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‘Hambantota Port and Port City should be run on P-P-P basis to reap full benefits’

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

 “The  government should have a stable system to tackle the  Covid 19 pandemic situation. It should have a short term to long term economic plan to arrest the economic crisis that has resulted from the pandemic. In the short term perspective, the government should go for short term foreign exchange borrowings at a nominal interest rate; selling liquid assets. However, Hambantota Port and the Port City projects have to be private-public partnership projects, to enable the country to get the maximum benefits out of them, Professor of Economics, University of Colombo Sirimal Abeyratne said

“The current Covid 19 pandemic has further aggravated the local economy which is already marred by inconsistent economic policies and poor fiscal management for which every government that has come to power so far is responsible, Abeyratne said.

” The problems of Sri Lanka are unique even without the Covid 19 pandemic. The economy of the country has clearly not moved in the proper direction over the years. The economy had been rendered weak due to scarce foreign reserves, poor fiscal policy management  and the slow exploration of export markets in the recent past, Abeyratne told The Island Financial Review yesterday.

Abeyratne added: “Bilateral and multilateral short term borrowings should be obtained subject to conditions which are beneficial to the country. If not, the problem would further deteriorate with the high debt servicing cost.

“At present, import restrictions imposed by the government are a prudent move to preserve foreign exchange, which at present  stands at US $ 4 billion, ample for three months’ imports.

‘At this juncture, the government should focus on economic growth strategies and improve export oriented markets. When it comes to economic growth, a prudent fiscal management mechanism is the need of the hour, which would enhance the effective management of government spending and its revenue.

“Since the local domestic market is small it is very important to attract foreign direct investments into the country. We should at least attract US$ one billion worth foreign investments into the country.

“Sri Lanka’s investment climate is not encouraging  because of policy issues and regulatory issues. The government should now take some steps to address those issues to attract FDIs into the country.

“In the recent past, several economies in the region have overtaken Sri Lanka because those countries have placed their economic fundamentals properly. Unfortunately, inconsistent economic policies have affected our economic development very badly.”    

 

 



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EY facilitates discussion on Digital Cities at the FITIS Sri Lanka Internet Day 2021 Forum

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Ernst & Young (EY) facilitated a timely discussion on Digital Cities as the knowledge partner at the “Sri Lanka Internet Day 2021”, the inaugural virtual event organized by the Digital Chapter of the Federation of Information Technology in Sri Lanka (FITIS) which was held in line with FITIS mandates on digital economy and regional hub and the 7-pillar digital strategy.

Themed Digital inclusion, the forum emphasized the need for citizen engagement in a digital society and its impact on digital inclusion and also discussed about Sri Lanka’s digital strategy, digitalization initiatives and the need to further enhance digital infrastructure to facilitate a digitally empowered ecosystem.

A major highlight of the forum was the discussion on Digital Cities held with the participation of Arjuna Herath Senior Partner and Head of Consulting at Ernst & Young Sri Lanka and Maldives and Amit Midha president, Asia Pacific and Japan and Global Digital Cities of Dell Technologies. The discussion between Herath and Midha provided deep insights on Digital Cities and laid the foundation for Sri Lankans to look forward to the concept, inspired by the digital models implemented by Singapore and other developed countries.

Herath laying the context for the discussion indicated that Cities have been centers for innovation and economic growth since the perennial times and as a result of that, more and more people migrated to cities in search of jobs and luxury lifestyles. He stated that technology has played a key role in the transformation of cities and that has led to the emergence of the Digital City concept. Midha exploring the topic said, “It is a City that thrives in the fourth industrial revolution”. Midha emphasized the fact that data and data related industries are going to be crucial within the next 30 to 40 years and that everyone needs to transform themselves to be successful in the digital sphere. He highlighted that digital jobs can thrive with new concepts such as Work from Home and Sri Lanka has the capacity to build on that. He also stressed on the importance of a Digital City in helping individuals and societies to transform themselves with access to economic growth, better living standards, better healthcare and education, mobility and new job opportunities, etc.

The discussion emphasized how new technology can be used to facilitate the everyday lives of people. The government’s role in this regard was perceived as vital because if necessary policies are implemented and infrastructure is provided, there is enough talent to build on those advantages and come up with new innovations. Midha emphasized that the private sector must join hands in the development efforts by alluding to the fact that ideas from different segments are vital in making progress.

A Digital City is expected to have streamlined services relating to transport, health, education, and all the primary services that people look forward to. The discussion went on to show a clear pathway where Sri Lanka can adapt the Digital City concept in the long run. According to the thoughts shared, safety is the top most priority for a city because if the city is not safe, people will leave that city. The next pillar is to streamline transportation within the city, from the city and into the city. The third pillar is the development of heath care and education which are considered as two of the primary needs of people living in a city. The next important aspect is the government to work as an app, conveniently assisting to fulfil the needs of people. The focus on sustainability, green energy, smart grid and solar was also highlighted as essential aspects in shifting to the concept.

