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Developing plans and policies without young people is a futile exercise: UNICEF Sri Lanka



Series of crises SL has faced have dealt a heavy blow

Reviving presents SL with an opportunity to address its long-running challenges

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Young people are not only the present but also the future; developing plans and policies without them is a futile exercise, they need to be the front and centre of the discussions because they are the ones with fresh ideas and the most at stake, in terms of the sustainability of the planet and the tourism sector, Christian Skoog, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka said in Colombo yesterday.

“Here in Sri Lanka, we have a gift. That gift is the 4.4m young people. The contribution young people can make to the tourism sector is immense. But to harness their energy and ideas, there is a need to provide them the skills, training and opportunities to thrive within a dynamic and fast-growing industry,” he said.

“Across the world it is young people who are the hungriest for travel. They are seeking new experiences and looking to broaden their horizons. They serve not only as your potential clientele, they are also your best marketers through tools like social media. Indeed, Sri Lanka has been named one of the world’s most instagramable locations,”

“Rarely has there been such an urgent moment for us to ensure the energy and enthusiasm of young people to contribute to Sri Lanka’s sustainable development is given expression. And rarely has there been such an opportune moment to discuss building back better in the context of sustainable tourism.

Skoog made these points at an event hosted by the Chamber of Tourism and Industry held to mark the World Tourism Day.

Further speaking he said:

“Today we consider how to sustainably revive a sector upon which the livelihoods of so many people depend and we discuss how we can effectively respond to the challenges that confront us. When I learned in late 2020 that I would be appointed to serve as UNICEF Rep in Sri Lanka, I felt invigorated by the prospect of coming. Of course, much of that vigour was related to the work I expected to undertake here. But I confess that part of my excitement came from listening to my friends saying it is “paradise” and “best vacation spot”. Whenever I have had the opportunity to explore Sri Lanka since, I have been captivated by the landscapes, the biodiversity, the food, and the warmth of the people I meet across this island. But of course, I also arrived at a time of profound economic hardship for so many. I know those impacts have been felt deeply across the tourism sector. Many of you have struggled valiantly to keep your businesses running, and to maintain decent livelihoods for workers across the sector: from hoteliers to taxi drivers to souvenir sellers, to tour guides, to wait staff.”

“Sri Lanka’s tourism sector has contended with a succession of adverse events in the past 3 years: 1) The devastating terrorist attacks of Easter 2019 reduced arrivals by 18%. 2) COVID-19 crisis shut borders & paralysed air travel. 3) Conflict in Ukraine entirely cut a tourism market that until recently represented 25% of foreign arrivals. And, of course, economic crisis continues to pose an array of challenges. Reviving tourism in a manner that is sustainable and inclusive is one of the key tools to help us navigate through this crisis.”

“I would like to reiterate the importance of sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka, to touch upon the relationship between sustainable tourism and the SDGs, and mention the role young people can play as we re-think tourism in Sri Lanka.”

“Tourism is a critical component of the economy; it is Sri Lanka’s 3rd-largest source of foreign exchange, and contributed about 5% of GDP, pre-COVID. Tourism is also a major employer of people across the island. In fact, globally, tourism employs one in every ten people.”

“Let’s be under no illusions. The series of crises SL has faced have dealt a heavy blow. But the task we now face in reviving the sector also presents us with an opportunity to address some its long-running challenges.”

“These include over-tourism and other unsustainable practices; contributions to Climate Change; pollution; a loss of biodiversity; and a lack of inclusion. As an island nation with extraordinary biodiversity, Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of unsustainable tourism.”

“Indeed, when tourism arrivals plunged during the pandemic, many destinations took the opportunity to reflect on the toll irresponsible or unsustainable practices had on their ecologies; and they resolved to do this differently. We too, should resolve to do things differently.”

“As tourism returns, the demand for ethical and sustainable products and experiences continues to rise. We can no longer consider sustainable tourism offerings as a choice. Costs incurred in adopting practices that benefit the environment and community, need to be looked at as investments which provide the industry with an advantage.”

“The tourism sector, as a whole, needs to focus on marketing Sri Lanka as not only a desirable destination because of its natural beauty, culture and heritage, but also differentiating it as a sustainable destination.”

