by Sanath Nanayakkare
Sri Lanka should give a ‘horizon’ to its businesses and potential investors as to until when the import ban will be in place, Denis Chaibi, ambassador/ Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives said at the official launch of the Sri Lanka Trade Information Portal (SLTIP), held at Shangri La Colombo recently.
The 4-year EU funded project worth EUR 8 million supports local SMEs’ export competitiveness in regional and EU markets as well as value addition in sectors with high potential for economic growth and development.
Excerpts from ambassador Chaibi’s speech:
“This project is a good indication of our overall relationship which is characterised by engagement, respect and results. This project sends three powerful messages. The first one is about the importance of the EU market to Sri Lanka and vice versa. The EU is the second export market for Sri Lanka just after the US”.
“If you take the EU’s trade figures with Sri Lanka in 2019 and if you add services and the EU tourists who came to the island – hopefully who will return soon – you can see the importance of the EU”.
“Further the return of GSP in 2017 was a significant development that led to more than a quarter’s increase of exports from Sri Lanka to the EU. It’s not only the biggest market in terms of quantity. But it’s also an important market in terms of quality”.
“I have been in Sri Lanka a bit more than a year and the thing that strikes me every day is the quality of Sri Lankan products. If you compare the cinnamon, it’s the best in the world. Sri Lankan coconut is the best in the world. Jack fruit is the best in the world. Tea is the best in the world. Who appreciates the best in the world products more than Europeans? Who has the refinement that Sri Lanka has which is only found in civilizations. The Europeans are ready to pay a premium for all these products. Perhaps the South Americans will pay a bit more for Sri Lankan cinnamon, but at the end of the day those who buy the most refined Sri Lankan products are mostly Europeans. We are not only a quantitative market but a qualitative market with a huge potential for the future. The best way for Sri Lanka is to increase its product-quality, and quality is where Europe will be there as a very happy customer.”
“But we are a very demanding market. We have a lot of barriers and those have to do with qualitative standards. In the future, I can imagine that Sri Lankans will want to sell directly to Europeans through online websites. When Sri Lanka exports to Europe, it is ready to export to anywhere else in the world because the European standards are high. We are a demanding market but we are happy to be a good market for Sri Lanka because Sri Lankan products are the best.”
“My second message is that markets and trade is not a one-way street. We have full consideration for the public finances situation in Sri Lanka We fully understand the measures that have been introduced to safeguard public finances and especially the foreign exchange reserves of Sri Lanka.”
“But we need three things. We need recognition notification in the horizon. We need recognition that there is an import ban. And sometimes we are told that there is no import ban but just impediment for the banks to pay in foreign currencies, but these payments are linked to products, so we have to recognize that they are trade restrictions. And then on that recognition, we can quantify that to the WTO and work together in the international organisation that is precisely set up to deal with this kind of issues.”
“I think Sri Lanka would benefit tremendously from giving a horizon to its businesses and potential investors as to until when the measures will be in place so that people can prepare and also can invest in Sri Lanka.”
“That is important if we want to attract foreign direct investments to Sri Lanka. We need to have certainty and we need to be able to export [raw materials].Who would invest in Sri Lanka not knowing if he or she will be able to export because they know that the trade restrictions may attract some reaction. So, in order to attract foreign direct investments, we have to give a horizon on the trade restrictions. We say this in full respect of whatever the Sri Lankan government decides.”
“My third point is; if you look at this project of EU-Sri Lanka Trade Related Assistance, it is in full respect of the government’s priorities. We don’t have an agenda. We are not a military super power. We are a standards super power, and a lifestyle superpower. We live very well in Europe and we live very well for many reasons. But when it comes to aid and support what we do is follow the priorities of the government. Before we take policy decisions and priorities we always look at the manifesto. I was at the Sri Lanka National Day events and its manifesto specifically dealt with agriculture. Agriculture is the sector that we have favoured in our last budget cycle. So from 2014 to 2020, we have invested more than half of the EU aid in the development of rural Sri Lanka. We have spent almost EUR 100 million in that sector. This shows that we are following priorities of the government and that’s why we are supporting this project so that we in Europe can enjoy more of the best Sri Lankan products and Sri Lankan exporters can create more added value by collaborating with Europeans.”
CBSL and IFC launch National Financial Inclusion Strategy
Sri Lanka’s first National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) aunched recently, aims to make financial services more accessible, efficient, and affordable for all households and businesses in the country.
The NFIS is a joint effort led by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka—with technical and financial assistance from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group—under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program. The development of this strategy was a multi-stakeholder effort supported by the government of Sri Lanka.
“The National Financial Inclusion Strategy symbolizes our country’s commitment towards a better and inclusive Sri Lanka that will benefit all individuals and enterprises. I believe this strategy will complement the Government’s efforts to minimize the provincial income disparities, urban-rural inequalities, and to promote inclusive growth,” said Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
“More importantly, this strategy prioritizes future generations, having identified financial literacy as a key pillar. The proposal to strengthen the national curriculum in this area is a positive step. Investing in the education of our younger generation is the most significant investment we can make as a nation, as this will be a particularly helpful approach to the systematic correction of the financial habits of Sri Lankans,” the Prime Minister said.
HNB – Havelock City partnership offers exclusive Ezy Pay Home Loans facility
HNB PLC has partnered with Havelock City mixed-use development project to offer prospective homeowners of state-ofthe-art luxury apartments in Stratford and Melford Towers (Phase 3 – COC certified) and Peterson and Edmonton Towers (Phase 4) with the exclusive Ezy Pay Home Loans facility.
The partnership is set to offer customers the unprecedented opportunity to make a payment of only 20% and immediately occupy the limited units available in Phase 3 of the project or invest in apartments available in Phase 4, scheduled to be completed by May 2021. Further, Havelock City will take on the customer’s interest payment for one year.
“We have witnessed an increase in the demand for apartments and are aware that there is a limited stock of units available in the heart of Colombo. Therefore, we hope that this partnership with Havelock City will offer our customers looking to invest in a home of their own the facility to either move into an apartment immediately or invest in a home of their dreams,” HNB Head of Personal Financial Services, Kanchana Karunagama said.
Prospective homeowners can make use the bank’s flexible repayment options, such as the Step-up facility, which offers a repayment option in line with the customers evolving income. Customers can also obtain a maximum repayment period of 25 years for the loan facility for an attractive interest rate starting from just 7%.
DPL lends a hand to children in Monaragala Rubber Farming Communities
As part of its ongoing efforts to empower and uplift the livelihood of its farmer co-operative societies, Dipped Products PLC (DPL) distributed school bags to the children of 1,500 smallholder rubber farmers for the 10th consecutive year, under its flagship Firstlight CSR project.
This year’s distribution recorded the largest donation of school bags, which was nearly a two-fold increase from the previous year, bringing the total value of the distribution up to nearly Rs. 1 million.
Taking place at the Pinwatta Bodimalu Viharaya in Medagama, Monaragala, this latest distribution marks the Company’s continued efforts to support the smallholder rubber farming communities, by ensuring that their essential needs are looked after.
“Especially in this time of economic uncertainty, with the nation facing significant challenges and hardships, it is truly touching to see the positive impact which we continue to have on the underprivileged smallholder rubber farming communities. We believe that programmes like Firstlight hold the key to enhancing the livelihoods of our 1500-strong rubber farmers, providing them with an improved quality of life, whilst paving the way to open up new opportunities and a brighter future. This is why, with the enthusiastic response we have received over the years, we have now also expanded this school bag distribution to include the District of Kegalle,” Dipped Products Deputy Managing Director, Pushpika Janadheera said.
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