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IPS makes its proposals for Budget 2022

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Ahead of the presentation of the National Budget for 2022, the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) outlines some policy areas of concern and puts forward proposals to be considered for inclusion in the forthcoming Budget.

Please note that this is Part-1 of IPS proposals for the Budget on health, education, human resources, women, vocational training, persons with disabilities and migration.

Health Improving child nutrition

An IPS study on child malnutrition reveals that the ‘life cycle effect’ is one of the main contributors to the high prevalence of child malnutrition, especially among the poor. The study shows that dietary issues are caused by food insecurity and the lack of awareness about proper nutrition among the poor. Among the country’s several nutritional programmes, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) supplementation programme by the Family Health Bureau (FHB) is one of the most beneficial, as it covers the entire life course interventions, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, this is the programme with the least resources at present.

The country’s annual public investment on key nutrition-specific interventions is approximately Rs. 15 billion. Of this, 40% is absorbed by the school meal programme, followed by the pregnant mother’s food allowance programme (37%) and the Thriposha programme (16%). The FHB medicine and supplements in the MCH programme accounted for only 5%.

Recommendation

Streamline existing nutrition programmes to focus on the most effective ones to improve nutrition outcomes. Expand budgetary allocations for the MCH programme and provide targetted benefits to the most vulnerable in other nutrition programmes. There is potential to gain some fiscal space by changing the supplementary feeding programme (Thriposha), for pregnant and lactating women, to target pregnant women at risk rather than all. Likewise, pregnant mother’s food allowance programme should be targetted in deprived regions.

Reducing smoking prevalence

Although smoking rates have come down considerably over time, still more than a quarter of males are smokers, and smoking remains a significant health threat killing more than 20,000 Sri Lankans, annually. Recent studies show that smoking is currently prevalent among selected population groups. Thus, there is a need to target specific groups (e.g., construction workers, drivers, youth groups those who are not in schools or any other education institute) to reduce smoking prevalence.

Recommendation

Launch targetted programmes to build awareness on the benefits of smoking cessation and provide cassation support to existing smokers. Existing programmes can be realigned to focus on high prevalence groups, so they do not impose an additional burden on government expenditure. But such programmes will help to reduce the tobacco smoking prevalence and reduced tobacco smoking-related illnesses, deaths, and the burden of cost.

Education Improving access to quality early childhood education

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector is one of the most important sectors of education, providing a solid foundation for a child’s education trajectory. However, access to ECCE education in the country is low. In 2019, only 55.6% of 3 to 5-year-olds were enrolled in preschool education in the country. Further, there are large inequities in access to pre-school education with access lower in rural and estate sectors and among poorer households. Public presence in this sector in the provision of core as well as support services, such as curriculum development and teacher training, is inadequate.

Recommendation

Allocate public funds to implement ECCE policies that have been developed to improve access to the ECCE sector for low-income households, and to align ECCE education with general education. Government involvement is important in improving access to children from under-privileged backgrounds, through the provision of scholarships, or by setting up ECCE centres where there is low supply of ECCE centres. The functioning of ECCE should be monitored to improve quality.

Human Resources Development Improving access to quality vocational training

Scientific breakthroughs in a spectrum of fields, such as genetics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and 3D printing, are feeding into innovations that redefine how people live, work, and interact with each other. These innovations are constantly creating and altering production processes and revolutionising the operations of a large spectrum of industries. These transformations are also restructuring labour markets and affecting labour markets in multiple ways. With the growing the demand for high skilled workers, tertiary level skills development is critical. However, the effectiveness of the Tertiary Education and Vocational Training (TVET) institutions in improving access to TVET is limited due to resource gaps, teacher shortages and governance issues.

Recommendation

Streamline the public sector provision of TVET education. Money saved from this can be used to provide eligible candidates financial support to participate in the most effective TVET programmes (public, private or joint) in the trades of their choice. Partnerships with the private sector and industry training can alleviate problems of lack of access to high-tech equipment. Invest in public sector capacity for provision of support services to the sector such as monitoring and evaluation, curriculum development, and the quality assurance of TVET institutions to improve the efficiency of the sector.

Women Increasing female labour force participation (FLFP)

Labour market data show that more women have become economically inactive due to COVID-19, lowering the already FLFP rate. As the COVID-19 related restrictions are relaxed, there will be more opportunities for women to participate in the labour market.

Recommendation

Provide training and job matching programmes to facilitate skills acquisition and improving employability, especially for women. Online training programmes can be facilitated by industries with labour shortages, with possible job opportunities for those successfully trained. These programmes can be coordinated by the institutions under the purview of the Tertiary and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector.