“I believe that harnessing tourism’s positive contribution to sustainable development and the mitigation of the sector’s adverse effects calls for strong partnerships and decisive action by all tourism stakeholders.”

“Events like this give us an opportunity to build partnerships: to reflect, and to share ideas and strategies. Creating true partnerships of both public and private sector operators in the country is key to our ability to revive the sector and develop sustainable tourism as a tool for a better future for Sri Lanka.”

“With the right safeguards in place, tourism can provide decent jobs, particularly for young people, it can inspire us to protect life on land and life below water, it can help build resilient, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone. And it can help Sri Lanka thrive,” the UNICEF representative said.

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‘People’s Bank continues to maintain steadfast performance’



People’s Bank today announced the results for its nine months period ended September 30, 2022, recording pre-tax profit of LKR 17.0 billion on a Bank solo and LKR 21.0 billion consolidated basis.

The total operating income rose by 41.3% to reach LKR 91.0 billion, whilst total operating expenses grew by only 9.6% to LKR 31.4 billion reflecting prudent cost management amidst a highly challenging macro-economic environment characterized by, amongst other, an 80.0% currency devaluation and primarily arising therefrom close to 70.0% inflationary pressure. The Bank’s cost to income ratio was 40.9% for 9 months period ended as compared with 52.3% during the same period 2021, reflecting both top line growth and controlled cost increases.

Net interest income grew by 12.7% to reach LKR 66.5 billion whilst interest expenses rose by 89.6% during the nine months 2022. As a result, net interest margins slipped to 3.12% from 3.27% in the same period 2021. Fees & commission income grew by 128.0% to reach LKR 12.8 billion as compared with LKR 5.6 billion in the same period 2021. Excluding extraordinary items, growth was close to 30.0%, reflecting the Bank’s ongoing effort to improve its non-funded sources of income, more so in a highly volatile interest rate environment.

Impairment charges rose significantly reflecting challenged macro level circumstances and the elevated level of risk across its key customer segments. Post tax profit was LKR 12.7 billion, dipping by 15.6% over the same period 2021.

Total deposits grew by 10.4% to reach LKR 2,286.3 billion whilst net loans amounted to LKR 1,811.0 billion, contracting by a marginal 1.3%. Total assets reached LKR 3,028.5 billion growing by 14.4% from end 2021.

The Bank’s Tier I and Total Capital Adequacy Ratio was 11.2% and 15.6%, respectively on a Bank solo basis (end 2021: 12.6% and 17.8%) whilst, on a consolidated basis, it was 12.4% and 16.3%, respectively (end 2021: 13.4% and 17.9%). The Bank’s solvency reflected its efforts to augment its regulatory capital since the roll out of Basel III on July 1, 2017 with further efforts in this connection ongoing.

Commenting on the results, the Chairman of People’s Bank, Sujeewa Rajapakse, stated that: “All factors and circumstances considered, we are pleased with the Bank’s results. Irrespective of sector or nature of business, 2022 is not a year where performance is measured by top or bottom line but one of resilience, prudence, solvency without any regulatory forbearance and, more importantly, customer centricity in their time of dire need. During the last several years, People’s Bank has played a pivotal role by putting country first by supporting the internal eco system function without any disruption to the best of its abilities and has facilitated, amongst many other, bulk of the country’s imports relating to crude oil, coal, fertilizer, and essential medicine. We remain committed to serving the nation and are already in the process of implementing several additional measures to better equip the Bank meet the increasing needs of its various stakeholders”

The Chief Executive Officer/ General Manager of People’s Bank, Ranjith Kodituwakku, stated that: “With the economy set to contract this year, excluding the impact of the currency devaluation, most balance sheets are likely to contract. Whilst profitability is not the focal point, bolstering liquidity, strengthening capital, and bringing about productivity and efficiency enhancements in these difficult times through digital and other means are the key focus areas. Needless to say, whilst the process of recovery will be a long and arduous one and one which hinges on many moving parts, we remain optimistic that we are currently on the right path to recover. In all probability, the changes which have taken place, those currently taking place and, more importantly, those likely to take place will shape the country’s future for the better.

