By Sanath Nanayakkare
The European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP Plus) trade concession that reduces or eliminates tariffs on a range of exports from Sri Lanka to the European Union (EU), which was earlier determined to continue up to 2023, is now likely to be extended up to 2025.
Denis Chaibi, Ambassador – Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives told The Island Financial Review in Colombo on Wednesday that the EU’s GSP Plus concession to Sri Lanka would most probably be extended up to 2025 because of the current circumstances.
“But remember there are two ‘caveats’. This would be applicable only if the post- pandemic economic contraction leads to the same or less GDP per capita in Sri Lanka and also the EU conventions and principles, including labour and human rights, are met by the nation, he said.
“Since the EU recommended re-granting of the GSP Plus in May 2017, Sri Lankan exports to the EU increased by 20%. And now with the adverse effects from the pandemic, if the GDP per capita gets below gradation, the concession could be continued up to 2025 – and now it’s up to the government to decide if it wants to continue to fulfill the conditions on human rights, social and environmental standards for further engagement with the EU in this regard, he said.
The EU reintroduced the GSP Plus concession in May 2017. The country had benefited from GSP+ previously. But in 2010 the EU decided to stop giving preferential treatment to Sri Lankan imports because the government had failed to address reported human rights violations in the country.
The ambassador had had talks with Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardane on the same day on a range of matters, he said.
‘HSBC’s Economic Forum shines a light on economic recovery’
Over 200 corporate leaders attended the second Economic Forum sponsored by HSBC recently which was to discuss and share insights into the latest global trends and opportunities emerging for economic growth in Sri Lanka.
Frederic Neumann, HSBC’s Chief Asia Economist and Co-Head of Global Research for HSBC Asia along with Aayushi Chaudhary, HSBC Economist for India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka outlined significant hurdles and provided a roadmap for steering the economy towards recovery. The event, under the theme “Navigating the Market Landscape and Opportunities in Sri Lanka”, was held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
During the forum, Neumann emphasized that Sri Lanka must attract productive investments to boost exports, a crucial factor in strengthening the country’s balance of payments over the next five years. He highlighted the record high foreign direct investments flowing into Asia and stressed the need for Sri Lanka to capitalise on this opportunity.
Aayushi Chaudhary acknowledged that Sri Lanka has faced a prolonged period of challenges, many of which have brought down the growth potential of the economy and will require time to address. These challenges have persisted since 2017 she said. She noted the subdued growth outlook and high borrowing costs could impede investment in the near-term. However, she expressed optimism, suggesting that there is light at the end of the tunnel and the ongoing recovery is gaining momentum. That said, the hard work must continue in terms of pushing ahead with structural reforms and foreign debt restructuring negotiations. She also pointed towards Sri Lanka earning close to USD 8-9 billion this year in tourism and remittances.”
The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, who delivered the keynote address, said that the Central Bank was targeting inflation and was well ahead having reached the 2024 goal by July 2023. He pointed out that the Government was endevouring to build its external reserves to sustainable levels so that it would have a sufficient buffer and cushion to meet any kind of shock. He further said it was obvious that it was a gradual process but with forecasts in foreign remittances coming into the country doing better than expected and tourism improving, the country was moving in the right direction. “The economy is gradually stabilizing and going into growth mode and there are opportunities for the private sector. I encourage the private sector to take the lead and use these opportunities that come up due to potential growth and changes in the global landscape.”
Mark Surgenor CEO of HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives highlighted the positive development that the international community is increasingly interested in Sri Lanka’s economy. He noted the numerous delegations visiting from the West and East, creating a dynamic environment for discussions and engagement regarding potential investments. Surgenor expressed optimism about this trend and stated that HSBC remains committed to supporting businesses and customers in seizing these opportunities for the benefit of Sri Lanka’s future.
The forum also facilitated a panel discussion which was joined by Dr. Weerasinghe, Neumann, Chaudhary and Duminda Hulangamuwa, Country Managing Partner for Ernst & Young, Sri Lanka & Maldives and Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, moderated by Savithri Rodrigo.
