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Dhammika’s seven-pronged strategy to overcome SL’s foreign exchange crisis

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Mr. Dhammika Perera, the controlling shareholder of the Hayleys group and a multitude of other listed companies who is widely speculated to be the country’s wealthiest individual, has proposed a seven-pronged strategy to overcome Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange crisis in a wide-ranging interview with the Irida Divayina Sangrahaya.

In terms of market value of his quoted share portfolio he will be among the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest in the country, analysts say. He is also on record claiming he’s the biggest taxpayer here but it is unclear whether this is in corporate or personal terms. Most published ‘rich lists’ in SL calculate wealth on market value of quoted shares. But many other factors including real estate holdings, shares of unquoted companies and much more should be included in any accurate computation.

Perera who says he can identify “a multitude of ways” to earn and save dollars says in the interview that “it is only now that everyone feels earning dollars is important.”

“For the last 73 years, the country has not had a plan to earn foreign currency. Therefore, only now when an issue arises, a country like ours wants to earn dollars inside the country. Previously, there was no plan to earn dollars for the country. Every year there is a deficit of about US$ 1.8 billion to US$ 2 billion. But a debt of US$ 2 billion sorts out the problem every time. Hence it was not necessary for anyone to generate dollars inside the country. But I think, now the country is most aware of the need to generate dollars in the country, Perera said.

The Dhammika strategy covers a wide compass. This includes building a “University Town” reachable within 30 minute from the BIA with five internationally ranked universities; establishing a budget airline hub; providing opportunities for the private sector educational industry to teach ICT courses; building two hospitals like Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth with internationally recognized facilities; improving the fisheries industry; and making SL the country with Asia’s best business environment; he further sees unexploited potential in the coconut industry.

He has thus outlined his seven prongs:

1. If the government will build a university town consisting of five universities, the country can save US$2.25 billion. Annually, around 25,000 students leave the country to study abroad. Accordingly, a sum of US $ 30,000 per student per year is drawn to foreign countries from Sri Lanka. The government should build a university town consisting of five universities in a location that is reachable within 30 minutes from Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, where 150,000 students can receive education at once (30,000 students at each university).

The management of these five universities should be given to the top five universities with internationally recognized ratings. A programme needs to be initiated to attract 25,000 foreign students a year. Including 25,000 Sri Lankan students altogether for all the 50,000 students, an educational loan scheme needs to be provided from public and private banks at a concessional rate. Due to this programme, 25,000 foreign students will enter our country and this will help the country to have annual earnings of US$ 2.25 billion.

2. Establish a budget airline hub to earn US$2 billion into the country. Fifty percent of the tourists that travel to countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia use budget airline services. In Sri Lanka, out of the total 80,000 hotel rooms, only 20,000 are of a five or four-star class. The remaining 60,000 hotel rooms are three or below star rating. For instant growth in the tourism industry and by aiming for hotel rooms with a three or below star rating, the Ratmalana Airport should be developed as an International Budget Aviation Center as soon as possible. This will attract further around one million tourists into our country apart from the current annual tourist arrivals. From this, the tourism industry can earn US$ 2 billion.

3. By providing the opportunity for the private sector educational institutions to teach ICT courses provided by all state universities in the country, we will be able to earn US$2 billion. Currently, in the job market, there is a high demand for jobs in ICT, engineering and programming fields. By utilizing ICT, engineering and programming courses provided by all state universities in the country a programme to award external degrees needs to be initiated through private educational institutions.

Thereafter, every six months an examination will be conducted according to the examination procedures accepted by the state universities and for those who pass this examination, an external degree will be awarded. By this in the next five years, 200,000 students will be able to obtain the required qualifications for jobs in the IT industry. From which earnings of US$ 2 billion can be achieved.

4. Develop the coconut industry to earn US$ 600 million. Under prevailing conditions, 1.5 million coconut seedlings are planted annually. Under a five-year special government subsidy program, four million coconut seedlings will be planted per year. Accordingly, in total 20 million coconut seedlings will be planted in five years, from which additional 1.2 billion nuts will be added to the coconut related industry. By adding coconuts to the industry at a value of US$ 0.50 per nut, through this five-year plan revenue of US$ 600 million can be achieved.

5. Construct hospitals with internationally recognized facilities to earn US$ 200 million. Building two such hospitals with internationally recognized facilities such as Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore at the expense of the government nd managed by an internationally recognized hospital will limit people from going to foreign countries to obtain medical treatment. By this initiative, the country can save US$ 100 million. Also, through the brand promotion of these hospitals with high quality medical and nursing services in the countries within the region, we will be able to attract foreigners to receive medical treatments in Sri Lanka. This would enable our country to earn US$ 100 million. Therefore, Sri Lanka can earn total revenue of US$ 200 million through this project.

6. Improve the fisheries industry to earn US$ 1 billion. Currently, the annual fish harvest in India is 2,000 Kgs per square kilometer of ocean. The annual fish harvest in Sri Lanka is 900 kgs per square kilometer. Introduce a new multi-purpose licensing system in addition to the existing licensing system for large multi-day vessel owners engaged in deep-sea fishing.

Through this license, they can double the number of multi-day vessels they have, but only one vessel can be anchored in the fisheries harbor at a time. Through this, they can use the additional vessel for deep-sea fishing. Also, a program should be initiated to equip small fishing vessels with GPS-enabled Gemini Fish Finder equipment with four satellites to enable the fishermen to locate shoals of fish in the sea; this will help them to efficiently double their fish harvest. This will result in an additional 500 million kilograms of fish harvest, which could generate US$ 1 billion in revenue.

