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Australian companies continue to see Sri Lanka as a highly prospective place to invest and do business, says High Commissioner

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  • = Australia has provided SL more support than ever this year, including through $75 million in development funding in 2022-23

  • = There is great potential in GOSL’s plan to become a regional hub for international education

  • = Permanent migration visas available in 2022-23, has increased legitimate migration pathways to Australia

by Sanath Nanayakkare

As a friend and neighbour, Australia will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka in any way we can, and Australian companies continue to see Sri Lanka as a highly prospective place to invest and do business,” the newly designated Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Paul Stephens told The Island Financial Review during an exclusive interview with him.

“Australia and Sri Lanka enjoy strong economic and trade cooperation, which has continued this year despite the economic challenges faced by Sri Lanka. Australian companies continue to see Sri Lanka as a highly prospective place to invest and do business, for example in renewable energy, mineral resources, agrifood, water infrastructure, and education partnerships,” he said.

Further speaking Paul Stephens said:

“Under Australia-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), we hold Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meetings between senior officials annually (last held in 2021) and regular working level meetings every few months. We expect to continue senior bilateral engagement on trade and investment, including with a JTC hosted by Australia later this year.”

“I’m pleased to say there are now more than 30 partnerships between Australian education providers and Sri Lankan institutions – and this number continues to grow. Australia sees great potential in the Sri Lankan Government’s plan to become a regional hub for international education. The recent interim budget announcement to allow foreign universities to establish campuses in Sri Lanka is a strong, positive step towards growing Sri Lanka’s international education sector. Australian providers are keen to be part of this journey. The technical and vocational education sector is also an emerging growth area for Sri Lanka, and one where Australia has deep expertise and experience. We continue to work with the Sri Lankan Government to consider how best to collaborate in this space. For example, in partnership with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training, Australia has been a strong supporter of programs that strengthen skills across the full value chain of the tourism sector. This work is carried forward through Australia’s $14.4 million Skills for Inclusive Growth program, which has been in operation since early 2017.”

“Australian society has been fortunate to benefit from a rich mix of cultural backgrounds and heritage. As reported in the most recent Australian census, since 2021 more than half of Australia’s population was either born overseas themselves or had a parent who was born overseas. Strong people-to-people links are a bedrock of the Australia-Sri Lanka relationship. Many Sri Lankans have chosen to make Australia their home and they have made outstanding contributions to Australia’s diverse, multicultural society. I have no doubt this will continue in the future. Australia’s focus is on supporting legitimate pathways to migration, and of course, discouraging Sri Lankans from making dangerous journeys by sea. Australia recently announced an increase in the number of permanent migration visas available in 2022-23, with a focus on meeting skills shortages in regional areas. This step has increased the legitimate migration pathways available to Australia, including for Sri Lankans.”

“Australia remains committed to working practically and constructively with Sri Lanka to advance its commitments toward reconciliation and transitional justice and to meet its international human rights obligations. Australia has always had transparent and open discussions with the Sri Lankan Government on our strong support for international human rights norms. While Sri Lanka’s current economic situation is challenging, there is good evidence that durable reconciliation is a key underpinning factor for long-term political and economic stability. While we welcome a central role for strengthened, independent domestic institutions that have the trust of affected communities, we also continue to encourage Sri Lanka to engage positively with international human rights processes. We do also consider the ongoing impacts of the conflict, and the role we can play in helping to mitigate these, through our development assistance to Sri Lanka. Among other initiatives, in recent years Australia has provided support for livelihoods and psycho-social support for affected communities in the North and East, and supported a range of community-based organisations to lead reconciliation and economic development at the local level. We will continue to look for opportunities to support Sri Lanka’s reconciliation journey.”

“I was very pleased to see Sri Lanka and the IMF work together to recently finalise the IMF staff-level agreement. This is a positive step in Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and Australia welcomes the strong and productive engagement by senior officials in this process. We continue to encourage the Sri Lankan Government to follow through with the implementation of any necessary reforms recommended by the IMF, as part of returning Sri Lanka to a stable and prosperous economic path. I am also pleased Australia has provided Sri Lanka more support than ever this year, including through $75 million in development funding in 2022-23, to help alleviate the impacts of the crisis on the most vulnerable. As a friend and neighbour, Australia will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka in any way we can.”

