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BOI launching ‘strategic actions’ to add to SL’s attractiveness as investment destination

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BOI Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala

The Interview:

By Lynn Ockersz

The BOI is in the process of launching ‘strategic actions’ to add to Sri Lanka’s attractiveness as a top international investment destination. In keeping with this broad aim, the BOI is taking a lead role in setting up export processing zones with all pre-clearances, so that investors experience minimum hassle, besides paving the way for increased ease of doing business, in addition to initiating paperless documentation procedures to facilitate import and export activities, among other measures, BOI Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala said.

However, while pointing out that the BOI has “not got its fair share of the FDI pie” over the years, the BOI Chairman said in an interview with The Island Financial Review that ‘It’s time for the BOI to course correct, not only where FDI is concerned, but also when it comes to quality jobs, higher value addition and inclusive growth, so that a comprehensive impact is generated. ‘

As the Head of the BOI in which main directions do you hope to develop the institution?

The BOI is the country’s apex agency for attracting FDI into Sri Lanka. It plays a primary role in providing direction for the economy of the country, under the direct purview of His Excellency the President. As the apex investment promotion agency, it must compete with over 1,000 international investment promotion agencies for a global FDI pool that has dipped by 40%. Remaining equally competitive with these other agencies therefore to global investors against this backdrop is a challenging task. We govern ourselves with the core principles of ensuring the medium to long term policy framework remains competitive and relevant and that it is infused with a strong public private partnership, as we actively canvas and convince investors to lay their stake in Sri Lanka. We have seen how compelling examples of transformations such as Investindia have experienced over the recent past and are encouraged by the results these campaigns have yielded. Using these examples, we have also launched some strategic actions recently. The recently concluded Sri Lanka investment forum (SLIF 2021), which was facilitated to optimise opportunity for the country by providing first-hand experience to international investors on what Sri Lanka has to offer, taking a lead role in setting up export processing zones with all pre-clearances, so that investors experience minimal hassle and increased ease of doing business, and launching paperless documentation procedures to facilitate our import and export activities have all been activated in line with that direction.

Are BOI companies facing any special issues currently? If so, what are they?

 Companies that fall under the purview of the BOI contribute to 85% of Sri Lanka’s industrial exports and a significant portion of Services exports. It is a challenging time for all of us given that tourism receipts have not brought in revenue to the country in the past 2 ½ years. The pandemic has also challenged the realisation of FDI as investor nations also deal with the situation in their home front. Exports therefore are critical for Sri Lanka, and the BOI is supporting these companies not only because it is our duty to do so, but also, because we consider it a national task that everyone must work together on. In this regard, we have worked with the Occupational Health Directorate at MOH, along with industries, to develop guidelines for companies to operate safely and have also administered vaccines to almost all the entities who are supporting this national cause to keep everyone safe and healthy. In addition, close to 5,000 ICC beds are currently being maintained by JAAF and BOI, in collaboration with FTZMA, to ensure that employees are well looked after. All of this has aided the current attendance turnout to hover around 80%.

What are your main suggestions on reviving the local economy amid the current constraints posed by the pandemic?

Our main task is to support both propping up the economy and economic activity to stay afloat. Our priority of course is the safety of the people, which is why we doubled down earlier this year to vaccinate all zonal and non-zonal based employees. Even though we have to deal with the pandemic currently, we must also use this time to lay the foundation for a post covid Sri Lanka. Which is why we have established two zones in the recent past – one in Hambantota for Pharmaceuticals, and the other in Eravur for Textiles and Apparel. We have also been able to secure and invite strategic investments like HCL to the country. These and several other initiatives have enabled us to secure USD 2.3bn worth of investment approvals and USD 1.4bn capital formation, half of which was FDI – all in 2020. We need to now accelerate this pace and introduce investments into the funnel faster.

How effective has the BOI been over the years in bringing in FDI?

The BOI was one of the first organisations of its kind that was set up 40 years ago to capitalise on the benefits of an open economy. And while the ambition was directed correctly, over the years, other BOI equivalent agencies have overtaken Sri Lanka, and we have not got our fair share of the FDI pie. It’s time to course correct, not only where FDI is concerned, but also, when it comes to quality jobs, higher value additions and inclusive growth, so that a comprehensive positive impact is generated.



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SLT-MOBITEL donates fourth PCR machine to Matara District Hospital

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Group Chairman of SLT-MOBITEL Rohan Fernando handing over the donation to Deputy Director of Matara District Hospital Upali Ratnayake accompanied by Dr.Thushara Vidanapathirana, Dr.Deepika Priyanthi and Group CEO of SLT-MOBITEL Lalith Seneviratne.

Recognising the importance to enhance Sri Lanka’s PCR testing capacity to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and to protect citizens, SLT-MOBITEL continues its support by donating yet another vital PCR machine to the District General Hospital in Matara recently.

The donation of the PCR machine valued at over Rs. 5.7 million is part of SLT-MOBITEL’s ‘Sabandiyawe Sathakaraya’ CSR initiative in further strengthening the nation’s healthcare systems and assisting communities in need.