Kevin Green, Country Head of Wholesale Banking for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, reminded customers of HSBC’s unique position in the local, regional and global arena, and that HSBC stands ready to support customers with their banking needs, be it payments, trade or cash management, international connectivity, or achieving their own sustainability goals. (HSBC)
ComBank supports students facing Year 5 scholarship exam
As students and parents begin the final countdown to the 2023 Year 5 scholarship examination, the Commercial Bank of Ceylon in partnership with Derana FM is completing a series of preparatory workshops for the young candidates, with leading tutors and model question papers.
The latest in the programme series was conducted at Sri Thilakarathnaramaya Purana Viharaya, Kalawana for 500 students by scholarship exam tutor Mr Winsara Samarasinghe. A separate programme was held for parents of the students, to provide them guidance on supporting and training their children to pass the examination.
The Kalawana programme was preceded by similar workshops held at President’s College Maharagama, Dharmaraja College Kandy, Anagarika Dharmapala Vidyalaya Mellawagedara, Joseph Vaz Girls’ College Kegalle, the Dikwella Divisional Secretariat, Vidyaraja College Thawalama, C C College Hanguranketha and Welimada Maha Vidyalaya.
As the Banking Partner to this programme, Commercial Bank also briefed parents on saving for their children’s future and the options for obtaining loans for children’s higher education. Bank counters at these events facilitated the opening of minors’ savings accounts for the children, and parents who opened ‘Arunalu’ children’s savings accounts were gifted an attractive ‘Arunalu’ Till.
Commercial Bank’s flagship children’s savings account ‘Arunalu’ offers a higher interest rate than comparative products in the market and rewards account holders with special cash prizes if they score the first, second or third highest aggregate marks in their schools at the Year 5 scholarship examination.
Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank and the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World, Commercial Bank operates a network of 271 branches and 957 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 20 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.
LOLC Finance offering transformative lending solutions
LOLC Finance PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier financial services provider, has announced the launch of its wide-ranging lending campaign aimed at bridging the gap between aspiration and achievement. In light of the economic challenges faced by the nation, LOLC Finance has activated its new lending campaign, reinforcing its role as an economic enabler. The company’s distinctive approach revolves around providing meticulously customized financial solutions that cater to a diverse clientele, ranging from grassroots start-ups to established enterprises.
Under the comprehensive lending portfolio, LOLC Finance offers an array of financial solutions including auto finance, speed drafts, housing loans, mortgage loans, personal loans, corporate loans, working capital solutions, gold loans, educational loans, and flexi interest loans, among others. This diverse portfolio caters to the specific needs of individuals and enterprises across the economic spectrum.
Boasting over 230 branches and a culturally diverse workforce, LOLC Finance stands stronger than ever to provide personalized services to its wide-ranging customer base. Setting itself apart from other NBFI’s, LOLC Finance offers doorstep services for clients, encompassing both service provision and after-sales support. The well-trained employee base of LOLC Finance contributes significantly to the organization’s exceptional service delivery.
“As the largest Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFI) in the country, LOLC Finance is poised to play a key role in the country’s economic resurgence” stated Charith Jagoda, Head of Microfinance and SME at LOLC Finance PLC. “We see ourselves as enablers of the economy, shouldering the burden of empowering the vulnerable and marginalized, and our lending campaign is an authentication to that commitment. Our lending campaign is not just about loans, it is about building paths to prosperity. We are not just lenders, our commitment to personalized service, our embrace of digital innovation, and our steadfast dedication to the diverse communities we serve define us. We invite you to join us on this journey of empowerment, where together, we fuel ambitions and empower lives of the nation’s people”.
LOLC Finance’s commitment extends beyond financial offerings. The company has established support mechanisms to enhance the resilience of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). These mechanisms include training programs for micro entrepreneurs, facilitating market linkages, debt restructuring, and providing moratoriums during challenging times.
The digitalization roadmap of LOLC Finance adds a new dimension to its customer-centric approach. With the goal of maximizing customer convenience and operational efficiency, the company invests in digital technologies that drive innovation. Offering services such as iPay, Real Time mobile app, and internet banking, customers can access a wide array of financial services without the need for physical visits. Omni channels will be further developed for customers to access financial services through multiple channels while enabling them to switch channels seamlessly.
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