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IFC and Colombo Stock Exchange Ring the Bell for Gender Equality in Sri Lanka

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For the seventh consecutive year, IFC partnered with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality.’ Celebrated in line with the International Women’s Day, the annual global initiative highlights how greater participation of women in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth, shaping a more equal future.

IFC’s commitment to the initiative is part of its strong focus on gender equality, which includes leveraging relationships with financial institutions to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs and increase the number of women in leadership roles.

“The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) joined this initiative in 2016 as one of the initial stock exchanges, and we believe this is the platform to convene business leaders, investors, and other key parties at the national level to highlight the growing business and economic case for gender equality,” said Dumith Fernando, Chairman of the CSE. “We at the CSE are encouraged to note that more of our listed companies have welcomed the participation of strong, independent women on their boards. This is evident by a steady increase over the years in the number of listed companies with women holding corporate board seats. There are 96 new board positions that have been occupied by women since 2018. Even though we see a positive trend, we are still short of the regional markets. So, all of us, as policymakers in our respective corporates, are vested with the duty to encourage gender equality in our establishments.”

In Sri Lanka, the female labor force participation rate remains stagnate at around 35 percent, compared with a steady male participation rate of 74 percent. Similarly, the average female unemployment rate (7 percent) remained more than double that of men (3 percent) between 2011 and 2019. By improving female labor participation, McKinsey Global Institute estimates, Sri Lanka can potentially add $20 billion a year to its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 — increasing economic growth by about 14 percent.

Accelerating the pace of gender parity could generate financial returns in the private sector, leading to significant economic, environmental, social, and governance gains in emerging markets.

“Pushing for gender equality today is needed for a sustainable tomorrow. Research – including IFC’s – continues to demonstrate that gender diversity in the boardroom boosts financial performance, promotes better decision-making processes and improved environment, social and governance (ESG) practices,” said Lisa Kaestner, Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives. “We need more women business leaders for an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country. I hope that companies and policy makers continue to commit toward accelerating the progress made to date.”

According to IFC research — under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program — the number of women on CSE-listed boards increased from 8.2 percent in 2018 to 10.1 percent in 2022 (from 144 to 240). However, this remains well below the global average of 20 percent. Among the top 30 CSE-listed companies – as highlighted by IFC report ‘Realizing Sustainability through Diversity: The Case for Gender Diversity Among Sri Lanka’s Business Leadership’ – the correlation between increased board diversity and financial performance is clear, with positive trends being reported in line with indicators such as return on total assets and price-to-earnings ratio.

IFC’s ‘Women on Boards’ program in Sri Lanka is part of the broader efforts to increase women’s private sector participation and leadership by promoting the adoption of corporate governance practices among Sri Lankan companies. IFC’s work in this area is supported by the government of Australia under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program.

“The Women in Work partnership is integral to the Australian government’s commitment towards advancing opportunities for women and boost economic growth in Sri Lanka. It is based on global evidence that greater diversity is good for business and the economy,” said David Holly, the Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka.



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NCE highlights costs of Customs officers’ trade union action

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‘The recent actions taken by the Sri Lanka Customs Officers Union, including a two-day sick leave campaign and work-to-rule initiatives, have had profound implications across Sri Lanka’s business community, particularly affecting exporters and importers. These actions were initiated due to perceived grievances and unmet demands from the Customs Officers Union on various issues, the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is quoted as saying in a press release.

The release adds: ‘Jayantha Karunaratne, president of the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka highlighted the significant disruptions caused by these actions. He emphasized that the work-to-rule approach has resulted in substantial delays in clearing imported goods at ports and checkpoints, causing disruptions in production schedules and logistical operations. These delays have particularly impacted exporters, who face stringent deadlines to fulfill international orders, leading to strained relationships with overseas buyers and potential financial penalties for missed deliveries.

‘Additionally, these disruptions have imposed additional costs on businesses. Importers have incurred demurrage charges due to extended delays in clearing shipments, impacting profitability and operational efficiency. For exporters handling perishable goods like seafood and fresh produce, delays have posed substantial challenges, sometimes resulting in significant financial losses and resource wastage from spoiled goods.

‘The NCE underscored Customs’ critical role in facilitating trade and economic activity in Sri Lanka, stressing that efficient and predictable Customs processes are crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of Sri Lankan businesses globally. Given that exports are pivotal to Sri Lanka’s economy, disruptions to Customs operations can have far-reaching impacts on economic growth, employment, and overall national prosperity.

‘Expressing serious concern about potential escalations, the NCE warned that prolonged strikes or ongoing disruptions could further destabilize business confidence and investor sentiment. They urged swift and constructive dialogue between the Customs Officers’ Union and relevant authorities to address grievances and find mutually beneficial solutions. Restoring normalcy and reliability to Customs operations, they emphasized, is imperative to support the resilience and growth of Sri Lanka’s export sector amid challenging global economic conditions.

‘In addition to operational disruptions, exporters are increasingly voicing frustration and concerns about Sri Lanka’s future business environment. Many are contemplating relocating operations to countries offering more stable and predictable trade conditions. This potential exodus poses significant economic risks, including job losses, reduced export revenues, and diminished investor confidence.

‘Shiham Marikar, Secretary General/CEO of NCE, stressed the urgent need for Sri Lanka to address these challenges promptly to retain and attract businesses. He emphasized the importance of creating a supportive environment for exporters characterized by efficient Customs processes, regulatory stability, and supportive government policies. Such an environment is crucial for retaining existing exporters and attracting new investments, thereby fostering economic growth and enhancing competitiveness in global markets.

