‘Ali Pancha’ a Landmark Project
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG), Mr Johnson Liu, and the President of the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS), Mr Jehan CanagaRetna, mid-October to launch the ‘Ali Pancha’ Project – a way to help the transition from Human – Elephant Conflict (HEC) to Human – Elephant Peace. The broad aims of the Project are as follows:
The annual sponsoring of 25 orphaned elephants at the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) at Uda Walawe to provide them with their essential nutrition for healthy development.The sponsoring of a research project to understand the varieties of antibiotics that work safely, and effectively, in the treatment of orphaned elephants.
The provision of six (6) ‘Smart Collars’ for elephants selected for release back into the wild. Their movements will be monitored via VHF frequencies and GPS Systems to understand their range of roaming and behaviour, and to scientifically evaluate and understand how they integrate into the wild.
Conduct Education & Awareness Programmes for a minimum of 200 farmers in the Hambantota District, in partnership with Farmer Societies and Government Institutions, and
Install five (5) of the WNPS’s Light Repel Systems (LRSs) in selected locations in the Hambantota District to protect these farmers’ homes and cultivations from incursions by elephants.The WNPS has the responsibility of coordinating these objectives to ensure that they are achieved, and within the time frames set out in the Agreement.
ANOTHER VITAL PARTNER
For the success of this project, the cooperation of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) is essential, especially for the Veterinary Surgeons and other officers of the ETH. It is they who must provide the technical and scientific inputs, and research, necessary for the initiatives with the orphan elephants. Dr Vijitha Perera, the Senior Veterinary Surgeon at the ETH will lead this project on behalf of the DWC, ably assisted by Dr Malaka Abeywardana who was present at the Project Launch.
In the course of its 128 year history as the 3rd oldest conservation organisation in the World, the WNPS counts its active involvement in the setting up of the DWC with great pride. During this long history, the WNPS has worked with the DWC on several projects, and greatly looks forward to this renewed partnership.
The CEO of HIPG, Mr Liu, in his address to the gathering had this to say:
“As a leading development project situated in this area, which is also home to a variety of wildlife, especially an Elephant population, we have a major challenge of facilitating development with minimal impact to nature and other life forms. This reflects our commitment to supporting Sustainable Development Goals of protecting life on land and life underwater while achieving our business objectives. This is integrated in our ESG framework under the “Care for the Planet” focus area, and we now give our fullest support to minimize Human – Elephant Conflict which is an essential need of this area.
Under the “Human Elephant Peace Project”…our newest addition is the “Save Ali Pancha (elephant)” Project with the WNPS in collaboration with the ETH with a grant of USD 102,487.00…”
As a part of the sponsorship is for the collaring of selected animals from the identified herds to track their movements and formulate a strategy as to how this could be done with the knowledge of science. At present, there are elephants who visit the Port, mainly at night, and though they have not caused any damage to its buildings or harmed any of the employees, HIPG is understandably anxious that no damage is done to its valuable cargo that is stored in its yards.
As Mr CanagaRetna explained in his address, Sri Lanka’s wild populations of elephants share approximately 44% of its landscape with people. While development is essential for the country, it must be planned development and HIPG is demonstrating a good example of this, by placing care for the elephants, and other wildlife, alongside those of the necessary future Port development. CanagaRetna continued by saying that the future of our wildlife and conservation depends on humans. With all the destruction along with global warming and climate change, we must do our utmost to protect what we have. HIPG along with the partnership with WNPS is trying to plug a deep ravine in our country when it comes to our elephants. Sri Lanka has the highest Human Elephant Conflict in the world. Therefore, it is heartening to see Corporates such as HIPG stepping up to do their part for our country’s wildlife.
FROM CONFLICT TO PEACE
The elephant is an important part of the culture and religions of Sri Lanka. It is also important for conservation, for as a Keystone Species, the health of all the forests and its other denizens depend on them. Healthy forests lend to clean air and water, essential for human existence. We are all connected.
In addition, the wild elephant is an important source of revenue for this country, attracting foreign visitors who wish to see these magnificent animals in their wild surroundings. This leads to the financial enrichment of those communities that have elephants, and other wildlife, as their neighbours. As such, it is hoped that this landmark project will prove an inspiration to other ‘developers’ too, and enable the transition from ‘Conflict’ to ‘Peace’, and the saving of valuable lives.
Sri Lanka still ‘under test’ before it can receive crucial second tranche from IMF
by Sanath Nanayakkare
International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff concluding their visit to Sri Lanka yesterday reaffirmed their support to Sri Lanka to move out of the ongoing economic crisis, but did not specify an exact timeline for releasing the second tranche of its Extended Fund Faculty (EFF) arrangement to Sri Lanka.
The IMF mission team led by Peter Breuer and Katsiaryna Svirydzenka that visited Colombo from September 14 to 27, is yet to be convinced that it has received a robust programme from the Sri Lankan authorities where they indicate how they would be addressing the persistent revenue shortfall besides outlining progress in foreign debt restructuring which would give Sri Lanka a breather to balance its financing requirements as it starts to repay its foreign debt.
