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ComBank partners with National Science Foundation to enhance STEM education

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The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has announced a partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further enhance the Bank’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education projects and the delivery of STEM education to selected underperforming schools in Sri Lanka, the bank said in a news release.

“This initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Education comes a year after the Bank supported the establishment of 100 STEM smart classrooms island-wide to deliver digitised educational content. Under the MoU signed with NSF, the Bank’s CSR Trust will provide a list of schools to implement STEM projects and deliver logistical support to launch the STEM programme and carry out impact assessments,” it said.

“Recognising the rapid advancements in technology globally and the increasing demand for skilled professionals in the STEM fields, the Bank said its CSR Trust chose to implement this project to prioritise STEM education in the local education system. “

It added that for its part, the NSF will recommend schools deserving of STEM education support, assist the Bank in selecting and evaluating education projects which would yield impact at national level, assist the Bank to design the training programme, and perform impact assessments after the implementation of the STEM programme.Both parties will identify and implement interventions to address specific requirements of selected schools chosen for the programme, among their other responsibilities listed in the agreement.

Commenting on this latest STEM education programme, Commercial Bank Chief Financial Officer Mr Nandika Buddhipala said: “The Bank decided to expand its efforts in the field of STEM education because this will help prepare students for the jobs of the future. Many of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs in the modern economy are in STEM fields such as computer science, engineering, and data analysis. By providing students with a strong foundation in these subjects, we can ensure that the next generation of Sri Lanka is well-equipped to succeed in careers that are in demand.”

He added that by partnering with a reputed government institution such as the NSF which is mandated to serve and strengthen the science and technology sectors in Sri Lanka, the Bank will be able to benefit from the expertise it offers to further develop its STEM projects for the benefit of a larger group.

STEM education helps foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills. By teaching students how to analyse data, design experiments, and solve complex problems, STEM education helps to equip them with the skills necessary to succeed in any field. In addition to preparing students for future careers and fostering critical thinking skills, the STEM education programme can also help promote innovation and drive economic growth in the country, the Bank said.

Commercial Bank’s largest commitment in the sphere of corporate social responsibility is to digital technology education in Sri Lanka. In September 2022, the Bank donated its 250th IT lab under its flagship community initiative to take digital literacy to even the most rural towns in the country. It was also a key partner in the national Smart Schools initiative where 165 schools were equipped with digital learning facilities. The Bank’s “Sipnena” online portal contains digitized school curriculum content, complete with practical videos and presentations to facilitate easy learning for students.

The National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka was established in 1998 as the successor to the Natural Resources Energy & Science Authority (NARESA) of Sri Lanka established in 1981. It facilitates research, development and innovation to create a knowledge economy. NSF is also engaged in capacity building, infrastructure development, technology transfer, knowledge creation and sharing in all fields of science and technology to improve the quality of life.

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 12 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 269 branches and 943 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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‘Revenue collecting PCs had only Rs. 40 billion for public service in 2021’

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Pasanda Yapa Abeywardena

By Sanath Nanayakkare

There wouldn’t be a better time for major political parties to discuss and arrive at a consensus for abolishing the revenue-collecting provincial council system which hasn’t done anything more than just distributing government-sponsored welfare goods to the people, Pasanda Yapa Abeywardena, chief organiser of Lankalokaya and former provincial councilor said at a press conference in Colombo on January 19.

Pasanda who enjoys familial relationships with political higher-ups in the country while being the current chairman of Sathosa said that the President of Sri Lanka can travel across the island by helicopter in just one and a half hours which is only the size of Virginia in the United States, but has so many layers of governance including executive presidency, parliament, provincial councils, district secretariats, local government institutions etc.

“It is a known fact that provincial councils are mere training centres for the offspring of senior politicians and there is a demand in the country for cost-effective small government. In such a context, all political parties should have a dialogue in the next six months to abolish provincial councils, and strengthen the local government bodies through district development councils administered by the central government. Such a mechanism would reduce administrative layers while expanding the effective understanding of policies made by the government. Then the decisions made by the cabinet of ministers will easily flow to the ground level and the implementation process will be more dynamic. The President also has expressed similar views in this regard, he said.

“In the year 2021, revenue of provincial councils amounted to Rs. 331 billion while total expenditure was Rs. 316 billion, out of which Rs. 279 billion was spent on the payroll without having to bear the costs of provincial councilors. All in all, the provincial councils had only about Rs. 40 billion to spend on public services,” he said.

“In fact, I know from experience that nothing meaningful could be achieved through provincial councils other than merely being an institution of the central government that distributes chairs, mammoties etc., given by the government where provincial councilors claim to be the benefactors.”

“Provincial councils came to its end of term in April 2019 and five years have lapsed since the defunct of the system. Nevertheless, there is no public outcry to restore the system. PC system has never contributed to making any laws of the country or has never initiated a good programme on its own. So, we urge the political parties to engage in a meaningful discussion in the next six months before the country goes to presidential and parliamentary elections.”

