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Increasing hopes of IMF bailout help buoy share market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE daily trading for 2023 began on a positive note yesterday because investors are expecting the IMF loan to materialize soon, thereby enabling the country to attract direct foreign investments without any issue, Vice President, Softlogic Stockbrokers Eardly Kern said.

“If we get the IMF package, it will be a great opportunity to attract investments into the Port City and other ventures involving foreign direct investments, from this year onwards, Kern told The Island Financial Review.

Kern said shares gained in mid- day trade on the first day of 2023. The market has seen buying interest, fueled after the holiday season came to an end, he added.

“Buying interest has come in on retail and life insurance counters, after the comments made by the Central Bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinge on interest rates coming down, analysts said.

Sri Lanka’s 12-month inflation in Colombo eased to 57.2 per cent in December 2022 from 61 per cent in November last year as prices began to stabilize after interest rates were allowed to go up and the exchange rate was pegged to around 360 to the US dollar, market analysts said.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 19.94 points and S and P SL20 rose by 16.57 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.8 billion with a single crossing. That crossing was reported in Agstar PLC, which crossed 15.5 million shares to the tune of Rs 246 million and its shares traded at Rs 16.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Softlogic Capital Rs 515 million (45.6 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 281 million (3.1 million shares traded), JKH Rs 94.5 million (698,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 86 million (12.2 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 79.7 million (9.8 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 64.2 million (314,000 shares traded) and First Capital Holdings Rs 58.8 million (1.9 million shares traded). During the day 130 million share volumes changed hands in 19000 transactions.

It is said that Softlogic Life Insurance and Softlogic Capital shares became active yesterday, which propelled the market to reach green territory.

Yesterday, the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 360.40 and the selling rate Rs 371.60.



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Leading US-based international trade finance services provider to set up in Sri Lanka

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Chairman, iBEX Global, Maverick Robinson (R) with MD Jayamal Hewage

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Leading US-based international trade finance services provider, iBEX Global, will officially set up in Sri Lanka soon.

Chairman and founder of iBEX Global, based in Atlanta, Georgia, Maverick Robinson who is currently in Sri Lanka, at a special event held recently at Galle Face Hotel, said that Sri Lanka is the third country after UAE to launch their operations.

“We have been following developments in Sri Lanka since August 2022 and have appointed Jayamal Hewage as our Managing Director, Robinson said.

Hewage is the Group Managing Director of Jayamal Holdings Group of Companies.

Robinson said that iBEX Global was set up four years ago by him in the US in the thick of the COVID pandemic at a time when companies were shutting down.

Robinson added: “We saw a huge vacuum for logistics and international trade finance services, mainly to import personal protective clothing (PPE), like masks from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. At that time the supply chains and support services were completely in disarray but we quickly gathered a professional team, created and opened a new supply chain, helping to save and protect the lives of many.

“By doing this we proved that there is opportunity in crises and we see similarities in Sri Lanka and this is why we decided to open here. Our primary focus centers on providing international trade finance services tailored to each customer’s unique needs.

“We see that with better marketing networks, attractive packaging and product financing (of which we are experts) Sri Lanka’s exports could be increased by almost 20% in less than a year.”

Meanwhile, Jayamal Hewage said: “In Sri Lanka we intend to cater to medium, small and macro sized companies and those who come on board with us will be provided technical advice on product development, superior packaging and other technical advice, all free of charge.

“iBEX Global can even offer financing up to USD 10 million for companies to develop their product range.

“They would also be linked with new global markets that were not accessible to them.

“Our services also include Standby Letters of Credit, Bank Guarantees, RWA Documents, Documentary Letters Credit and many other similar services.”

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Sri Lanka slips in Economic Freedom

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Sri Lanka ranks 116 out of 165 jurisdictions included in the Economic Freedom of the World: 2023 Annual Report, released by Advocata Institute in conjunction with Canada’s Fraser Institute. The current ranking represents a decline in the economic freedom of the country which ranked 104th during 2020.

The report measures the economic freedom of individuals—their ability to make their own economic decisions—by analyzing the policies and institutions of 165 jurisdictions. The policies examined include regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, legal system and property rights, and sound monetary policy. The 2023 report is based on data from 2021, the last year with available comparable statistics across jurisdictions.