7. Make Sri Lanka the country with the best business investment environment in Asia to earn US$ 3 billion. By increasing the tax holidays and other benefits available for BOI investors and by improving the rank of Sri Lanka in the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ Sri Lanka can earn US$ 1 billion worth of new investment projects.

Within five years, through these new investment projects, US$ 2 billion worth of export revenue can be generated. Therefore, Sri Lanka can generate revenue of US$ 3 billion through these new investment projects.



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Seylan Bank takes the lead to promote LANKA QR beyond Western Province

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Seylan Bank, the Bank with a Heart, organized the ‘Seylan Pay QR Carnival’ in Kurunegala to promote the LANKAQR programme introduced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to strengthen digital transactions in Sri Lanka. The special programme, focusing on encouraging local merchants and SMEs to join the national QR transaction system, took place at the Vehera Sports Ground in Kurunegala recently. Officials from the Central bank of Sri Lanka, the Lanka QR Committee and partner banks were present at the event.

Organised as the 14th leg of the LankaQR national rollout campaign, the Seylan Pay QR Carnival set a firm footprint with the highest number of merchants at the event. Seylan Bank alone on boarded over 100 merchants for the SeylanPay payment solutions from the Kurunegala area. Over a thousand customers walked in during the event which benefitted many merchants accepting LankaQR, to process transactions on the day and generate great traction in the district since then.

As the key feature of the event, Seylan Bank educated their customers on the use of the Bank’s QR payment system, the SeylanPay Mobile App, and assisted customers in making payments to merchants. Over 50 stalls selling clothes and accessories, gift items, food, sweets, electronics and electrical equipment, plants, beauty care, cosmetic items and automobile parts were set up for the benefit of consumers, with attractive added discounts for customers using QR payment systems to purchase items, thereby encouraging and familiarizing the use of it among them. This marked a record high number of merchants participating among many LankaQR nationwide rollout campaigns that were organised to date. A Seylan Bank Mobile ATM was deployed at the premises, ensuring that customers had easy access to carry out cash withdrawals if required and check their account balances at any given time. In addition, a special fun zone was set up for children at the event premises, whilst a musical evening entertained the adults present at the Seylan Pay QR Carnival.

“Seylan Bank’s commitment to develop the banking and finance network together with the industry led to us hosting the 14th leg of the Lanka QR national rollout campaign. We also realize the potential this system brings to the SME sector in the country, in terms of transaction efficiency and savings. As a bank that has continued to support SMEs in the country in a wide spectrum, the alliance with Lanka QR helps in developing the entire transaction ecosystem of the country,” commented Chaminda Senewiratne, Head of Digital Banking Channels, Seylan Bank.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka introduced the LANKAQR service in October 2020 with the aim of moving towards a cash-less society while increasing financial inclusion in Sri Lanka, and was supported in this endeavour by Banks, licensed financial institutions and Lanka Clear (Pvt.) Ltd. It has already stood out as an attractive option with notable benefits for small and medium enterprises.

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Stylish Garments unveils its latest export-oriented BOI factory in Ambalangoda 

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With the Board of Investment (BOI) widening its projects, Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd, unveiled its sixth BOI approved factory in Ambalangoda which manufactures children’s wear, jerseys including school uniforms exclusively targeting the international market. The Stylish Garments is a renowned a garment manufacturer and exporter of jersey knit and lighter woven apparel products.

The latest project, which is a USD 3.5 million investment, is to generate 500 employment opportunities for people living in the south and other parts of the country. Moreover, the products are slated to be exported to the UK and Europe. The agreement in this regard was signed recently at the BOI Head Office in the presence of BOI Director General Renuka M Weerakone.

The Director General said “A project of this nature should be recognized owing to the fact that it depicts the vibrant and vivid expansion of BOI projects, which has now started to reach the rural areas, The new venture will uplift the livelihood of the people living in the Ambalangoda area plus become a crucial source of bringing dollars to the country in a situation where the country isin dire need of dollars,” she underscored.

Founder and incumbent Chairman of the Stylish Garments (Pvt) Ltd Leelaratne Hattanarachchi said,” we were determined to launch the project irrespective of current challenges because such new projects would bring dollars to the country. That’s the very reason why I ventured to start operations at this new factory by turning the advantage of this crisis to ourselves. At the same time, we do appreciate the support rendered by the BOI at this critical juncture and look forward their support in future too.”

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Browns Investments solar power plant deal dominates CSE trading

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE’s leading listed company, Browns Investments, disposed of 50.1 per cent of its stake in Sagasolar Power Power (Private) Limited to another leading company, Aitken Spence Pvt. Ltd. yesterday, market sources said.

The total value of the company was Rs 1.4 billion and under this deal Browns Investments sold the stake for Rs 700 million. The capacity of the solar power plant is 10 megawatts, stock market analysts said.

Sagasolar Power built the solar PV facility on 45 acres (18.2 ha) of land within a dedicated energy development area in Baruthankanda, Hambantota district, Southern province. The country’s previous largest solar plant is a 1.3-MW facility also located in Hambantota.

Amid those developments, the trading activities in the stock market turned negative due to macro and micro economic uncertainties. Accordingly, stocks slipped over 1 per cent at mid-day trade yesterday for the third consecutive day, market analysis said.

The All- Share Price Index fell by 121 points and S and P SL20 went down by 50.8 points. Turnover stood at Rs 982 million without any crossings. Top seven companies that that contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 274 million (3.5 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 185 million (1.2 million shares traded), JKH Rs 77 million (626,000 shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 59.8 million (9.9 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 58.9 million (8.9 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 32.6 million (89,000 shares traded) and Commercial Bank Rs 15.4 million (309,000 shares traded). During the day 51.5 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 share transactions.

Yesterday the Central Bank announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 356.04 and the selling price Rs 367.33.

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