The equipment was handed over to the Deputy Director of the Matara Hospital Doctor Upali Rathnayaka in the presence of Rohan Fernando, Group Chairman, SLT-MOBITEL; Lalith Seneviratne, Group Chief Executive Officer, SLT-MOBITEL; Kiththi Perera, CEO, SLT; Shashika Senarath, CMO, Mobitel along with Regional GM, SLT; Regional Head – Mobitel and Hospital Staff.

Previously, PCR machines were donated to the Base Hospital, Karawanella, District General Hospital, Matale and the University Hospital of the Kotelawala Defense University. SLT-MOBITEL appreciates the support received from all Sri Lankans towards ‘Daana Paaramitha’ which was conceptualized as a platform to further increase community involvement in carrying out relief efforts to support families affected by the pandemic.

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Extension of lockdown negatively impacts CSE

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE trading activities commenced yesterday in a lacklustre manner with little share-buying interest and later on became negative following the government’s announcement on the lockdown extension until October 1, stock market analysts said.

The Colombo International Financial Centre (CIFC) at the Port City was set to commence this month and has been delayed until December owing to the current Covid 19 situation. This also affected CSE trading activities yesterday, analysts said.

Consequently, the stock market lost steam yesterday, closing on a negative note as investor sentiment remained erratic due to internal and external environmental factors. Both indices moved downwards or to negative territory despite healthy turnover in the market. The All Share Price Index went down by 46.09 points and S and P SL20 declined by 17.93 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3.8 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in Expolanka, where 600,000 shares crossed for Rs. 101.1 million, its shares trading at Rs. 158.50 and Sampath Bank one million shares crossed for Rs. 49.5 million, its shares traded at Rs. 49.50.

In the retail market, some companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs. 1.2 billion (7.4 million shares traded), JKH Rs. 604 million (4.6 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 540 million (58.3 million shares traded) and Hayleys Rs. 204 million (2 million shares traded).

It is said that following two sessions of gains, the indices closed in the red due to price declines in large-cap stocks as investors opted to book modest returns after the recent sharp rally. Stocks such as Expo, LOLC, and JKH, which saw sharp gains in the past two sessions witnessed profit-taking at higher levels and weighed on the momentum throughout the session.

Further, high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Sampath Bank. Mixed interest was observed in Expolanka Holdings, Tokyo Cement Company and LOLC Holdings, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, Lanka Orix Finance and Industrial Asphalts. During the day 153 million share volumes changed hands in 24000 transactions.

As of yesterday, the current exchange rate of 1 US dollar was equal to 199.607 Sri Lankan rupees. This is an increase of 7.856656 percent (or +14.5401 LKR) compared with the same time last year (17 September 2020), when 1 US dollar equaled 185.067 Sri Lankan rupees.

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Lockdown takes toll on Sri Lanka’s manufacturing sector activities

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The resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2021 has slowed down the manufacturing activities in the country. Accordingly, the manufacturing PMI recorded an index value of 45.1 in August 2021 with a fall of 12.7 index points from the previous month, mainly driven by the decrease in New Orders, Production, Employment, and Stock of Purchases sub-indices. The decline in New Orders and Production, especially in the manufacture of food & beverages, furniture, and textiles & wearing apparel sectors, have mainly contributed to the overall decrease of the manufacturing PMI. Many respondents in those sectors highlighted that their local orders and distribution channels were affected due to the lockdown imposed as a measure of containing the pandemic. Further, many of them also emphasised that factory operations were disrupted due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus among employees. Employment sub-index also declined in line with these developments.

The decrease of Stock of Purchases was in line with the decline in New Orders and Production. Further, the difficulties encountered in placing purchase orders and in settling foreign payments also adversely affected the supply chain of raw materials and production schedules. Many respondents stressed that the continuous increase in the cost of imported raw materials adversely affected their profit margins. Meanwhile, Suppliers’ Delivery Time lengthened at a slower rate in August 2021. The manufacturers cautioned that the uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic would continuously hinder the prospects of the manufacturing sector, yet, overall expectations for manufacturing activities for the next three months remained above the neutral threshold.

Services PMI dropped to an index value of 46.2 in August 2021 with the restrictions imposed to contain the further spread of the COVID-19. New Businesses, Business Activity, Employment and Expectations for Activity sub-indices recorded declines. New Businesses decreased in August compared to the previous month mainly with the declines observed in wholesale and retail trade, insurance, real estate, and education sub-sectors. Business Activities across most of the sub-sectors such as, wholesale and retail trade, real estate, insurance and other personal activities reported considerable declines indicating the adverse effects of travel restrictions on their business operations. Nevertheless, transportation sub-sector recorded some improvements solely due to the growth in freight volumes. Moreover, financial services sub-sector also indicated improvements despite the disturbances from travel restrictions. Employment continued to fall at a higher pace as retirements and voluntary resignations exceeded the number of recruitments carried out during the month. Backlogs of Work increased at a higher pace in August along with the reduction in staff availability amid travel restrictions and growing COVID-19 infections of staff. (CBSL)

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