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Deficit in trade account during January- April widened to $ 2.94 billion

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The cumulative deficit in the trade account during January – April widened to $ 2.94 billion from $ 2.69 billion recorded over the same period in 2020.

Central Bank said both exports and imports were significantly higher in April, compared to the lockdown period in April 2020, although both were lower compared to March. Cumulatively, exports were up 29.6% to $ 3.8 billion in the first four months of 2021, whilst imports were up 20% to $ 6.7 billion of which non-fuel imports were up 17.6% to $ 5.35 billion.Central Bank said the major contributory factors for this outcome were sharp rise in value of fuel imports, machinery and equipment, textiles and textile articles, chemical products and plastics and articles thereof. Recording the highest ever value for a month of April, earnings from merchandise exports in April increased by 189.8% to $ 818 million, from a significantly low value of $ 282 million recorded in April 2020 amidst the island wide lockdown measures due to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.Earnings from exports in April, however, were 25.2% lower than the export earnings of $ 1,094 million recorded in March, reflecting the impact of the beginning of the third wave of the pandemic and the festive holiday-related developments in April.Earnings from all subsectors of industrial goods exports improved substantially by 302.5% to $ 647 million in April, YOY. On a month-on-month basis, earnings from industrial exports declined by 22.0%, except for the subsector of petroleum products; leather, travel goods and footwear (mainly footwear); animal fodder (mainly dog/cat food); and printing industry products (mainly currency notes). Earnings from textiles and garments; rubber products; machinery and mechanical appliances; and gems, diamonds and jewellery mainly recorded declines compared to March. Meanwhile, earnings from the export of petroleum products improved in April over the preceding month due to higher exports of naphtha, while earnings from bunker and aviation fuel declined with the significant reduction in volumes of aviation fuel and bunkering fuel supplied to aircraft and ship arrivals, despite the increase in the average prices of these export products.Export earnings from all subsectors related to agricultural goods increased by 37.7% to $ 165.6 million in April, compared to a year ago, though contracted by 35.6% compared to March. Despite higher export prices, export earnings from tea declined substantially compared to the previous month due to lower export volumes. In addition, export earnings from spices (mainly cinnamon, pepper and cloves), coconut (both kernel and non-kernel products), seafood and minor agricultural products declined notably in April over March.  Earnings from all subsectors under mineral exports were also higher in April (by 332.9%) than export earnings in April 2020, but lower (by 10.3%) than export earnings in March. The decline in April over March reflected lower earnings from subsectors of earths and stone (mainly quartz), and ores, slag and ash (mainly titanium ores).The export volume index and the unit value index increased by 182.0% and 2.8%, respectively, on a YOY basis, in April. This indicates that the increase in export earnings was due to the combined impact of higher export volumes and prices.Expenditure on merchandise imports in April increased by 52.1% to $ 1.7 billion from low import expenditure of $ 1.12 billion in April 2020, when the effects of the first wave of the pandemic and low global petroleum prices were present. The YOY increase in the import expenditure was driven by the increase in imports of intermediate and investment goods. However, import expenditure in April was considerably lower (by 11.4%) compared to March ($ 1.92 billion), although import values in both March and April were higher than pre-pandemic levels.With declines recorded in both food and beverages and non-food consumer good categories, expenditure on the importation of consumer goods in April declined by 7.9%, compared to April 2020 and by 26.6% compared to March. 



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Business

Union Assurance launches HEALTH 360 ‘most comprehensive’ health insurance

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Union Assurance HEALTH 360 was launched on October 13th as a health insurance solution that covers a wide range of health protection needs for the entire family. It offers benefits across three generations covering the policyholder’s spouse, children, and parents with a wealth of benefits.

Union Assurance HEALTH 360 is designed to help consumers manage the rising cost of health care, especially given the unforeseen nature of a family’s health needs. With a HEALTH 360 solution, consumers now have the liberty to obtain the best treatment for their loved ones and themselves, without holding back owing to limitations in affordability.

