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Cabraal explains way forward amid challenges

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

If we opt for a debt restructuring programme with the support of the IMF, it will take another 10 years for us to emerge from the consequences related to such a move, so we must explore all ways in partnership with all the stakeholders of the economy and every citizen of this country to rally round a home grown solution to come out of the current economic crisis, Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told a webinar hosted by the Advocata Institute on Saturday.

“We need not make unnecessary turbulence by going to the IMF. We are able to deal with the situation. We have enough local economic think tanks who do know about this country and how best a solution to the present crisis can be evolved. If we invite the IMF to come in, they will come with a prescription. That is not what we want right now. With a potential arrival of the IMF, our tourist arrivals won’t increase. We have been able to successfully conduct the vaccination drive without them.” he said.

“We have stabilized the value of the rupee against the U.S. dollar not because they asked us to do so. We maintained a low interest rate regime for economic recovery not because they recommended it. If they come in, they will ask us to stabilize the rupee at a different value. We need space for that.”

The Governor said that he and his team at the Central Bank have not only understood the issues, but also have explored ways to resolve the issues.

“When analysing the economy, everybody has an angle of his or own according to their aspirations. Our undertaking is to balance all these competing interests and allow the economy to move forward progressively. The two main things that we have on our minds are economic growth and stability. We will ensure growth and stability in the next 3-4 months. We will unveil the plan on how to do that when we roll out the Road Map on October 1.

When asked about debt repayment challenges , he said, “We can always roll over because we have instruments to do so.”

When asked whether there was a Balance of Payments crisis looming due to excessive money printing, he said, ” It is like doing an open heart surgery. The surgeons know when to open the heart, perform the operation properly and close it. Likewise, we know how to deal with it. We jnow when to give an economic stimulus and how to wrap it up. Money printing has now reached its maximum point. We will now ensure a soft landing,”

The Governor said the country’s under-utilized assets will be vested in investors to add their real value to the economy.

When asked about the transfer of the Secretary to the Monetary Board of the Central Bank Ms. K.M.A.N. Daulagala, the Governor said that it was in line with periodic changes, implying that the change was based on service requirements. He went on to say that if someone is not willing to move on, that also could convey a message.

Notably, the Governor emphasised the point that all citizens should contribute to the growth of the economy in their own way meaningfully.

Dhananath Fernando, the Chief Operating Officer of Advocata conducted the virtual interview.



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Sri Lanka Tourism commands attention at World Routes 2021

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Sri Lanka made a huge splash at the 26th World Route Development Forum (World Routes 2021), which took place in Milan, Italy, recently. By making its presence felt at the forum, Sri Lanka pitched its destination for global airlines to consider it as one of the top holiday destinations for the upcoming winter season and beyond. Sri Lanka Tourism officials were able to directly engage with decision-makers from the global route development community, including world’s air services, while taking advantage of dedicated in-person and virtual event days combining extensive meeting opportunities, exclusive industry insight and first-class networking opportunities.

The Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism, Ms. Kimarli Fernando, expertly leveraged on the platform provided by World Routes 2021 to highlight Sri Lanka’s 5-year global campaign and growth potential. Her keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A session with attendees in collaboration with Major General (Rtd.), G.A Chandrasiri , Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services. Through the duration of the Forum, Sri Lanka Tourism was present on all social media platforms for driving brand awareness, pushing Destination Sri Lanka to the front and centre of global travel and tourism operators present.

With the Sri Lankan Government declaring this a growth decade, Sri Lanka Tourism has been aligned to the government’s vision as enshrined in the 10 pillar strategy document. Over the last two years, Sri Lanka Tourism has advanced the industry across various factors to bring prosperity to all stakeholders and to ensure Sri Lanka tourism fulfills its potential. Concurrently, with a high vaccination rate, Sri Lanka has opened up to fully vaccinated tourists, offering them a safe and exciting stay.

One of the key pillars has been connectivity and the efforts made have been fruitful – with several European and regional airlines resuming direct flights, new routes being established and increased frequency of flights to Sri Lanka which will boost tourism for the upcoming peak season.