Persons with Disabilities Ensuring financial security of persons with disabilities (PWDs)

The cash assistance programme to assist PWDs implemented by the National Secretariat for Persons with Disabilities (NSPD) covers only a fraction of PWDs from low-income households. As of May 2020, the disability assistance programme covered 72,000 persons while another 37,492 persons were in the waitlist. Moreover, another 14,149 PWDs were identified during the first wave of the pandemic by the rural committees set up at the divisional level, as eligible for the cash assistance.

Recommendation

Assist all PWDs, especially those from low-income households to ensure their economic and financial security. Extending benefits to current waitlisted persons alone will require an additional budget allocation of around Rs 2,250 million in 2022 while extending it to those identified by the rural committees too (subject to a re-assessment of their eligibility) will require a further allocation of around Rs 849 million.

Migration Increasing reintegration support for returning migrant workers

Available estimates indicate that by early January 2021, a total of 128,470 Sri Lankans wanted to return, while only 60,470 or 47% had been repatriated. IPS pointed out that “such limited capacity to repatriate and delays in repatriation is the first indication of weaknesses in Sri Lanka’s preparedness for the return and reintegration of migrant workers in a crisis”. Limited social and psychosocial return and reintegration support for returnees restrict the capacity of a returned migrant worker to reintegrate with his family and community and contribute to the economy. Reintegration issues experienced during the pandemic were amplified by the low base level of return and reintegration support service structures that were operational in Sri Lanka before the pandemic.

Recommendation

Implement the existing policy on ‘Return and Reintegration’ introduced in 2015. A critical implementation aspect of this policy is integrating reintegration support policies into the mandates of the relevant ministries and providing necessary budgetary allocations for the same. This will result in faster and more successful reintegration of returnees to their families, communities and the economy.

Addressing gaps in recruitment sector for foreign employment

Given that the number of migrant workers has reduced drastically during the pandemic, concerted efforts will need to be made to facilitate foreign employment, when the situation improves. Findings from a study conducted by IPS shows several areas to focus on improving business practices of recruitment agents would be beneficial for promoting foreign employment. The absence of an effective international marketing strategy to promote Sri Lankan migrant workers to foreign employers have led to the recruitment agents micro-managing recruitments by resorting to unfair competitive behaviour with agents from other countries of origin. This leads to additional costs for the agent which is likely to be passed to potential migrant workers seeking employment.

Recommendation

Establish a centralised and effective international marketing strategy to promote migrant workers from Sri Lanka. This should be coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, with necessary resources and budgetary allocations. The above proposal will improve the efficiency of recruitment agents. It will also indirectly contribute to increasing remittances.



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DIMO CERTIFIED guarantees peace of mind for vehicle owners seeking a luxury upgrade

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DIMO, one of the leading conglomerates in Sri Lanka, is providing customers who are planning to buy pre-owned luxury vehicles, with speedy, hassle-free, trusted service, through its pre-owned vehicle sales arm ‘DIMO CERTIFIED’.

With the re-launch of DIMO CERTIFIED in 2019, the company has expanded its range of pre-owned vehicles beyond Mercedes-Benz & Jeep models by also offering hand-picked and well-maintained Luxury European vehicle brands registered within the past 10 years, under one roof.

With its 80 year history, DIMO offers unparalleled trust and reliability of expertise in the automotive industry where all vehicles come with a minimum of One Year warranty against unlimited mileage. All vehicles handpicked by DIMO CERTIFIED are guaranteed to have genuine mileage with precise servicing and maintenance since the day of import to the country. Vehicles that are bought from DIMO CERTIFIED are assured of a high resale value due to the comprehensive checks done at the time of purchase for resale and thereafter being refurbished to a standard ‘as Good as New’. In the event the new buyer is selling the vehicle at some point in the future, DIMO CERTIFIED also offers a guaranteed buy back facility.

Customers can avail themselves to attractive Personal Contract Plans with lowest interest rates from some of Sri Lanka’s leading financial institutions where they can drive away in their new Luxury European vehicle by making only a 30% down payment. In the event the buyer decides to upgrade to another vehicle prior to the end of the leasing period, DIMO will also step in to settle the balance payment immediately and extend the opportunity to trade-in for another vehicle of their choice.

The highly-reliable DIMO 24-hour Roadside Assistance provides customers ‘peace of mind’ wherever they travel in their vehicle as expert help during a rare breakdown is only a phone call away.

General Manager – DIMO CERTIFIED Pre-Owned Vehicles of DIMO, Tharanga Gunawardena stated, “We have been able to successfully elevate the pre-owned business to a whole new level through our DIMO CERTIFIED service. We have enhanced our services by adding several attractive features to set the benchmark for the automobile industry. Those who want to realize their aspiration of owning a Mercedes-Benz, Jeep or any other Luxury European vehicle need not look elsewhere.”

