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IPS’ proposals for Budget 2022 – Part II

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Food Security

Ensuring national food security

National food security is not only a question of availability, but includes the other factors like food prices, food usage, and food supply stability. Hence, all these aspects influencing food security should be considered in policy formulation. While the government’s policy framework, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (VPS) recognises the importance of introducing an agricultural crop management system, there is no proper mechanism to monitor how this will affect food usage, prices, and supply. At present, the farming community is compelled to suffer massive losses during the harvesting season because of the seasonal glut in supply. Meanwhile, intermediaries and the other players in the high end of the value chain gain because they can control prices through controlling supply. This has implications on the food security of the country and the welfare of farmers.

Recommendation

Establish an electronic-based monitoring system for the food systems so that domestic food production, imports, market prices, input availability etc., could be continuously monitored to ensure national food availability and household access to food. A regular monitoring system can safeguard the local food supply from international trade restrictions and possible malpractices by local traders. Give priority to establish a holistic, coherent mechanism to ensure high-quality information is important. This information should be easily accessible across sectors for monitoring risks to food security. Such a system can provide valuable information for policy makers to take action to ensure food security. Big data tools such as satellites, telecommunication networks, sensors, drones, and smartphones have the potential to address the food system challenges by improving availability of information.

Developing e-commerce for food system resilience

As communities are increasingly dependent on markets for their food security and nutrition, properly functioning market chains and the uninterrupted flow of agricultural products are key elements within food systems. Shocks that disrupt market activities such as disasters and pandemics can cause considerable damage to households’ food availability, as well as their access to and utilisation of food.

VPS recognises the importance of introducing a new strategic plan for product marketing including systems of pre-contracts between producers and exporters. However, at present, the farming community is poorly connected with markets and intermediaries gain arbitrage opportunities while rural producers receive lower prices due to the lack of market information, poor infrastructure, weaker bargaining positions, and lengthy marketing channels.

Recommendations

IPS proposes to increase the capacity of e-commerce to minimise the problems in food supply chains and to ensure food system resilience. The increased demand for digital marketing platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic could be capitalised to promote the capacity of e-commerce at both ends of the food supply chain. For example: The Govipola Mobile App and the pilot project on Smart Agri Village were funded by EU. Such Information and Communication Technology (ICT) platforms, despite capacity concerns, have already proven useful to increase the resilience of the actors in the food system such as farmers, traders, and consumers.

Further, a mechanism needs to be developed to help connect smallholders to the e-commerce platform to prevent elite capture of the digital marketplace. In this regard, linking farmers’ cooperatives with the e-commerce platform or building Public-Private-Producer-Partnerships (4P) could be crucial. Public investments in developing an e-commerce-platform to create a digital marketplace to connect farmers and markets and to increase the availability of product and price information to buyers and sellers, to improve food availability, and food security while protecting farmer welfare is recommended.

Strengthening the Regulatory and Enforcement Mechanism for Organic Fertiliser Imports

The proposed ban on chemical fertiliser imports will be a significant shock to the agricultural systems of Sri Lanka and most likely will be untenable. Sri Lanka must revisit the import ban before it fails due to its implementation challenges creating massive disruption to the country’s agricultural sector. IPS research suggests that Sri Lanka can adopt a ‘sustainable intensification’ approach that anticipates a gradual reduction of the use of chemical inputs combined with good agroecological production practices, to increase organic fertiliser use overtime. Further to the ban, the government has decided to import organic fertilisers. Unlike inorganic fertilisers, which are inert materials, organic fertilisers are highly environment-specific live materials that could have irreversible environmental repercussions.

Therefore, the regulatory, implementation, and enforcement mechanism of the quality standards must be strengthened with immediate effect (with the coordination of relevant government institutions like National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS); SLSI; Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Agency; ITI, etc) to ensure that food ecosystems in the country are not adversely affected by introducing organic fertiliser.