Apart from elaborating on the strategy, Kimarli Fernando engaged in an absorbing Q&A session with global airline industry stakeholders. During her keynote speech she elaborated on Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, UNESCO sites and other cultural and nature offerings. One of the highlights of her speech was tourist investment. Tourism has been attracting substantial investment despite the challenges emanating from the pandemic. Between March 2020 – June 2021, the Government of Sri Lanka has attracted over US$950 million in investments, received 64 project proposals and approved 38 projects to the value of $102.38 Million. These ventures will be executed under the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). In order to attract strategic investors, the Investor Relations Unit was launched as a single point of contact for all tourism investments. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka is extending a host of financial incentives and fast-track processes to get projects off the ground within the shortest possible time.

Given the recent tie-ups with France tourism operators and a similar push in more key western markets, the brand awareness of Sri Lanka is growing in strategic markets.

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ComBank wins Daraz award for ‘Best Engaging Overall Cards Base’

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The Commercial Bank of Ceylon was presented the award for ‘The Best Engaging Overall Cards Base’ at the recent ‘Payment Partner Performance Awards 2021’ of Daraz, South Asia’s premier online shopping marketplace.

The Bank was awarded this title for empowering the Daraz platform by generating the highest number of transactions by both credit and debit card bases and the highest number of unique buyers’ engagement during the financial year 2020-21. This is the second consecutive year that the Bank was honoured with this award.

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has been an Internet Payment (IPG) service provider to Daraz from 2018, and has since partnered with the online retailer to power ‘Daraz 11.11,’ the world’s biggest online sale.

The two organisations are working together to offer diversified and unique offers to customers with a view of offering them attractive value additions, the Bank said. Commercial Bank cardholders can enjoy periodic discounts at Daraz with the offers structured by the Bank, and the convenience of Easy Payment Plans of up to 60 months.

Launched in 2012, the Daraz eCommerce site has an active presence in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal. The marketplace has over 2.5 million products in diverse categories such as consumer electronics, household goods, beauty, fashion, sports equipment, and groceries. It was acquired by the Alibaba Group in 2018.

Commercial Bank Credit and Debit Cards offer year-round promotions covering a wide variety of services. Commercial Bank was the first bank to offer loyalty rewards for both Credit and Debit Card holders under its Max Loyalty Rewards Points scheme. The Bank was also a pioneer in extending promotional discount offers which were traditionally only offered for Credit Cards to its Debit Cards.

Commercial Bank cards are the fastest growing cards in Sri Lanka and enjoy market leadership in Credit and Debit Card cumulative point-of-sale usage. The Bank offers a variety of Credit Cards in the Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers of Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay Cards, as well as Visa Signature, World Mastercard, Visa Infinite, UnionPay Asia Prestige Platinum and UnionPay Asia Prestige Diamond Cards in the premium segment. The cards are equipped with ‘Tap ’n Go’ NFC technology and are backed by a strong NFC Point-of-Sale (POS) network.

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 931 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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Banks’ Chief Internal Auditors’ Forum appoints new committee for 2021/22

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Seated from left - Varuna Koggalage (Committee Member), Numair Cassim (Vice President), Charitha Jayawickrama (President), Nirosha Perera (Secretary), Dulan Abeyratne (Committee Member) Standing from left - Dhanjaya Dayananda (Committee Member), Chandima Samarasinghe (Outgoing Secretary), John Premanath (Outgoing Vice President), Maduwantha Liyanage (Immediate Past President/Committee Member), Jayan Fernando (Committee Member). Absent from picture - Committee Members Kushlaini Allis and Gamini Jayaweera

The Chief Internal Auditors’ Forum of Banks appointed its 5th committee recently. The inaugural committee meeting was held on 17th November 2021 subsequent to the AGM held on 3rd November 2021. Charitha Jawawickrama of Sampath Bank was appointed as the President, Numair Cassim (Amana Bank) as Vice President and Nirosha Perera (Union Bank) as Secretary. Others in the committee include Varuna Koggalage (Seylan Bank), Dulan Abeyratne (HSBC), Dhanjaya Dayananda (SDB), Jayan Fernando (DFCC), Kushlaini Allis (NTB) and Gamini Jayaweera (NSB). The outgoing committee included Maduwantha Liyanage of BOC (Immediate Past President), John Premanath (Commercial Bank) and Chandima Samarasinghe (Cargills Bank).

The Forum was established to build strong relationships amongst the Licensed Commercial Banks and Licensed Specialized Banks in dealing with new developments and challenges pertinent to the industry. It also supports Internal Audit professionals to enhance comradeship and encourages participation of Banks to share knowledge and industry best practices. Since re-establishing in 2015, the forum has become an integral body that supports and assists Banks with regard to common audit related concerns in the industry.

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