All the vehicles available at DIMO CERTIFIED along with special offers are displayed on the www.carsatdimo.lk website and provides a hassle-free way for prospective buyers to access all key details. Customers are assured of the best prices when purchasing their vehicle while special trade-in options are also available for regular customers. With highly-experienced technical professionals providing the best after-sales service, DIMO CERTIFIED customers can enjoy a hassle-free experience with their Luxury European vehicle. A dedicated WhatsApp number 0771449797 has been made available for customers to contact a Sales Consultant directly to enquire about any product or offer listed on the website.

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Chrissworld engages CDS for registrar services

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Central Depositary Systems (Pvt) Ltd (CDS), a fully owned subsidiary of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), has strengthened its client base for the provision of registrar services with the addition of Chrissworld PLC. The CDS will provide the listed company with a variety of services such as share ledger maintenance, virtual AGM’s and all types of corporate actions. The CDS plays a role in driving innovation and offering cost effective solutions with value additions.

Speaking at the development, the CEO of the CSE, Mr. Rajeeva Bandaranaike, said, “We welcome Chrissworld PLC to the CDS portfolio. The CDS is uniquely positioned to offer value added Registrar services to listed entities in Sri Lanka, and the CDS is very confident that Chrissworld PLC will fully benefit from the services provided .”

Chairman of Chrissworld PLC, Mr. Christopher Perera stated, “We are very pleased to sign this agreement with the CDS as the registrar. The process of working with the CDS has been a rewarding experience for Chrissworld PLC, and going forward, we are confident that there will be excellent co-operation between the two companies and that the CDS will efficiently manage all our affairs. “

Chrissworld PLC was founded in 2013 and provides third-party logistics services specializing in warehousing, inventory management, distribution, and transportation. The company was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange on May 18th, 2021, the first ever company to be listed on the Empower Board.

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Women in Management, IFC and Government of Australia recognise inspiring women from Sri Lanka and Maldives

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The ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 – hosted by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC and the government of Australia – recently honoured inspiring professional and career women in Sri Lanka and Maldives making a mark in their respective fields.

The 11th edition of the awards ceremony celebrated women representing a wide array of professions from industries including hospitality, banking and finance, logistics and supply chains, entrepreneurship, and media and law, among others, for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community. The awards also lauded Sri Lankan corporates that have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.

Top awards were conferred to Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy (Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year), Prof. Nadira Karunaweera (Inspirational Woman of the Year), Aruni Goonetilleke (Trail Blazer), Randhula De Silva (Game Changer of the Year) and Dr. Vajira Chithrasena (Judges Award). The full list of awardees is listed below.

“The 2021 awards are a celebration of resilience, optimism, hard work and growth. As we step into a third year of a pandemic, this year’s winners remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that can exist in adversity,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “They also remind us of the extraordinary potential women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are capable of, especially in challenging the status-quo for greater good. Women are often hesitant to take their spot in the limelight, but over the past decade, the Top50 Awards have created a platform helping them showcase their talents and achievements, and importantly to inspire others.”

With over 470 past award winners, the ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards aim to showcase the significant role women play as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

Marking IFC’s seventh consecutive year in co-hosting the event, Victor Antonypillai, Acting Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, that “To ensure a resilient recovery, the path should be gender inclusive – women should be at the heart of the path to recovery. We need to ‘build forward fairer’ for economies and societies to build back better.” Supported through the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this year’s Top50 Awards aims to showcase the resilient leadership Sri Lankan women have shown, amid a pandemic.

Also, speaking at the event, David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives remarked that, “Over the years, the ‘Top50’ Awards have shown the power of women in business inspiring many others in leadership and in society more generally. The 2022 Awards are a tribute to the resilience of Sri Lankan women, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 were powered by Dialog, along with Gold Sponsors Salota International and Singer. Silver sponsors for the awards included Lanka IOC, Unilever, Vision Care and Aitken Spence. Maliban and Sampath Bank were also sponsors of the event, and the gifting Partner for the award ceremony was New Vivya.

Speaking of the award winners, Nadija Tambiah, Head of Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Holdings and Chair of 2021 Judging Panel, said that the “quality of the women who were nominated or who applied this year was impressive. We were forced not only to look at the accomplishments of these women in their chosen vocations but also what impact they have had in the industry and what they have done for women in their organisations.”

This year’s Judging Panel—chaired by Nadija Tambiah—included Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd; Kishu Gomes, Group MD/CEO of Dreamron Group of Companies; Nisthar Cassim, Founding Editor and CEO of Daily FT; Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan; Sandra De Zoysa, Group Chief Customer Officer at Dialog Axiata PLC; Sandya Salgado, Strategic Marketing Professional; Santosh Menon, CEO of KL.LK; Amanda Jewell, Acting Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka; and Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for Women in Work at IFC.

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