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BOC in the front line of reviving the economy: Chairman

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

Bank of Ceylon Chairman Kanchana Ratwatte said in Colombo yesterday(12) that as the global pandemic had caused direct impacts on the national economy, the BoC had felt the need to come forward and help revive the economy without taking the easy option of doing little”.

He said so at a media briefing held to announce the financial results of the Bank for the first half of the year.

“We have a choice of not supporting the economy at this point and let things move on as they are. But we have made the difficult choice. For sure, things are not as they used to be, but I don’t believe that the government of Sri Lanka is going to default on any loans. I also don’t believe that the pandemic is going to stay on forever or tourists are not going to visit this country again. And for a moment I don’t believe that the economy is not going to bounce back. I see all the reasons to be confident about the favourable developments on all these fronts.”

Asked how the BoC could carry out that national responsibility on its own when other banks had pooled their resources to do it, and whether BOC was putting depositors’ funds at risk, he said, “No, not at all. There are certain situations where we go by way of syndicates. There are certain situations where we act as a syndicate and there are situations where we take up the responsibility on our own. If you are looking at the essential services, this is a time we can’t say ‘no’ and we won’t say ‘no’. As far as the BoC is concerned, the resources that we have are distributed in a very safe operation. We are not taking risks beyond our control. It is well within our control and that is why we are extending it. In doing so, we are looking at the short term, maybe two or three months or so. The IMF facility of USD 780 million and so many things are in the pipeline. In addition to that, the Bank is facilitating and empowering more exporters to emerge from the rural areas and we are looking at start-ups, SMEs, larger industries whoever is looking forward to joining with us to transform their businesses to be export-oriented.”

Referring to the Bank’s dollar liquidity levels, Ratwatte said, “The Bank of Ceylon has given first priority to the health sector, petroleum and pharmaceuticals sectors to open all of their letters of credit (LCs) to ensure that the society functioned unhindered at its normal pace. Then we ensured LC opening for importing vaccines, gas and essential food items. Next was our existing customer base whom we serviced without creating any problems for them. Then comes the situation where customers from other banks who come to BOC to open LCs in their time of difficulty that is also handled by the bank appropriately according to the purpose”.

“We don’t have an issue with regard to dollars when it comes to our customers or the priority areas I mentioned. In terms of dollar liquidity, we are okay to look after our customers for LC opening and we help new customers too,” the BoC chief said.

Amidst these unexpected challenges, the Bank’s Profit Before Tax for the six months ended 30th June 2021 stood at LKR 27.1 billion, moving forward with stable performance, while managing headwinds caused by low interest rates, cash-flow deferments and operational restrictions. Profit After Tax (PAT) for the period was LKR 22.1 billion. The Bank’s total assets grew by 11% and reached the LKR 3.3 trillion level reaching another milestone and preserving its industry leadership.



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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