“Australia’s Indo-Pacific vision is for an open, inclusive and resilient region underpinned by rules, norms and respect for sovereignty. As an Indian Ocean neighbour, Australia wants Sri Lanka to be stable, resilient and prosperous, including by safeguarding its sovereignty and democratic values. Australia and Sri Lanka have long had productive and mutually beneficial collaboration in regional and multilateral forums, including the UN, the Commonwealth and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. We will continue to work together and support Sri Lanka’s engagement in these institutions, which we see as important mechanisms for frank and open discussion and practical action in areas of common interest.”

When asked to tell our readers about his diplomatic career, his family, the food he loves to eat and what he enjoys doing in his leisure time, the High Commissioner said,” I have been fortunate to have had a varied career which has included postings in Stockholm (where I was Ambassador), Bangkok, New York and Brasilia, in addition to Colombo. My wife Christina and I have three children, twin boys Cody and Daniel and a daughter Bella. All three are adults and remain in Australia where they are working. We are looking forward to having them visit us here in Sri Lanka. I am an avid sports follower, especially of cricket and Australia’s indigenous football code, Australian Rules. I played grade cricket for many years in Australia but have more recently focused on distance running, while also enjoying bike riding, swimming and going to the gym. There are very few foods I don’t like but I do love spicy cuisine and am looking forward to experiencing Sri Lanka’s many culinary delights, especially fish and fresh fruits!

When asked if there’s a motto that best describes how he views and approaches life, he said,” I don’t have a special motto, but I think it’s important to be nice to people and stay calm.”



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OKLO adds new feature to Ceylon Tea SmartAuction platform

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OKLO Private Limited, a leading Sri Lankan solutions provider for the Ceylon Tea e-Auction platform, recently added an all-new segment for factories in its SmartAuction platform. This new feature provides over 650 factories with the chance to value and grade teas within the system, printing final catalogues, real-time and post-sales reports, and viewing their tea variants being auctioned live. For the first time, a live auction participation option has been instigated for all stakeholders and factories in the country’s 150 years of auctioning history. The availability of this platform would now allow the tea-producing community to benefit from newly added or enhanced functionalities similar to other stakeholders.

With tea being the most significant commodity to be auctioned in Sri Lanka, it is also one of the most significant contributors to the local economy. As Ceylon Tea has already garnered a worldwide name, the branding has enabled Sri Lanka to be placed on the map as an influential tea-producing entity. At the same time, this functionality can also be utilised by other organisations that market commodities such as rubber, spices and coconut. Being present via an e-Auction paves the way for more competition among buyers and sellers.

Regarding the inclusion of their new feature, OKLO Private Limited, Managing Director – Thilanka Withanage stated, “Since the Colombo Tea e-Auction went live on the OKLO SmartAuction platform, the team has been releasing advanced features and functionalities to all stakeholders. With the release of the latest version, all Sri Lankan tea factories can now have complete access to the platform, similar to all other stakeholders. Our objective is to maintain consistency in the face of tech innovation and uplift our nation’s ascent in the digital realm. We will continue utilising our nation’s talents and build cutting-edge, practical, impactful products that will set innovative strides.”

Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association, Vice Chairman – Pasindu Pieris shared his views on the newly enhanced platform. He said, “This state-of-the-art solution from OKLO provided to the tea sector amalgamates all aspects related to dispatching tea from the factory to the point where it is sold at the auction through competitive bidding. Now, we can see our tea variants being sold at the auction right from our factory premises. The platform offers transparency and traceability while improving efficiency throughout the supply chain.”

OKLO is a Sri Lankan Technology Solutions Provider with current solution offerings in the Travel and Trading sectors. It was founded in 2011 and has been expanded to become one of the key players in the Travel IT sector, catering to some of the largest blue-chip companies such as Walkers Tours, Cinnamon Hotels, Jetwing Travels etc.For more information, email info@okloworld.com, call +94777320383, or visit www.okloworld.com.

