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Facebook helps Sri Lankan small businesses benefit from the power of digital tools

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COLOMBO, June 3 -Facebook has successfully completed the first two phases of the Digital Saubhagya program in Sri Lanka. It was implemented in collaboration with the government of Sri Lanka, civil society organizations, and various trade bodies to help small businesses recover and transform. 

Small businesses are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy, accounting for more than 75 percent of all enterprises. These businesses were heavily impacted during the pandemic and many have moved online to continue their business growth.

The #DigitalSaubhagya program commenced in March, prior to the Sinhala & Tamil New Year season in the country. More than 1,500 small and medium businesses from 15 districts received training on how to open business pages to engage with customers. Online sessions were conducted in both Sinhala and Tamil to raise awareness about the best social media practices for business. An informative story was published in newspapers to empower small businesses with guidance on how to build effective online presence.

A Facebook Live event was organized to showcase local entrepreneurs and highlight how they are adapting to the pandemic and transforming their businesses digitally. Influencer and activist, Stephanie Siriwardhana moderated the conversation with the founders of ZigZag and Saaraketha Organics, two leading local entrepreneurs. Mustafa Kassim, founder and CEO of Roar Digital, Facebook’s reseller partner, also shared his insights.  

Jordi Fornies, Director of Emerging Markets at Facebook, APAC participated and discussed Facebook’s initiatives to inform and empower local entrepreneurs. He said “Facebook is committed to provide ongoing training to support small businesses in Sri Lanka. Through our Digital Saubhagya campaign, we have tried to build awareness at the grassroots level. We have partnered with local organizations to bring more micro and rural entrepreneurs online so they can also benefit from digital tools, especially during these difficult times.”

The program also developed case studies on how small and medium businesses are using digital platforms effectively. It highlights the importance of digital reach in the new operating environment that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. These case studies include the journeys of Selyn and Olai, which are engaging with communities in different regions of the country. 

A webinar was hosted and moderated by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, with the support of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which included panelists from Facebook, ICTA, and Selyn. It was also attended by Hon. Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Development, Business Development and Underutilized State Resources Development. The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka was represented by its Chief Digital Economy Officer Anura De Alwis. The panel discussed the role of digital platforms and the importance of supporting small businesses so they can survive and thrive despite the pandemic. 

Facebook also engaged a local digital developer to create an AR effect for Facebook and Instagram so people can celebrate Avurudu in the safety of their homes. 

#DigitalSaubhagya will re-commence for its phase 3 and continue to support small businesses in Sri Lanka through 2021. (Issued by MSL Sri Lanka on behalf of Facebook)



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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