“We had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic performance and policies underpinning the first review under the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The people of Sri Lanka have shown remarkable resilience and the authorities have made significant progress on important reforms. The discussions will continue towards reaching a staff-level agreement in the near term that will maintain the reform momentum needed to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from its deep economic crisis, Peter Breuer said.
“The objectives of the IMF-supported program will continue to focus on restoring macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, while protecting the poor and vulnerable, safeguarding financial stability and stepping up structural reforms to address corruption vulnerabilities and unlock Sri Lanka’s growth potential, he said.
However, the press briefing given by the IMF team yesterday signaled that they needed to see more economic and financial policies to support the approval of the First Review of the program under the EFF arrangement.
“Sri Lanka has made commendable progress in implementing difficult but much-needed reforms. These efforts are bearing fruit as the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization. Inflation is down from a peak of 70 percent in September 2022 to below 2 percent in September 2023, gross international reserves increased by $1.5 billion during March-June this year, and shortages of essentials have eased. Despite early signs of stabilization, full economic recovery is not yet assured. Growth momentum remains subdued, with real GDP contracting by 3.1 percent in the second quarter on a year-on-year basis and high-frequency economic indicators continuing to provide mixed signals. Reserve accumulation has slowed in recent months, he said.
Speaking further Peter Breuer said: “Sustaining the reform momentum is critical to put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and stable and inclusive economic growth. The authorities have met the program’s primary balance targets and remain committed to this important pillar of the program so as to support their efforts to restore debt sustainability. However, revenue mobilization gains – while improved relative to last year – are expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by year end, in part due to economic factors.
“The onus of fiscal adjustment would fall on public expenditure if there were no efforts to recoup this shortfall. This could weaken the government’s ability to provide essential public services and undermine the path to debt sustainability. To increase revenues and signal better governance, it is important to strengthen tax administration, remove tax exemptions, and actively eliminate tax evasion.
“Against continued uncertainty, it also remains important to rebuild external buffers through strong reserves accumulation. Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in controlling inflation, refraining from monetary financing will help keep inflation in check. Other challenges include maintaining cost recovery in electricity pricing.
“The government has made steady progress on structural reforms. Key legislations passed in Parliament, including the new Central Bank Act and the Anti-Corruption Act, could improve governance if implemented effectively. The IMF Governance Diagnostic report would inform future reform measures to strengthen governance when published.
“A new welfare benefit payment scheme was enacted with new eligibility criteria that aims to improve targeting, adequacy, and coverage of social safety nets. To ensure financial stability, steps were taken on conducting bank diagnostics, developing a roadmap for addressing banking system capital and liquidity shortfalls and improving the bank resolution framework.
“The authorities have also made headway on regaining debt sustainability through the execution of the domestic debt restructuring and advancing discussions with external creditors. As Sri Lanka is restructuring its public debt which is in arrears.
“Executive Board approval of the first program review requires the completion of financing assurances reviews. These financing assurances reviews will focus on whether adequate progress has been made with debt restructuring to give confidence that it will be concluded in a timely manner and in line with the program’s debt targets.
“Discussions are on-going, and the authorities are continuing to make progress on their plans for revenue mobilization targets, anti-corruption efforts, and other important structural reforms.”
The IMF team held meetings with President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials, during the visit. The IMF team also met with parliamentarians, representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.
‘Imposing minimum room rates on five star hotels could ruin tourism sector’
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The imposing of a minimum room rate on five star hotels on the basis of a recent gazette notification is actually killing the industry. Room rates, accordingly, could henceforth rise to between 80 percent and 100 percent, top travel and tourism industry expert Chandana Amaradasa said.
“The minimum room rate of a five star hotel currently comes to about US $ 65 but with the new gazette notification it would go up to US $ 170 per day. But our competitors, such as, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are maintaining a minimum room rate of US$ 80 to US$ 85, Amaradasa told The Island Financial Review.
Amaradasa said that the tourism industry is just picking- up and ‘this type of move is detrimental to the entire sector because these room rates are normally determined by demand and supply and not by gazette notifications.
Amaradasa added: ‘At present, Colombo five star hotels are mainly patronized by Indian tourists, corporate clients and MICE tourists. This will not only impact hotel revenue but the outside supply chain as well. Nowhere in the world is the tourism industry regulated in this manner and this would enable our competitors, such as, Vietnam and Thailand to attract tourists.
“As a long term consequence, some of the airlines could also pull out of Sri Lanka and hotels will halt recruiting new staff and training them with the limiting of their revenue sources.’
ADL’s journey continues: Unveiling new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia for tech excellence
Axiata Digital Labs (ADL), the renowned technology hub of Axiata Group Berhad, is proud to announce the grand opening of two new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia. These strategic expansions, respectively, mark significant milestones in the company’s journey since it’s inception in 2019. This signifies ADL’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing the telecommunications industry and propelling the global rate of digital transformation.
The inauguration of these state-of-the-art offices exemplifies the dedication ADL has towards expanding its footprint and harnessing the power of innovation across Southeast Asia. As the first CMMI 2.0 Level 3 IT organization in Sri Lanka and an ISO-certified company, ADL is well-positioned to lead the charge in transforming traditional telcos into techcos through its groundbreaking Axonect Product Suite.
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