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ILO convenes National Policy Symposium in Sri Lanka to boost a job rich economic recovery with investment in enterprise development



Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), and Simrin Singh, Director, ILO Sri Lanka and the Maldives, addressing the gathering'

The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Office of the Governor of the Northern Province, and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, successfully organized a national policy symposium focused on promoting youth entrepreneurship and generating greater private sector investments in Sri Lanka.

With a regional and sectoral focus, the symposium brought to the forefront challenges, insights, and interventions towards creating a favorable ecosystem for enterprise development and investment promotion in Sri Lanka. The symposium is a joint initiative between two ILO flagship projects: Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+), and South Asia Leadership in Entrepreneurship (SALE).

Speaking at the event, Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said, “The symposium emphasized the importance of nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset, particularly among the youth. It recognized that shifting the perception of entrepreneurship from a last resort to a preferred career option is essential for sustainable economic development. Creating a favorable ecosystem for enterprise development should have a sectoral and regional focus, taking into account the unique characteristics and opportunities of different industries and areas.”

One of the significant processes leading up to the symposium was sectoral discussions to identify opportunities and challenges for investments in the Northern Province. This initiative of the ILO LEED+ project provided valuable insights into the specific requirements of the region, helping shape the policy discussions and recommendations. The ILO SALE project, as part of its efforts to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among key stakeholders to create an entrepreneurship-friendly ecosystem, conducted joint policy forums with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The symposium saw discussions on the findings of this initiative.

In his introductory remarks, Mr. S. M. Saman Bandulasena, Chief Secretary of the Northern Province highlighted that, “The way forward lies in the hands of the relevant line ministries, the State Ministry of Rural Economy, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Together, these entities have a mandate to create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship and investment promotion. By doing so, they aim to generate decent and productive employment opportunities for all.”

It was underscored that both the government and other ecosystem players, including development sector entities, and private sector, have a crucial role to play in supporting emerging startups and promoting business resilience. By providing the necessary support and guidance, they can help these startups thrive and contribute to the overall economic recovery of Sri Lanka.

Speaking on the significance of the symposium, “The symposium comes at a crucial time where Sri Lanka is exploring pathways to accelerate economic growth. For the country to move towards a job-rich and inclusive recovery, creating an enabling environment for investments at the regional and provincial level, taking into account area-specific challenges and opportunities, as well as promoting entrepreneurship is critical. This symposium is a platform to share valuable insights gained through extensive engagement with diverse stakeholders, as well as practical and promising on the ground solutions, to influence favourable policy outcomes,” said Simrin, Singh, Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Shiran Fernanado, Chief Economist of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said “This timely national policy symposium comes as a much-needed intervention within the context of Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. By promoting investments and entrepreneurship, it aims to revitalize the economy and create sustainable growth opportunities. The symposium’s main message revolves around the significance of fostering an entrepreneurial culture, creating an enabling environment for investment promotion, and driving economic development at both the regional and national levels.”

The credibility of the symposium’s findings and recommendations is backed by the compilation of extensive research and insights obtained from diverse stakeholder consultations. The collaboration with numerous established and recognized partners further enhances the validity and reliability of the proposed solutions.

The LEED+ project is a part of ILO’s Global Jobs for Peace and Resilience Programme and supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Government of Norway. The SALE programme is supported by the United States Department of State. The ILO is the United Nations specialized agency for the world of work. It sets international labor standards, provides technical assistance, and engages in policy dialogue to address pressing issues related to employment, labor rights, and social protection. The ILO works closely with governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and other stakeholders to achieve its mission of advancing social justice and promoting decent work worldwide.

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Cabinet approves rationalization of VAT exemptions and abolition of SVAT System




The Cabinet of Ministers granted concurrence to the resolution forwarded by the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to remove most of the releases from Value Added Tax (VAT), further retaining releases that ease the pressure on low – income families to secure the fundamental sectors of the economy as well as the releases for sectors such as education, health and agriculture, as well as to revise the provisions applicable for the Value Added Tax (VAT) act so that the Simplified Value Added Tax (SVAT) methodology can be canceled with effect from 01.01.2024 by introducing a more formal methodology for repaying the Value Added Tax (VAT) and to instruct the Legal Draftsman to prepare a draft bill for the purpose.

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Venora Lanka Power Panels to set up assembly plant in Australia



Sagara Gunawardene

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Sri Lanka- based, export- oriented manufacturer, Venora Lanka Power Panels (Pvt) Ltd, with a state of the art electric panel factory at the Export Processing Zone, Biyagama, will set up an assembly plant in Australia.

“Once we set up the electric panel assembly plant in Australia, we will export all our panels from Sri Lanka and that plant will do 30 percent value addition to the product to supply that market, the company’s chairman/ Managing Director, engineer Sagara Gunawardena told The Island Financial Review.

Gunawardena said that the company is a value- addition assembly plant and he would be investing AUS $ 2 million for the project to be set up in Melbourne and hire 100 engineers and other professionals. He explained that the venture has enormous potential.

Venora Lanka provides power panels to mega projects in Sri Lanka and exports to Bangladesh, Maldives, Kenya, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Myanmar. Panel assembling is strictly in compliance with IEC 61439 standards, it was explained.

Gunawardena added: ‘I firmly believe that, being a truly customer focused organization, every employee and every process in the organization has to be aligned behind delighting customers. Therefore, at a time when the country is facing a major dollar crisis, my company would be aiming at bringing dollars into the country, while providing employment for local professionals, especially engineers.

‘At Venora Lanka we do not try to change customers’ mindsets. Instead, we take time to understand what they really want and focus our brand on delivering that. Venora is values- driven first and cost- driven second – creating a unique brand proposition.

‘Since the US dollar rate has come down, it is our concern that importers and suppliers do not change their prices, which is really affecting the manufacturing sector.

Company sources added: ‘The company has several wings of operation, such as local and overseas projects, switch board assembling, telecommunication infrastructure installations, earthing, lighting and surge protection, incorporating world renowned brands.

‘Venora Lanka Power Panels is the first Sri Lankan company to receive the licence, in accordance with the UK Trade Mark Act 1994, to use the trade mark “Best Enterprise”. It won a global award at the event, ‘Golden Awards for Quality and Business Prestige’, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2015.

‘Within a short span of time, with the perfect blend of progressive thinking and expertise, Venora Group has expanded to consist of, Venora International Projects, Venora Telecom, Venora Industrial Solutions and Venora Lanka Power Panels (BOI approved). Further, Venora has established its overseas presence through Venora Engineering Kenya and Venora Engineering Myanmar.’

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Share market moves into positive territory; indices up



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE trading got off to a positive note yesterday but during the last session of the day the momentum slowed. However, the market is now moving towards positive territory following the Central Bank announcement of a downward trend in interest rates, market analysts said.

Amid those developments the market witnesses improvements in both indices and in the turnover.

The All- Share Price Index up by 12.8 points and S and P SL 20 rose by 6.97 points. Turnover stood at Rs 710 million with one crossing. The crossing was reported in JKH which crossed 430,000 shares to the tune of Rs 60.2 million; its shares traded at Rs 140.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; JKH Rs 212 million (1.5 million shares traded), Access Engineering Rs 44.7 million ( three million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 34.5 million (264,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 28.6 million (5.3 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 23.8 million (4.7 million shares traded), Capital Alliance Rs 22.9 million (615,000 shares traded) and First Capital Holdings Rs 19.2 million (574,000 shares traded). During the day the 31.4 million shares volumes changed hands in 9000 transactions.

Yesterday, the Central Bank’s US dollar buying rate was Rs 285.16 and the selling rate Rs 298.85.

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