‘Highlighting the competitive nature of the global economy, the NCE emphasized the necessity for Sri Lanka to maintain a reliable and efficient trade infrastructure to remain competitive internationally. Addressing exporter concerns and ensuring a stable business environment should be a top priority for policymakers and stakeholders alike.

‘It is crucial for the government to take swift action to prevent recurring disruptions caused by the Customs Officers’ Union. The recent disruptions have disproportionately affected Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy. SMEs, operating with smaller margins and less flexibility, are particularly vulnerable to delays and uncertainties in trade operations.

‘These disruptions not only impact daily SME operations but also undermine their competitiveness in domestic and international markets. Many SMEs rely heavily on timely imports and efficient exports to sustain operations, making disruptions detrimental to their growth and viability. Prolonged instability in trade operations risks SMEs relocating or downsizing operations in Sri Lanka, posing significant threats to employment, economic growth, and overall stability.

‘The NCE urged the government to implement robust measures to prevent future disruptions, including constructive dialogue with Customs officers and reforms enhancing Customs efficiency and predictability. Creating a stable and supportive business environment is crucial for protecting SMEs and fostering their growth, thereby contributing to Sri Lanka’s economic resilience and prosperity’.

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Elevating customer experiences, Sampath Bank partners with Royal Colombo Golf Club

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The team from Royal Colombo Golf Club, including Amrith De Soysa – Captain, Gehan Siribaddanan – Vice Captain, Ms. Geera Gajamugan – Director of Administration and Shiran D. Rahuman – Manager of Marketing & Membership Services, stands on the left. De Soysa is seen receiving the main sponsorship from Ms, Ayodhya Iddawela – Managing Director of Sampath Bank PLC, surrounded by Tharaka Ranwala, SDGM – Marketing, Customer Care and Card Centre, Pujitha Rajapaksa, Chief Manager – Marketing and Shantha Kalawitigoda, Manager – Events & Activations.

Sampath Bank is pleased to announce its sponsorship of the prestigious July Monthly Medal Event at the Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC), scheduled for the 12th and 13th of July 2024. The sponsorship was formalised during a cheque-handing ceremony on the 10th of July, marking a significant collaboration between Sampath Bank and the RCGC.

The July Monthly Medal Event is a highlight on the golfing calendar, attracting over 300 golfers from across the country. The event will be held over two days, culminating in an award ceremony on the second day. Sampath Bank’s involvement acknowledges its commitment to fostering customer satisfaction and providing exceptional experiences for its valued customers.

Participants in the event will enjoy a variety of activities, including a golf practice session with coaching, the main golf tournament, and an exclusive Cheese & Wine evening on the first day for Sampath Bank customers. Following the two-day tournament, there will be a grand award ceremony and a cocktail event to honour the winners. This initiative not only promotes golf but also provides a unique platform for high-net-worth individuals to engage in a distinguished social setting.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Tharaka Ranwala, Senior Deputy General Manager Marketing, Customer Care & Card Centre, said, “Sampath Bank has always been a strong supporter of all sports, though golf has traditionally been less highlighted, despite its popularity among elite and high-net-worth customers within the banking industry. Sponsoring this event aligns perfectly with our new vision and strategy, which emphasises a greater focus on corporate customers and high-net-worth individuals. Although this is our first partnership with the Royal Colombo Golf Club, we bring extensive experience from our previous collaborations with the Tamil Golf Association’s events in the UK and Canada.”

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Asiri Hospitals and NITF sign landmark agreement to provide tangible healthcare benefits for all Agrahara members

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Asiri Group of Hospitals, trusted for high standards in patient-centered care has signed a landmark agreement with the National Insurance Trust Fund (NITF), to provide comprehensive concessions to all government employees through the Agrahara Medical Insurance scheme.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Dr. Manjula Karunaratne, Director/Group CEO of Asiri Hospitals, and Gamani N. Liyanarachchi, CEO of NITF, during a ceremony held recently.

The event was attended by several distinguished participants from both organizations. Representing NITF were Sagala Abhayawickrama, Chairperson, Samil Thushara, AGM Operations, Nimali Pathirana, AGM Insurance, Prathibha Welikanna, Asst. Manager Legal, Nuwan Dissanayake, Asst. Manager Marketing, Dammika Weerakoon, Acting AGM Finance.

Asiri Hospitals was represented by Nihal Ratnayake, Director Operations Asiri Central Hospital, Indresh Fernando, Chief Process Officer, Bhathiya Jayasinghe, Group Head, Business Development, Dhananjaya Bandara Dela, Head of Business Development, Government Sector.

The enduring partnership aims to offer tangible healthcare benefits and the renowned comprehensive healthcare services offered by Asiri Hospitals to all NITF Agrahara members. It marks a major milestone in Asiri Hospitals’ commitment to build long-term collaborations that benefits the community. It also reaffirms Asiri Hospitals’ position as a trusted healthcare provider ensuring healthcare is more accessible, affordable, while uplifting the living standards of the public service.

Importantly, Agrahara members are eligible to seek treatment from any hospital in the Asiri group or its laboratories. The agreement also introduces a cashless admission scheme for NITF members, simplifying the process and enabling seamless access to Asiri Hospitals’ services without the need for upfront payments. Members can benefit from waived admission fees, reducing the financial burden for those seeking medical care. Room rates are also heavily discounted.

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