The ‘Invest Sri Lanka’ Investor Forum organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC), Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), in association with the Embassy of Sri Lanka in UAE and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka to Dubai and Northern Emirates was recently held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel Dubai. The forum made a strong case for investment flows into Sri Lanka. The event drew a strong turnout and a full house of leading Dubai–based Sri Lankans across multiple industries and was graced by Ajith Nivard Cabraal as the keynote speaker.
A Sri Lankan delegation including senior representatives of the SEC, CSE, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and representatives of Stock Broker Firms collectively pitched for further investment flows into Sri Lanka, a call that was also boosted by strong endorsements for Sri Lanka by the representatives of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in UAE and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka to Dubai and Northern Emirates.
Delivering the welcome address, Malraj de Silva, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Embassy of UAE stated that he was very happy with the enthusiasm shown by the Sri Lankan community in the UAE in participating in the forum and invited the participants to reap the benefits of investing in the CSE.
Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka making the keynote address at the event invited the diaspora community to be a part of the growth story of Sri Lanka and said “The first step that we took after I assumed office and as a central bank team was to ensure that we give clarity. So we set out a roadmap for the next six months, so that investors would know where is the economy going to move? What would the rupee do? Where would the interest rates be? What would be the situation with regard to the debt repayments? What would be the way in which the country would handle its balance of payments?”
He further added “So those questions needed to be answered. Those are the tough questions. Unless those questions are answered, the rest of the questions would not be relevant. That is why we have taken painstaking steps to individually answer those questions and give confidence. Now that the overall stability of the economy is being maintained, we also need to ensure that there is stability within the community.” The Governor went on to emphasize on commitments made by the Sri Lankan government in terms of interest rates “What we mentioned was that companies were doing well, how did that happen? If there was turmoil, would that have happened? Interest rates were at very low levels. So the advantage that all those companies received as a result of the interest rate differential was enormous. The ability to do business was, again, a very important factor that allowed them to make profits. And to have a decent bottom line, the reduction of taxes was the stimuli that the government provided. If you remember, since 2015, we had sluggish growth, so much so that by 2019, growth had come down in the country to around 2.3%. So what should the government have done? The government had to give a stimulus. And that stimulus, whatever anyone may say, has worked. That is why the economy was safeguarded.
‘’Even during the COVID, if we had another additional 20% 30%, more to be paid as taxes, many of these companies would have been struggling. If there were higher interest rates to have been paid, many of these companies would have been struggling, you wouldn’t have been having that same momentum. And if that momentum was not there, that wouldn’t have got translated into a good feeling. And if you don’t have a good feeling, you won’t have people coming and investing.”
“If Sri Lanka acts in line with its potential, we have an extraordinary growth story to tell for the future. And that growth story will come from you, from the investors, from the companies which are being listed and from the companies that are in operation in Sri Lanka”
“The time is now, for you to take up positions, we still have a lot of potential for the stock exchange to grow. I remember in 2014, if you look at the market capitalization, in dollars, it was about 25 billion after seven years, even notwithstanding the growth in numbers that was mentioned by the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as by the Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange, the market capitalization is still lower in dollar terms, as far as all the companies are concerned. If you work it out today, it will be less than $25 billion. So what does it say? It says that there is latent potential, and latent strength within the Sri Lankan market, the Sri Lankan equities that we haven’t still been able to realize”
Viraj Dayaratne PC, Chairman of theSEC speaking at the event explained how it is customary for the Colombo Stock Exchange, and the regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission to have events of this nature to invite investors to Sri Lanka’s stock market, from different parts of the world. But due to the pandemic, this exercise was prevented for over two years.
He further stated the role of the SEC “As the regulator of the stock market, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a dual role to play, we have to regulate the market and at the same time, ensure that we take steps to develop it. So, in managing these two, these twin interests or duties, if I may call it we have to strike a balance because whilst regulation is important to ensure the protection of investors and the integrity of the market, it is also necessary to ensure that we do not over regulate so that all market participants have the freedom and the space to engage in their activities.”
“The number of trades that take place has increased tremendously. And as a result, it is necessary for us to ensure the integrity of the market and ensure that no wrong doing is taking place. So in order to do that we have enhanced our surveillance functions and the supervisory function. We have real time surveillance on a daily basis with regard to the trades that are taking place. Our Corporate Affairs division supervises and looks into the affairs of listed companies, then market intermediaries are supervised by our Supervision division. So, that will ensure that market integrity is maintained at all times and that all investor interests will be looked after.”
He added, “One other significant achievement, was the enactment of the new Securities and Exchange Commission Act that was on the cards for several years. The new law was brought in and I must tell you, that not only does it help better regulation, but it provides a lot of opportunities for the development of the market, it will be possible for us to introduce new products, then it will be possible to facilitate the setting up of new funds. And that means creating more opportunities for you to invest.”
Oil cartel leader warns of prolonged high prices
The price of oil will continue to stay elevated as demand for energy increases, says the secretary general of Opec+.
Opec+ is a group of 23 oil-exporting countries which decides how much crude oil to sell on the world market. “We see demand growing about 2.4 million barrels a day,” Haitham Al Ghais told the BBC.
Saudi Arabia said it would be cutting its production of crude oil by a million barrels a day to boost prices.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said the decision by Saudi Arabia and Russia – two major oil producers and members of Opec+ – to cut production could cause a “significant supply shortfall” by the end of this year.
Al Ghais said: “This is a voluntary decision taken by two sovereign nations, Saudi Arabia and Russia. This decision can be described as precautionary or pre-emptive because of uncertainties”.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, oil prices soared, hitting more than $120 a barrel in June last year. They fell back to a little above $70 a barrel in May this year, but have steadily risen since then as producers have tried to restrict output to support the market.
Brent crude, a benchmark for prices, breached $95 a barrel on Tuesday amid predictions of shorter supplies, with fears the price may breach $100 per barrel. The rise prompted a warning to drivers that fuel prices could rise in the coming 10 months, and stoked fears that inflation in key economies could be prolonged.
But Mr Al Ghais said Opec was more concerned about “under investment” in the oil sector. “Some have called for stopping investments in oil. We believe this is equally dangerous. It will lead to volatility in the future, possible supply shortages. And therefore we at Opec have always advocated for the importance of continuing to invest in the oil industry as we also invest in decarbonising the industry and move on to adding other forms of alternative energy such as renewables”.
Asked if he was concerned about rising oil prices affecting inflation around the world if it goes above $100 a barrel, Mr Al Ghais said it was “important not to look at things in a short-sighted manner”. “For next year we see demand continuing to grow north of 2 million barrels a day – of course, all subject to some of the uncertainties in the global market. Nevertheless, we still feel quite optimistic that global oil demand is going to be quite resilient this year”.
Mr Al Ghais said that the oil industry would need close to $14tn in investment to the year 2045. “Energy demand will grow by nearly 25% by the year 2045 compared to what it is today – and all forms of energy will be required”, he said.
His comments come ahead of a meeting of key oil players on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi for the International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).
Leading US-based international trade finance services provider to set up in Sri Lanka
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.”
Sri Lanka slips in Economic Freedom
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.
Cabinet nod for new Commercial High Court
219.72 Hectares of land in Siyambalanduwa to be acquired and leased to Sustainable Energy Authority
Chemicals to be regulated to prevent misuse
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