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Colombo Development Symposium highlights the Road Not Taken



The Colombo Development Symposium, organized by BiZnomics, was successfully held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo on March 24, with the attendance of corporate leaders, captains of industry, and foreign emissaries.

Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera delivered a keynote address titled “The Road Not Taken”, where he outlined Sri Lanka’s development story so far, and the critical reforms needed to stimulate inclusive growth and development in line with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto: “Visions of Prosperity and Splendor”.

Jayasundera said that Sri Lanka’s debt problem has been exaggerated, and that total external debt declined by 500 million US dollars in 2020. Emphasizing that Sri Lanka has never defaulted on a debt or LC (Letter of Credit), even amid war and natural disasters. He said that the government has taken progressive steps for debt sustainability, such us reducing foreign borrowing, relying on domestic financing, and rationalizing imports.

He said that resorting to the IMF to deal with the country’s current challenges would force the government to raise taxes, which would harm both consumers and producers, throttle growth, and cause the economy to contract. The government would instead maintain a stable tax policy for five years and that the government would opt for currency SWAPS with friendly countries such as China to buffer foreign reserves.

Jayasundera urged the private sector to change its thinking. Local banks which enjoy high profitability and low rates of non-performing loans should engage in long term lending for production, and develop new instruments and investment banking. Large plantation companies should learn from the innovative examples set by smallholders and companies such as Dilmah.

More investment should be poured into expanding the production, processing and value-addition of agricultural products, especially for export. He also urged local businesses to start using CNY (Chinese Yuan) and also embrace usage of the Chinese Renminbi, which is an IMF basket currency.

He said that the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has identified five areas in need of critical reforms in order to facilitate inclusive growth. The President has appointed bodies to research and recommend reforms in the areas of business regulation, commercial law, customs, finance, and land use.

The Jayasundera speech was followed by a panel discussion featuring Secretary to the Treasury S.R. Attygalle, Board of Investment Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala, Access Engineering Chairman Sumal Perera, and John Keells Holdings Chairman Krishan Balendra. The panel was moderated by senior broadcast journalist Indeewari Amuwatte.

During the broad ranging discussion, Attygalle said that government’s Budget for 2021 was designed to enhance inclusive growth, with a focus on lower taxation, rural investment and domestic financing mechanisms. He said that the country will depend less on external borrowing, while ironing out bottlenecks for investment.

Mohottala said that the country needs law reforms and digitization of processes such as customs and tax reforms in order to enhance the ease of doing business and foreign companies required large local companies to partner for investments here. He requested the private sector to rise to this task.

Sumal Perera expressed the need for media cooperation in presenting a positive image of Sri Lanka to the world. The media has a responsibility to build Sri Lanka as a brand and showcase positive success stories from the country.

Krishan Balendra said that the country’s tourism sector continues to be badly affected by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. However successful rollout of vaccines will alleviate these problems. Domestic consumption has recovered since lifting of lockdowns and footfall in the Western Province is close to pre-pandemic levels.

The Symposium was organized by BiZnomics, a magazine about business, economics and lifestyle. BiZnomics has an in-house research team that dissects raw data into analysis and provides insights into current business trends. The magazine also celebrates local entrepreneurs who have gone beyond our shores to become “Global Sri Lankans”.

The event was sponsored by Capital Alliance Limited, LOLC Holdings PLC, Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, and CHEC Port City Colombo. The official media partner for the event was Ada Derana and the official newspaper for the event was the Daily FT.

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LOLC Al-Falaah unveils pioneering Wadi’ah Gold-Storage Facility with multiple customer benefits



Sri Lanka’s most awarded and trusted Alternate Financial services brand, LOLC Al-Falaah recently unveiled their ground-breaking new product – the Wadi’ah Gold Loan Facility. This is the 1st time a Finance company in Sri Lanka is offering this facility. Al-Falaah Wadi’ah is a unique gold storage option offered to Al-Falaah’s valued customer base. All gold articles are tested for quality and authenticity using state-of-the art equipment by the company’s experienced staff without causing any damage to the jewellery. A unique ‘Gold Storage Certificate’ with the description of articles, including weight, quality and quantity along with the market value will be issued to the customer when obtaining this facility.

Speaking about the new product, Mr. Shiraz Refai, Deputy General Manager of LOLC Al-Falaah said, “Gold is a favourite investment option at all levels within the concentrated community. The metal is usually pawned, sold or exchanged when in need of cash. As the conventional Pawning options and Gold Loan offering has limitations to cater to the specific needs, as well as contradict with certain beliefs of the community, a concept acceptable and practiced in the industry is introduced by LOLC’s Alternate Financial Services Unit to its valued customer segment”.

