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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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HNB supports Sri Lanka Welfare Society of Blind Women



Supporting the livelihoods of visually impaired women, Sri Lanka’s most customer friendly bank HNB PLC donated 300 white canes and dry ration packs to the members of the Sri Lanka Welfare Society of the Blind Women.

The donations made utilizing voluntary contributions gathered by HNB employees, were handed over to members of the Society at a special event at HNB Towers under the patronage of HNB Managing Director and CEO Jonathan Alles.

“HNB is proud to partner with the Sri Lanka Welfare Society of the Blind Women to serve the visually impaired women of the country. Our goal is to do our part in ensuring they are given opportunities, recognition and respect that are equal to every other citizen, and we hope that partnerships of this nature will pave the way for a more inclusive and caring society,” HNB Managing Director and CEO, Jonathan Alles said.

With 252 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. Over the recent past, the bank was ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd.

HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020, in addition to winning the coveted Best Retail Bank in Sri Lanka Award for the 11th time at the Asian Banker Awards 2020, in recognition of its sustainable growth and continuous improvements in processes, products and services amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment.

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People’s Insurance enters Medical Insurance market with ‘the most comprehensive medical insurance cover available in Sri Lanka’



In an unprecedented effort to enhance its product offerings to customers across Sri Lanka, People’s Insurance PLC recently announced its plans to diversify into the health insurance space of the country. This strategic move to establish its presence as a health insurance provider builds on the well-established public image of People’s Insurance as the insurer who cares with love.

As the market is already heavily saturated with health insurance products offered by the competition, Peoples Insurance had the strategic objective of offering a product to make them stand out from the rest. Following a customer first approach, the insurer has decided to be a step above its competitors by offering a highly comprehensive medical insurance cover available in the country.

Citizens of Sri Lanka and those individuals who currently reside in the country are eligible to obtain a medical insurance cover from People’s Insurance. Individuals can be covered from their 5th birthday onwards. However, infants from the age of 3 months can also be protected by these covers provided that their parents have a medical cover from People’s Insurance too.

Jeevani Kariyawasam, the Head of Operations at People’s Insurance PLC commented on this new development, “When People’s Insurance PLC began to contemplate our entry into the health insurance sector, we knew we had to be different. As we are known as the only insurer who cares with love, our health insurance product had to reflect this strongly. Due to this, we decided to position ourselves as an insurance provider with a highly comprehensive product in the health insurance space. With affordable premiums, we have made every effort to ensure that Sri Lankans can enjoy the peace of mind that health insurance brings about.”

Medical schemes will vary from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 2 million and premiums will depend on the sum insured, along with the customer’s age band. It is also noteworthy that the geographical scope of treatment extends beyond Sri Lanka and into India as well. Costs related to ambulance call outs, inpatient proceedings, surgical treatments, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and pre and post hospitalization expenses are just a few of the areas that this comprehensive product covers.

As People’s Insurance PLC has a trusted and well established name in the minds of Sri Lankan customers, it is expected that their entrance into the medical insurance sector will be welcomed by citizens across the island. With the underlying goal of caring for its customers beyond anything else, this new development will allow for more Sri Lankans access to proper healthcare services. This decision truly resonates with a purpose beyond profit initiative.

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Browns Investments purchases 9.9 percent stake in HNB, boosting market



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE activities were positive but not bullish yesterday. Besides, the CSE announcement on a transaction where Browns Investments purchased a 9.9% stake in HNB plus last minute buying interest brought a positive note to the stock market, analysts said. Browns Investments bought 42 million HNB shares in the price range of Rs. 125.75 and Rs. 132.25 for RS 5.3 billion.

This quantum of shares or 9.9 % percent stake of HNB purchased by Brown Investments happened during the months of April and May, market sources said. Amid those developments both indices were positive. All Share Price Index was up by 45.85 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 890.3 million with a single crossing. The crossing is from Sampath Bank which crossed 500000 shares to the tune of RS 26 million and its shares traded at Rs. 52.

In the retail market, top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, J K H RS 189 million (1.4 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 181 million (27.8 million shares traded),Expo Lanka Rs. 53.8 million (1.2 million shares traded), Sampath Bank 50.2 million (1 million shares traded)and Royal ceramic Rs. 47.3 million (1.4 million shares traded). During the day 74.2 million share volume changed hands in 10600 transactions.

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