The discussion also highlighted the need to focus on security when dealing with data and data related projects at a time when hacking, cyber-attacks and data thefts are abundant in the world. “In the process of digitizing cities, intrinsic security is a must have and we need to pay more attention to that going forward.” Says Midha.

Mr. Herath spoke about the opening Sri Lanka has in creating a Digital City with the new Port city in the making and the need to embedding the concepts that were discussed when creating the City including the required leadership and policies, operating models and processes and the community and the ecosystem which also need to be considered. Mr. Midha elaborating on this said “There has to be a vision that has to be built. A dream has to be put out there to get citizens buy in. In fact this is how cities take shape. There is plenty of money in the system. People will help make these cities happen. They need to be told what the dream is, how they can happen, then they buy into this, in fact any public project that makes livability better makes prices of all real estate in the city to go up. So, all the folks know that by doing things right, it is a significant economic return. They also want future generations to have better access to infrastructure and live in a better place.”

Providing a comprehensive outlook on Digital Cities, what advantages these cities have in store for the public and what needs to be done in order to shift towards the new concept, the discussion ended after sharing a wealth of knowledge while acting as an eye opener for the authorities to look forward to maximize the available technologies and embrace the Digital City concept.

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AIA Insurance continues to support the Sri Lanka Cancer Society, with third year of partnership

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AIA Sri Lanka announced the renewal of its partnership with the Sri Lanka Cancer Society for the third consecutive year, for 2021. AIA will continue to donate Rs 100/- on behalf of every new policy sold in the year, to the Sri Lanka Cancer Society. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in this regard was signed between AIA CEO Nikhil Advani and Cancer Society chairperson Nihal Rodrigo.

In 2019, AIA reached out to the Cancer Society in honour of it being AIA Group’s centennial year. A MOU was signed, with AIA pledging to donate Rs. 100 for every new policy sold that year, resulting in a donation of almost Rs. 5 mn at the end of the year. The MOU was renewed in 2020 and again in 2021, despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic and AIA continued to honour its pledge, resulting in a donation of almost Rs. 4.7 mn for the year. The funds donated are being used by the Cancer Society for the provision of care and solace to needy cancer patients as well as increasing awareness on the prevention and treatment of cancer, which is a rapidly growing concern in Sri Lanka.

AIA CEO Nikhil Advani explained, “As the best life insurance company in Sri Lanka (awarded by the Global Banking and Finance Review 2019, 2020), we are committed to making a tangible difference in the lives of Sri Lankans. We prioritize our promise of helping people live heathier, longer, better lives and community service is a huge part of bringing that promise to life.”

He added, “Non–Communicable Diseases, such as cancer remain a very real problem in Sri Lanka and are responsible for approx. 80% of deaths, which is well above the global rate of 63%. Cancer is one of the nation’s leading health concerns and requires specialised treatment and more so, a dedicated care and support system for the patients and their families-and we truly appreciate the good work that the Sri Lanka Cancer Society are doing in this regard. It gives all our staff, wealth planners and partners great purpose to know that we are helping the battle against this dreaded illness, physically, financially and emotionally.”

He added, “We use the significant contributions made by AIA largely towards the operation and upkeep of ‘Shantha Sevana’ a 32 bed hospice care facility as well as the ‘Bandaranayake Memorial Homes’, which provides a transit home and care facilities to needy patients seeking treatment at the National Cancer Institute, the Apeksha Hospital. We rely on external support to provide direct care for patients who are undergoing this ordeal while doing everything possible to ensure they receive the best of care and support, both medically and emotionally. So, it means a lot to us to have AIA come forward and continue their support for our cause.”

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‘Regaining momentum amidst continuing headwinds’

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While the pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most formidable challenges Sri Lanka has encountered in recent years, it is believed that the collective response of the local banking sector has helped the country as a whole, to handle the unexpected economic downturn in 2020.

Sampath Bank too faced many challenges in adjusting to the pandemic. Transitioning into a fully digital environment and an entirely new operating model under pandemic related restrictions was no easy feat. However, thanks to the solid progress made on the digital front in the recent past, the bank was able to make the transition in a matter of days to ensure uninterrupted operations. Equally importantly, Sampath Bank played a vital role in stabilizing the economy through the disbursement of the relief package for COVID affected businesses and individuals. The Bank extended the phase I of the Covid – 19 debt moratorium to over 50% of its loan book last year while 29% of the loan book remained under phase II of the debt moratorium in 1Q 2021 as well. Sampath Bank also actively participated in disbursing the Saubhagya Renaissance scheme to eligible customers. Where necessary, the bank also took its own initiatives to assist customers to tide over the difficult times.

As the pandemic situation continues to evolve and bring fresh challenges, Sampath Bank capitalized on the lessons learnt in the past to strengthen resilience and accelerate its transformation to the post-pandemic world. At the same time, the bank reiterates its commitment in rolling out the new relief measures proposed for 2021.

Meanwhile, the Bank subdivided its ordinary shares in the proportion 01:03. As a result, the number of shares increased from 381,457,985 to 1,144,373,955. Sampath Bank

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