Accordingly, a unique feature has been introduced to the Al-Falaah Wadi’ah Gold Storage facility offering the Customer the benefit of obtaining an interest-free maximum Cash-Advance in the industry at zero mark-up against the gold storage certificate value for any emergencies. In addition, for the convenience of the customers, the Gold storage facility period is extended from 3, 6 and 12 months without any requirement for a deposit and the custodial fees are comparatively competitive. The stored gold articles will also be offered a free Takaful cover with a reassurance of highest safety and security.

The Al-Falaah Wadi’ah gold storage facility will be initially available at selected branches including Wellawatta, Akkaraipattu, Kalmunai, Pottuvil, Grandpass, Maradana, Mawanella, Matara, Nawalapitiya and Negombo. Al-Falaah aims to make the facility available across all LOLC Finance branches and dedicated Al-Falaah centers island-wide by the end of the 1st quarter of 2021.

Commenting on the new Al-Falaah Wadi’ah Gold loan facility, Nishantha Jayasekera, Chief Manager, SME Unit & Head of Gold Loan Business of LOLC Finance said, “The main aim of this facility is to give financial-access to the grass-root level clients who do not have direct access to banking & finance, but require small cash advances to develop daily businesses and self-employment. Through this product and its value added features, we hope to cover all segments of the population”.

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LANKATILES donates high-end ventilator to Colombo North Teaching Hospital



A Rs. 4.3 million ventilator has been donated to the Coronary Care Unit of the Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Ragama, by LANKATILES, the country’s leading tile manufacturer.

The machine was described as a high-end, world-class piece of equipment suitable for all patient groups.

Present at the official hand-over were Mr Mahendra Jayasekera, Managing Director of Lanka Walltiles PLC and Lanka Tiles PLC, Dr. S. P. A. Liyanage Ranaweera, Director of Colombo North Teaching Hospital, and Dr. Sanjeewa Rajapakse, Consultant Cardiologist of the hospital.

At a time when state-of-the-art equipment is urgently needed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, LANKATILES reaffirmed its commitment to help frontline hospital staff in their efforts at reducing the spread of the virus and easing patient numbers.

The company said this was a commitment it is ready to stand by at all times in the interests of the country.



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Sampath Bank hosts Central Bank’s ‘MatarataQR’ event to promote QR code use



Matara, April 3rd, 2021: Sampath Bank PLC recently hosted the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL) MatarataQR event, in a bid to drive awareness and increase acceptance and usage of LANKAQR, the common Quick Response (QR) code standard for the country that was introduced in 2020.

Encouraging consumers to adopt the use of QR codes in their day-to-day transactions, the event was held at the Sanath Jayasuriya Grounds in Matara under the patronage of the Chief Guest, Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister of Power and Guest of Honour, D. Kumaratunga, Director – Payments and Settlements, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; along with senior officials from the CBSL, other commercial banks and financial institutions. Sampath Bank was represented by Nanda Fernando – Managing Director; Tharaka Ranwala – Senior DGM – Operations / Group Chief Marketing Officer and Ajith Salgado – Group Chief Information Officer.

At the event, the Bank actively promoted its ‘WePay’ mobile wallet which helped attract more customers while also onboarding new merchants. A 25% cash back was on offer for payments at over 200 merchants in Matara on the day, made via the LANKAQR enabled WePay digital mobile payment app.

“We are very proud to partner with the Central Bank to host this event that will highlight the safety, convenience and speed of getting onboard the LANKAQR payment standard to the people of Matara. These benefits, coupled with the advanced digital banking solutions offered by Sampath Bank, make it a simple choice to migrate to digital payment technology and we warmly invite the merchants in Matara to come experience the benefits of adopting this new method of payments,” said Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC.

Sampath Bank is a 100% local bank that has deeply rooted itself in the lives of the people of Sri Lanka. Established in 1987, the bank has become a state-of-the-art financial institution that continues to be a market leader today thanks to its constant innovation and customer focused approach to business. It has introduced many firsts to the Sri Lankan banking sector including introducing ATMs to Sri Lanka, extended banking hours and slip-less banking to name a few. The Bank is steadily transforming itself into a ‘tech company engaged in banking,’ from the traditional approach of a bank engaged in technology.

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