 45 different residential and commercial categories. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are judged by an independent panel of over 80 industry experts. The judging panel is chaired by Lord Caithness, Lord Best, and Lord Waverley, members of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament.
By providing unmatched marketing services to apartment developers and owners, and facilitating the apartment buying process to be much more convenient for buyers, Fimco Estate has emerged as one of the market leaders in Sri Lanka. Today, Fimco Estate has grown locally and globally as a reputed brand in the apartment industry through a range of services all under one roof. Fimco Estate is exclusively working with prominent apartment developers as their marketing and sales partner. Talking about the achievement, Raj Kaleel, CEO and Founder of Fimco Estate said “market intelligence-based approach and building a state-of-the-art technology-driven process is the secret behind our success. “It is our privilege to have been recognised with the prestigious title as winners for Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka, bringing honour to our nation. This recognition is evidence of the hard work of our team, who tirelessly work to build trust among our stakeholders”. Fimco Estate has reached out beyond the local boundaries to bring in foreign exchange by encouraging investment in apartments from expatriate communities and foreign investors. Entering the UAE property market is yet another recent achievement for Fimco Estate. Fimco Estate hopes to achieve more milestones in the future and would continue to strive to exceed customer expectations and maintain our level of standard.
Flash Digital Account teams up with online pharmacy Flash Health for convenient payment
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has announced that its Flash Digital Bank Account has been linked as a convenient mode of payment, to the revolutionary online pharmacy Flash Health App to facilitate flash-fast home delivery of medicines to users.
Under this collaboration, ComBank Flash Account holders who register their Flash debit card or account as a preferred payment option on the Flash Health App can enjoy discounts of up to 20% on online prescription fulfilment, product purchases on the wellness marketplace, home-visit lab tests and online doctor consultations featured on the digital healthcare platform.
Commercial Bank is the only bank that Flash Health has onboarded as a payment partner via a local product such as the ComBank Flash Digital Bank Account. Customers only have to register their Flash debit card on the health app once to continue ordering medication online without having to re-enter their card details.
Since the Flash Health mobile application enables customers to upload prescriptions and order medicine online, it can also be used by customers employed overseas, who are unable to physically assist their family members during a health crisis, to place online orders for the prescription medicines and have them delivered to the doorsteps of their loved ones.
Flash Health was recently upgraded with a ‘Move, Burn and Earn’ feature which aims to motivate and encourage users to stay healthy by walking more. The initiative allows the health app users to earn Flash credit points while walking and then redeem them against purchases on the app.
Similarly, ComBank Flash too is an innovative and comprehensive digital banking tool that provides financial services required to manage the lifestyle of a customer across aspects such as daily living and utility expenses, budgeting, saving, financing, eCommerce, environmental awareness, and investments. It was the winner of the award for the ‘Digital Banking Initiative of the Year’ in Sri Lanka at the 2021 Asian Banking and Finance (ABF) awards.
Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 11 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 940 automated machines in Sri Lanka. Commercial Bank is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.
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