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CSE trading marked by ‘a degree of sluggishness’; main indices decline

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading activities reflected a degree of sluggishness yesterday as most stock market investors are adopting a wait- and- see approach due to ongoing IMF discussions on bailing out the Sri Lankan economy, coupled with issues that surfaced in the coal purchase agreement between the Browns Group and a Chinese company relating to coal power generation, stock analysts said.

Amid those developments both indices moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 31.8 points and the S and P SL20 declined by 19.1 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in JKH, which crossed 150,000 shares to the tune of Rs 21.5 million with its shares trading at Rs 143 and CIC Holdings 241,000 shares crossed for Rs 20.5 million; its shares traded at Rs 85.

In the retail market top six companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Lanka IOC Rs 394 million (1.4 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 237 million (one million shares traded), Richard Pieris Rs 146 million (4.4 million shares traded), ACL Cables Rs 138 million (1.3 million shares traded), JKH Rs 129 million (910,000 shares traded) and First Capital Holdings Rs 112 million (7.2 million shares traded). During the day 150 million share volumes changed hands in 30000 transactions.It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Expolanka Holdings, Sunshine Holdings and Lankem Developments.

Mixed interest was observed in Lanka IOC, ACL Cables and Royal Ceramics, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments. The Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to ACL Cables and Royal Ceramics), while the sector index gained 1.23 per cent. The share price of ACL Cables moved up by Rs. 6 (5.69 per cent) to close at Rs. 111.50. The share price of Royal Ceramics recorded a gain of Rs. 1.70 (4.10 per cent) to close at Rs. 43.20.

The Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector was the second highest contributor to market turnover (due to Lankem Developments), while the sector index increased by 1.07 per cent. The share price of Lankem Developments appreciated by Rs. 1.50 (4.12 per cent) to close at Rs. 37.90.

Expolanka Holdings and Lanka IOC were also included among the top turnover contributors. The share price of Expolanka Holdings decreased by Rs. 2.25 (0.99 per cent) to close at Rs. 224.25. The share price of Lanka IOC closed flat at Rs. 290.50.Yesterday the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 359.18 and selling rate Rs 369.93.

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Airtel Lanka records 1.7mn customers switch to Freedom Packs

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One year after the launch of Airtel Lanka’s industry-disrupting prepaid packs ‘Freedom’, the company announced a staggering 1.7 million users have switched to Airtel Freedom, as at the end of August 2022.

“We serve around three million customers in Sri Lanka, aided mainly by this unprecedented adoption of our Freedom packs. The overwhelming customer endorsement reaffirms our strategy of bringing simplicity and value through our products.” notes Airtel Lanka Managing Director/CEO Ashish Chandra.

Powered by Airtel’s world-class 5G-ready mobile broadband network, the telco has reimagined the overall offering and experience for customers, with a strong focus on ensuring value for money, and an advanced network experience. These factors undoubtedly resonate with most users, who are either data-heavy or call-heavy users.

Airtel Lanka’s initial innovation in facilitating unlimited, affordable access to the internet through Freedom Packs continued to evolve, with the telco introducing new world-class features to both its prepaid Freedom Packs and postpaid Freedom Plans

Airtel also disrupted the local telco market with the entrance of the Freedom Unlimited Rs.749 package, which is aimed at prepaid users. For a very affordable cost, users can now make unlimited calls to any network, with unlimited access to favourite social media platforms such as Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and stream superior quality videos on YouTube for 30 days in addition to receiving additional 30GB anytime date.

Airtel was also the first telco to introduce unlimited calls for any network for a postpaid customer through Unlimited 1098. Priced at Rs. 1,098, an Airtel user has access to unlimited calls to any network, 40GB anytime data and SMS facilities. Additionally, Airtel is also the only telco to offer data rollover service for postpaid customers, allowing up to 200GB to be carried onto the next month’s billing cycle, saving data and expenses for the end-consumer.

Airtel Lanka has been part of implementing many industry-firsts in Sri Lanka’s telco space, and was also the first to introduce unlimited calls in Sri Lanka, on calls made to the same network. With the launch of Airtel Freedom, the company offers its users the ultimate convenience for all their voice, SMS and data needs, offering even greater savings compared to the competition. With the introduction of Unlimited, Airtel Lanka undoubtedly serves as a clear trendsetter for the country’s telecommunications industry.

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