He pointed out that the abolition of the PC system would help reduce the tax burden on the people, and that decision has to be taken well before PC elections are held.

Pasanda added that neither the people in the North of Sri Lanka or the government of India are interested in provincial councils anymore though the system was introduced by then government as a means of power decentralisation in Sri Lanka.”

“India is keen to have an equitable solution to the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka. However, I have reliable information that India doesn’t see provincial councils in the North and East would be an enabler in that quest. So, the abolition of provincial councils won’t trigger any geopolitical tensions with India,” he said.

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HNB Assurance Group surpasses 20% growth mark for the third consecutive year

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HNB Assurance Group recorded yet another year of exceptional performance, marking the third consecutive year of achieving a growth rate exceeding 20% in terms of GWP (Gross Written Premium). The year 2023 witnessed the Group achieving remarkable financial milestones and an array of local and international awards, solidifying its position as a frontrunner in the insurance industry.

HNB Assurance Group recorded a substantial GWP of LKR 18.7 Bn, showcasing a remarkable growth of 20% compared to the previous year. Reflecting on this achievement, Ms. Rose Cooray, Chairperson of HNBA and HNBGI, expressed her delight, stating, “To me personally, the remarkable growth trajectory of the HNB Assurance Group stands as a testament to our commitment to delivering value to our stakeholders. Both teams at HNBA and HNBGI performed an outstanding job, leaving no stone unturned, meticulously analyzing every challenge, and capitalizing on every opportunity. This approach to business was imperative, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic and social upheaval, where we as a nation encountered numerous challenges in diverse forms. In addition to our consistent growth of GWP, over the past three years, we as a group have so much to celebrate. Our Group assets grew by LKR 10 Bn during the year, well exceeding a remarkable total of LKR 51.2 Bn. Further, investment income for the Group surged to LKR 7.2 Bn, representing an outstanding growth of 49% from LKR 4.8 Bn in the preceding year. In terms of the Group’s profits, we recorded a commendable LKR 1.76 Bn in PAT.”

Honoring claims plays a vital role in maintaining the trust for any insurance company, “I am proud to note that the HNB Assurance Group honored claims of LKR 6.6 Bn, showcasing a growth of 19% compared to the previous year, aptly demonstrating our position as a reliable partner during our policyholder’s time of need.” explained Ms. Cooray.

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Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists partners with Morison to address the rising challenge of diabetes

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The team members from the Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists and Morison Ltd, present at the MoU signing

The Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists (SLCE), the leading authority at the forefront of diabetes management and education in Sri Lanka, has announced a collaborative partnership with Morison Ltd, a pioneer in the Sri Lankan pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, to launch a certificate training program for primary healthcare professionals on diabetes management.

Sri Lanka faces a growing epidemic in diabetes, with an estimated prevalence of one in five Sri Lankans living with diabetes. Primary healthcare doctors are often the first point of contact for patients with diabetes, hence equipping them with specialized knowledge and skills is crucial for early diagnosis, effective management, and preventing complications. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between SLCE and Morison on 13th February 2024, reflects a shared commitment to bridge this gap in diabetes expertise and establish primary care as the first line of defence.

The course content developed and delivered by the SLCE, features an evidence-based curriculum, combining theoretical knowledge with practical applications, ensuring participants receive up-to-date knowledge that adheres to the latest Clinical Practice Guidelines and international standards. The program aims to empower primary healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive diabetes care in their daily practice, including therapeutics, lifestyle counselling, and complication prevention, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced burden on the healthcare system. The course, spanning four months, is now open for registrations for the first intake, and the collaboration aims to conduct two such programs per annum.

Dedicated to advancing endocrinology and diabetes care in Sri Lanka, the SLCE spearheads numerous initiatives to educate healthcare professionals on best practices in diabetes management. Dr. Niranjala Meegoda Widanege, President of the Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists stated, “Equipping our primary healthcare doctors with specialized diabetes knowledge and skills is essential to tackle the growing epidemic effectively. This training program marks a significant step forward in ensuring accessible and quality diabetes care for all Sri Lankans.”

Dinesh Athapaththu, Managing Director, Morison Ltd commenting on the partnership added, “We are pleased to collaborate with the SLCE to bring this meaningful initiative to life. With a patient-centric approach across our value chain, we believe our latest efforts with the SLCE reflects our commitment to deliver a refreshing difference at a time it is most needed by the nation.”

Staying true to their purpose of “Making Premium Healthcare Affordable”, Morison strives to play a major role in the fight against diabetes by bringing the latest therapies closer to the nation with an offering that stands distinctively different with the best of quality and price.

Morison is a truly Sri Lankan pharmaceutical manufacturing company, with a rich legacy of over 60 years of industrial expertise. Their new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Homagama, is the largest investment to date in the local pharma manufacturing industry. Being the country’s largest pharma manufacturing facility for general tablets and liquids, it is also the first such facility in Sri Lanka to comply to European Union Good Manufacturing Practices (EU GMP) specifications.

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