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Godahewa explains body blow country suffered , but says future is bright through innovation

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State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said yesterday that covid-19 caused a debilitating blow at a time the government was struggling to settle foreign loans amounting to a staggering USD 11 bn. Dr. Godahewa said that the GDP contracted by 3.6 % percent in 2020.

The State Minister explained that at a time they were struggling to bridge the huge trade deficit of about USD 10 bn, the country lost entire earnings from the tourism industry. The loss of about USD 4.5 bn had a significant negative impact on Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings. To make matters worse, during 2020 and 2021, the government had to settle foreign loans of more than USD 11 bn, draining the country’s reserves down to USD 3 bn.

Dr. Godahewa said so delivering the keynote address at the Inaugural CSSL CEO Conclave@ NITC2021 organised by the Computer Society of Sri Lanka.

“I would like to draw your attention to a recent McKinzie report on the topic “Unlocking Sri Lanka’s digital opportunity” and invite you to think out of the box in order to capitalise on the post pandemic surge in economic rebound and the unique opportunities that come with 4.0 digital revolution”

The eminent panel consisted of Jayantha de Silva, Secretary Ministry of Technology, Rohan Fernando Chairman SLT, Kumar Parakala, President at GHD Digital USA and invited member of Forbes Business Council, Sujeewa Rajapaksa, Chairman People’s Bank and Damith Hettihewa President CSSL and Managing Director of Nimbus Cloud Lanka Ltd. The session was moderated by Arjuna Seneviratne, Leading development Strategist and Former Director of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA).

Delivering his keynote addres, Dr Godahewa said that the recent McKinzie report on the topic Unlocking Sri Lanka’s digital opportunity has highlighted five key areas that CEOs should focus on. They are as follows:

1) .You must set big, bold aspirations, and integrate them into the overall business. Constantly evaluate your unique competitive strengths, identify imminent threats, and reinvent your business models as necessary.

2). Build digital capabilities around customer experience. Use digitalisation to improve you customer-satisfaction by making operational enhancements, primarily by accelerating and simplifying your interactions with the customers.

3). Leverage data analytics to drive real-time decisions across the value chain. Use of data analytics may include targeted marketing and dynamic pricing.

4). Foster an innovative and agile corporate culture. Build a culture that encourages risk taking, experimentation, and accepting failure.

5). Invest in digital organisation and talent. Create a work environment that will enable you to attract and retain employees who can execute your digital agenda. Have organisational structures that encourage autonomy and flexibility.

A digital transformation requires a wholehearted commitment from a company’s leadership. So as CEOs you have an important role to play in driving the required changes in your own organisations. If you don’t see the future unfolding and remain inactive, your companies can get adversely affected by sudden market changes. On the other hand, moving quickly and becoming a leader in the digital transformation will dramatically increase your revenue potential and the returns to shareholders.

At the time we are having this discussion, the Covid-19 pandemic has reached almost every country in the world. We are passing through a very difficult period in human history. More than 4.8 million lives have already been lost, despite the vast advancements in medical sciences.

In addition to the enormous loss of human lives, the current pandemic has resulted in catastrophic economic losses across the globe. In 2020, except China, all other world economies reported negative growth. Even in China which reported a mere 2.2% growth, the growth rate had declined significantly compared to previous years. The global economy is expected to lose nearly 8.5 trillion US Dollars in terms of output, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that the world student population has lost more than 3 trillion learning hours. This too will have serious consequences for human development in the years to come.

Pandemics are not new to the world and we all know that the bad times will be over soon. Therefore, we must look to the future positively. The good news is that the global economy is expected to bounce back with about 5.4% growth rate next year. We must try and follow suit with the right strategies and efficient implementation. Currently we anticipate an economic growth of about 3.4% for 2021 and we should aim for a much higher GDP growth for 2022. However, the slow global recovery, coupled with continued trade restrictions and the high debt burden could continue to affect our growth targets.

We all know that a crisis always sparks innovation and entrepreneurship. That is why there is a famous saying “Necessity is the mother of invention”. If we look at statistics from various parts of the world, 2020 shows a surge of applications for new businesses. The COVID-19 crisis has created an imperative for companies to transform and reconfigure their operations. To the extent that they do so, greater productivity will follow. This is mainly propelled by the readiness of the ICT and the circumstances pushing for change.

We are aware that there has been a major pandemic every 100 years or so. Similarly a technological revolution too has occurred in almost every century. We are in the early stages of the 4th industrial revolution. It is a technology revolution, mainly a digital revolution.

For the ICT industry, the pandemic has been the silver lining in the dark cloud. Things have accelerated in the digital revolution. The ‘future of work’ has arrived ahead of schedule, as a result of the pandemic. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than 20 percent of the global workforce now work away from the office and yet they are just as effective.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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