Recommendations

Prudent application of a combination of instruments in place of the import ban on chemicals is needed such as tariffs on chemical fertiliser imports, tax concessions/subsidies for local production of organic fertiliser to promote the production and use of organic fertiliser. Along with this, the quality of chemical fertiliser imports needs to be regulated to safeguard local agriculture. Programmes to build awareness on efficient use of organic fertiliser can also help farmers with the shift to organic fertiliser use.

Tobacco Taxes

Streamlining tobacco tax increases

IPS research shows that increasing tobacco taxes has the twin benefits of improving health as well as increasing government revenue. At a juncture when government finances are tight, policy solutions such as taxing tobacco can be leveraged to boost government revenue without threatening economic growth. Increasing tobacco taxes in the forthcoming Budget could raise substantial amounts of additional revenue for the government.

IPS estimates that the government could have earned nearly LKR 20 billion in additional excise tax revenue from cigarettes in 2020, if cigarette taxes had been raised by 10% in line with inflation and streamlined to a uniform tax. This amounts to nearly 1.5% of total government revenue in 2020. A similar revenue gain can be expected from a 10% increase in tobacco taxes this year.

Recommendation

Given that cigarette taxes have not been revised in nearly two years, since December 2019, the government should use this opportunity to raise taxes, to attain the twin benefits of improved health and fiscal outcomes.

SMEs

Developing the creative and cultural industries

Much of Sri Lanka’s creative economy – which comprises of traditional and modern cultural and creative industries – fall into the category of small and medium industries (SMIs). Lack of linkages to connect rural cultural and creative industry artisans with the relevant institutes and public services is an issue, despite programmes to support and encourage creative business activities conducted by different public institutions.

Lack of awareness, lack of coordination among various sectors of government, and limited attention given to emerging cultural sectors – such as fashion designing, software, graphic designing, digital media – are some identified issues in this sector.

Recommendation

Streamlining government programmes relating to creative and cultural programmes and build capacity in public institutions to provide efficient and effective services to artisans in creative industries. The outcomes of initiatives to develop the sector must be monitored and adjusted to improve effectiveness overtime. Special attention needs to be given by public institutions to fill the above-mentioned policy gaps. Proposed actions will attract rural youth into the sector, which will generate new employment opportunities and support the development of the rural sector.

Social Protection

Repositioning social protection

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) (ILO C.102) specifies nine key branches of benefits that social security programmes are expected to deliver. These are: medical care, sickness, unemployment, old age benefit, employment injury, family benefit, maternity benefit, invalidity benefit, and survivor’s benefit. Although different social security schemes are available in Sri Lanka to provide some types of benefits under all nine schemes of ILO’s Social Security Convention (ILO C.102), their coverage is very low. Sri Lanka is also yet to ratify the minimum standard in social security as specified in the Convention.

Recommendations

Social security contributions in many countries are channelled to diverse funds for providing various types of social security benefits (i.e., maternity benefits, sickness benefits). Use a similar system to expand life-cycle social security to workers contributing to Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF). IPS calculations show that about 1.5% of the wage bill (or half of the ETF contributions) is sufficient to cover maternity benefits, sickness benefits, and unemployment benefits to meet the minimum requirements specified in ILO C.102 for those contributing to ETF. A further 0.2% of the total wage bill could cover wage support to firms to retain the workers who contribute to ETF in times of disaster. Follow international best practices and optimise the use of ETF funds to provide wider benefits to its contributors. Such a scheme will enable workers to benefit from social security throughout their lifecycle and facilitate the ratification of the ILO C.102 of minimum social security standards. Greater life-cycle benefits will encourage more workers to contribute to ETF. This will have minimum impact on the budget as allocations for the most part will be from the ETF fund. Such a change in focus should be done in concurrence with different stakeholders to maintain transparency and trust.

-END OF PART II-

Read IPS’ Budget 2022 Proposals in Full HERE.



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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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