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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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Cabinet approves rationalization of VAT exemptions and abolition of SVAT System




The Cabinet of Ministers granted concurrence to the resolution forwarded by the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to remove most of the releases from Value Added Tax (VAT), further retaining releases that ease the pressure on low – income families to secure the fundamental sectors of the economy as well as the releases for sectors such as education, health and agriculture, as well as to revise the provisions applicable for the Value Added Tax (VAT) act so that the Simplified Value Added Tax (SVAT) methodology can be canceled with effect from 01.01.2024 by introducing a more formal methodology for repaying the Value Added Tax (VAT) and to instruct the Legal Draftsman to prepare a draft bill for the purpose.

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Venora Lanka Power Panels to set up assembly plant in Australia



Sagara Gunawardene

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Sri Lanka- based, export- oriented manufacturer, Venora Lanka Power Panels (Pvt) Ltd, with a state of the art electric panel factory at the Export Processing Zone, Biyagama, will set up an assembly plant in Australia.

“Once we set up the electric panel assembly plant in Australia, we will export all our panels from Sri Lanka and that plant will do 30 percent value addition to the product to supply that market, the company’s chairman/ Managing Director, engineer Sagara Gunawardena told The Island Financial Review.

Gunawardena said that the company is a value- addition assembly plant and he would be investing AUS $ 2 million for the project to be set up in Melbourne and hire 100 engineers and other professionals. He explained that the venture has enormous potential.

Venora Lanka provides power panels to mega projects in Sri Lanka and exports to Bangladesh, Maldives, Kenya, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Myanmar. Panel assembling is strictly in compliance with IEC 61439 standards, it was explained.

Gunawardena added: ‘I firmly believe that, being a truly customer focused organization, every employee and every process in the organization has to be aligned behind delighting customers. Therefore, at a time when the country is facing a major dollar crisis, my company would be aiming at bringing dollars into the country, while providing employment for local professionals, especially engineers.

‘At Venora Lanka we do not try to change customers’ mindsets. Instead, we take time to understand what they really want and focus our brand on delivering that. Venora is values- driven first and cost- driven second – creating a unique brand proposition.

‘Since the US dollar rate has come down, it is our concern that importers and suppliers do not change their prices, which is really affecting the manufacturing sector.

Company sources added: ‘The company has several wings of operation, such as local and overseas projects, switch board assembling, telecommunication infrastructure installations, earthing, lighting and surge protection, incorporating world renowned brands.

‘Venora Lanka Power Panels is the first Sri Lankan company to receive the licence, in accordance with the UK Trade Mark Act 1994, to use the trade mark “Best Enterprise”. It won a global award at the event, ‘Golden Awards for Quality and Business Prestige’, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2015.

‘Within a short span of time, with the perfect blend of progressive thinking and expertise, Venora Group has expanded to consist of, Venora International Projects, Venora Telecom, Venora Industrial Solutions and Venora Lanka Power Panels (BOI approved). Further, Venora has established its overseas presence through Venora Engineering Kenya and Venora Engineering Myanmar.’

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Share market moves into positive territory; indices up



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE trading got off to a positive note yesterday but during the last session of the day the momentum slowed. However, the market is now moving towards positive territory following the Central Bank announcement of a downward trend in interest rates, market analysts said.

Amid those developments the market witnesses improvements in both indices and in the turnover.

The All- Share Price Index up by 12.8 points and S and P SL 20 rose by 6.97 points. Turnover stood at Rs 710 million with one crossing. The crossing was reported in JKH which crossed 430,000 shares to the tune of Rs 60.2 million; its shares traded at Rs 140.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; JKH Rs 212 million (1.5 million shares traded), Access Engineering Rs 44.7 million ( three million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 34.5 million (264,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 28.6 million (5.3 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 23.8 million (4.7 million shares traded), Capital Alliance Rs 22.9 million (615,000 shares traded) and First Capital Holdings Rs 19.2 million (574,000 shares traded). During the day the 31.4 million shares volumes changed hands in 9000 transactions.

Yesterday, the Central Bank’s US dollar buying rate was Rs 285.16 and the selling rate Rs 298.85.

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