People’s Bank is the country’s Premiere Licensed Commercial Bank with Sri Lanka’s largest banking footprint composed of 743 branches and service centers. With a history spanning 61 years, the Bank benefits from a staff strength close to 7,500 who tirelessly and diligently serve over 14.5 million customers and over 19.0 million account relationships, which is by far the largest for any financial services provider in the country.

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Sharp pick-up in share trading; CSE turnover hits Rs. 3.35 billion



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE yesterday saw a sharp pick-up in trade, in terms of turnover and volume, with indices staying positive following Foreign Minister Ali Sabry hinting on the IMF agreement, which is likely to be signed in early January. Assurances are likely to be given by main creditors, China India and Japan, for restructuring of debt, stock market analysts said.

Shares rose over 3 per cent within the first hour of trade, pushed up by strong positive sentiments, following last week’s Expolanka expansion news and speculation on interest rates to be eased in line with inflation, market analysts said.

“Since last week the market is moving on strong positive sentiments on Expolanka and interest rates to fall in line with inflation; this has also brought in some bargain hunting, analysts opined.

Central bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe also said market rates should eventually ease despite fears over domestic debt restructuring, as inflation falls, liquidity increases in dollar markets and inter-bank liquidity improves.

Prices in blue-chip counters also showed significant gains and both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index was up by 276 points and S and P SL20 rose by 81.2 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3.35 billion with five crossings.

Those five crossings reported in Overseas Realty, where 98.5 million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 276 million, its shares traded at Rs 14, Lanka IOC 250,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 47.5 million and its shares traded at Rs 190, Kelani Tyre 728,000 shares crossed for Rs 40.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 55, hZenid Business Solutions two million shares crossed for Rs 34 million and its shares traded at Rs 17 and CT Holdings 114,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 20 million, its shares traded at Rs 175.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Browns Investments Rs 554 million (76.7 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 425 million (2.2 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 197 million (one million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 158 million (21.2 million shares traded), First Capital Holdings Rs 150 million (5.9 million shares traded), Capital Alliance Rs 143 million (6.7 million shares traded) and First Capital Treasuries Rs 122 million (5.2 million shares traded).During the day 281 million share volumes changed hands in 28000 transactions.

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Melstacorp and Ceylon Cold Stores. Mixed interest was observed in Expolanka Holdings, Lanka IOC and ACL Cables, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, First Capital Holdings and First Capital Treasuries.

The Transportation sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Expolanka Holdings), while the sector index gained 3.97 per cent. The share price of Expolanka Holdings increased by Rs. 7.25 (3.98 per cent) to close at Rs. 189.50.

The Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments and Melstacorp), while the sector index increased by 2 per cent. The share price of Browns Investments moved up by 40 cents (6.56 per cent) to close at Rs. 6.50. The share price of Melstacorp appreciated by Rs. 2 (4.38 per cent) to close at Rs. 47.70.

Yesterday, the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 361.24 and the selling rate Rs 371.72. The Colombo Consumer Price Index showed some decline of 61 per cent in November, while in October it was 66 per cent. Therefore, the inflation has indicated some decline.

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Pan Asia Bank facilitates much-needed banking facilities for thousands of tourists from The Mein Schiff 5 cruise ship



The Mein Schiff 5, one of the most popular super luxury cruises, docked in the port of Colombo on Tuesday (29/11/2022) morning with 2,000 tourists, mostly European, to discover Sri Lanka. This ship has a record number of passengers onboard and is one of the first luxury passenger ships to visit Sri Lanka after the pandemic, officially commencing the winter season for cruise calls. This visit creates a new opportunity for the country to generate foreign exchange and bolster its foreign exchange inflow. Visits by these prominent cruise ships boost the image of Sri Lanka as a safe, hospitable and diverse destination for tourists around the world.

As the Truly Sri Lankan Bank, Pan Asia Bank stepped forward to assist the cruise passengers to conduct their banking requirements through its state of the art mobile banking facility. Pan Asia Bank’s mobile banking unit was available during this period to help tourists with many different needs such as ATM facilities, foreign currency exchanges etc. to make their stay smooth. The Truly Sri Lankan Bank is committed to take part in these kinds of nationally relevant initiatives which will uplift the legendary hospitality and warmth of the Truly Sri Lankan brand.

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