Commenting on the launch of HEALTH 360, Jude Gomes, the CEO of Union Assurance, stated, “Your family is your most precious asset. No amount of money or belongings can replace their wellbeing. Today, we face numerous health issues, making it increasingly unpredictable, and difficult to manage the health and wellness of our families without support. We are in an age where 83% of Sri Lankans suffer from non-communicable diseases, with 35% of these being heart related. 4.7 Mn people are hospitalized annually, with 25,000+ individuals being diagnosed with cancer every year. Such expenses can put a serious dent in one’s savings. A good health protection plan like HEALTH 360 gives you access to the best treatment, locally and overseas, providing you a reliable safety net when you need it most.”

Union Assurance HEALTH 360, gives consumers the ease of a single solution for the entire family’s health needs with comprehensive coverage for hospital charges, surgery, medication, maternity services, physicians, dental and optical services etc. It offers the highest age limit for a health rider covering up to 75 years, with a cover limit up to Rs. 60 Mn per year. HEALTH 360 offers a unique, in-built critical illness cover, outpatient and Ayurvedic hospitalization cover, including coverage for vaccinations and investigations.

Union Assurance is a part of the John Keells Group, one of Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerates. It is among the most awarded Insurance companies in Sri Lanka, completing over three decades of success with a market capitalization of Rs. 16.6 Bn, a Life Fund of Rs. 45.3 Bn and a Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 300% as at June 2021. Set to empower the Sri Lankan Dream, Union Assurance offers Life Insurance solutions that cover education, health, investment, protection, and retirement needs of Sri Lankans. With 76 branches and an over 3000-strong workforce, Union Assurance continues to invest in people, products, and processes with a customer-centric focus to be responsive to emerging changes in the Life Insurance industry.

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ComBank first to link Import & Export Control Department for online payments with LankaPay

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LankaClear Chairman Dr Kenneth De Zilwa (left) and Commercial Bank Managing Director S. Renganathan

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has become the first Bank in Sri Lanka to link the Import and Export Control Department (IECD) to a digital platform with LankaPay, enabling customers to pay their license fees to the department conveniently, without having to leave their desks.

Online real-time payments to the IECD via ComBank Digital are now possible for the Bank’s individual as well as business customers and can be accessed on www.combankdigital.com and its iOS and Android mobile applications. The platform is secured with industry-level security standards to provide a convenient, swift, and safe digital banking experience to its customers, wherever they are, the Bank said.

To use this online payment option, customers simply have to visit the ‘Billers’ section on the platform, select the desired biller and make the payment. Once the payment has been successfully completed, the customer can download a cyber receipt as payment confirmation.

“Technology-enabled access is now much more than just a matter of convenience, as the disruptions caused by the lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic have shown,” Commercial Bank Managing Director S. Renganathan said. “Using technology can be the difference between keeping a business alive or going belly-up. At Commercial Bank, we are exploring every possibility offered by technology to help our customers continue their business operations.”

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CSC and Sail Lanka Yachting Group join hands to promote nautical tourism

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Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd. joins hands with Sail Lanka Yachting Group to embark on a journey together in developing and promoting nautical tourism, cruising and yachting among other things.

Sri Lanka, an Island Nation strategically positioned in the Indian Ocean, has a tremendous untapped potential in maritime tourism industry especially in the area of cruising, yachting, coastal tourism and shipping for leisure around the country. By developing growth strategies of this industry a greater potential is evident to attract local and foreign tourists, benefitting and enriching the local economy with foreign currency.

Wineendra Weeraman, Chairman, Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd., since assuming his duties, was eager and ambitious to embark on a passenger transport service along the Coastal belt of the Island Nation and also amongst neighboring countries like India, Maldives etc.

Pioneering the yachting industry in Sri Lanka as well as a game changer in the global yachting industry and Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, Pierre Pringiers, the former Consul of the Honorary Consulate of Belgium in Sri Lanka, is the mastermind behind the iconic group “Sail Lanka Yachting Group”, which was launched in 2014. Sail Lanka Yachting Group designs luxury catamarans, manufactures catamarans using the latest technologies and exports internationally. ‘Sail Lanka Yachting Group’ also charters luxury cruises around the country envisaging to launch in Maldives in near future.

Wineendra Weeraman, the Chairman of Ceylon Shipping Corporation and Kaushal Rajapakse, the Managing Director of Sail Lanka Yachting Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the CSC premises on 11th October 2021 to fasten the business relationships between the two entities envisaging to strengthen it with an agency agreement that will be executed in due course.

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