Sri Lanka’s decline in score was driven by 4 out of the 5 sub indicators of economic freedom registering declines in their respective individual scores. These indicators are the size of government, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and the regulation of credit, labour, and business. The only indicators that registered an improvement in its score is the indicator of legal system and property rights.

“The report captured a stark warning: Sri Lanka’s economic freedom declined prior to the economic crisis of 2022, a testament to the vulnerability of nations with limited economic freedom in the face of economic turmoil. If the country is to recover, Sri Lanka must prioritize economic growth within the framework of maximising economic freedom for its citizens to trade, work, and transact freely in a stable monetary and fiscal environment” said Dhananath Fernando, Chief Executive Officer at the Advocata Institute.

The number one spot is now occupied by Singapore, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Other notable countries include Japan (20th), Germany (23th), France (47th) and Russia (104th).

Venezuela once again ranks last. Some countries such as North Korea and Cuba can’t be ranked due to lack of data.

The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 100 countries and territories. It’s the world’s premier measure of economic freedom.

The report was prepared by Professor James Gwartney of Florida State University and Professors Robert A. Lawson and Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University.

According to research in top peer-reviewed academic journals, people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer lives.

For example, countries in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of US$48,569, compared to US$6,324 for bottom quartile countries. Poverty rates are lower. In the top quartile, less than one per cent of the population experienced extreme poverty (US$1.90 a day) compared to 32 per cent in the lowest quartile. Finally, life expectancy is 81.1 years in the top quartile of countries compared to 65 years in the bottom quartile.

“Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute said.

See the full report at www.fraserinstitute.org/economic-freedom.

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EFC calls for political will to realise competitive and relevant labour law reforms

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The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) was recently invited for a series of meetings with political representatives including the Prime Minister and the Executive Council of the Parties in the Opposition to discuss labour law reforms to be introduced through the proposed Employment Act. The meeting with the Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, which was held at the Temple Trees was attended by the Commissioner General of Labour, a representative of the Bar Association, officials of state enterprises and trade unions. The meeting with the Executive Council Members of the Opposition Parties was held in the parliamentary complex and was chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa. MPs Lakshman Kiriella, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Eran Wickramaratne, Nalaka Godahewa and Chandima Weerakkody represented the Committee at this meeting.

The EFC led the private sector which was represented by several business chambers at these meetings. On behalf of the private sector, the Director General of the EFC, Vajira Ellepola highlighted the importance of proceeding with labour law reforms which are critical for investment promotion. During the discussions, EFC’s DG reiterated that the private sector had made submissions to successive governments calling for labour law reforms. Despite the fact that such regimes have also declared their intention to reform the existing law, they lacked the political will and conviction to realise those reforms to benefit all stakeholders, he averred.

“Our current labour law is essentially the same as what existed a few decades ago, regardless of substantial socioeconomic changes that have taken place in a highly competitive global environment,” EFC’s DG remarked. He further noted that if Sri Lanka is to remain relevant in a highly competitive global market, labour law reforms are imperative for business growth which in turn will create resilient and sustainable organisations.

The objectives of labour law reforms were broadly summed by the EFC during these discussions to include promotion of investment, creation of new and better job opportunities, strengthening social security and creating an enabling environment for employees and employers to realise the full potential of information and technology driven modern world of work. To achieve these objectives, several key changes were mooted by the EFC. While transforming the labour law to embrace the changes in the modern socio-economic fabric, the EFC also called to recognise the influence of the digital transformation of the world of work, and urged for a dynamic private sector-driven economic growth for the national economy to remain competitive and sustainable. Taking stock of the globalised market economy and flexibility to grow and adjust is also imperative, EFC pointed out.

“In the above backdrop it is important to address labour law reforms on a priority basis to permit greater flexibility of enterprises to attract investment which in turn will generate employment” observed Ellepola who tabled the proposals under three main pillars of laws relating to the termination of employment, conditions of employment and laws relating to industrial/labour relations. He also drove home the message that in the Sri Lankan context if economic reforms are to yield optimum results, they should be complemented by administrative, legal and educational reforms.

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