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IPS sees path ahead for Sri Lanka even as economic challenges mount

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Even though macroeconomic pressures and external challenges are weighing on Sri Lanka’s fiscal situation, the country has a path ahead for growth and sustainability if it puts its fiscal house in order over the next three years, Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) said last week.

She made this remark while speaking at an online seminar after launching the State of the Economy- 2020 Report compiled by the IPS titled “Pandemics and Disruptions: Reviving Sri Lanka’s Economy COVID-19 and Beyond.”

Elaborating further she said, “Policy environment is critical to achieving resilient growth and economic stability in order to position Sri Lanka as a middle income country in the next 2-3 years”.

“Prevailing macroeconomic conditions in Sri Lanka are challenging. The debt overhang is the prime concern. This debt situation didn’t happen overnight, It crept up over the past decade or so. It hasn’t left room for more robust support packages for people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to rethink our policies not only to achieve a sustainable growth path, but we need to build a firewall to withstand any external shocks in the future”.

“Sound fiscal policy in order to put the public finances in order should be the focus of the upcoming budget and government policy in the coming years”.

“If a sovereign rating assessment goes against Sri Lanka in the offing, it could cause a sudden devaluation of the rupee and as a result of it, the size of our foreign currency loans will balloon”.

“The pressure on our forex reserves needs to be eased. FDIs need to be attracted to the construction and real estate sector to ease the immediate pressure and thereafter move on to a growth strategy driven by productivity and technology to become a middle-income country”.

“The minimizing of wasteful expenditure in the public sector won’t make much of a difference. The government will have to lead social welfare. We will have to spend more on health, education and social protection in the recovery phase”.

“The debt stock will persist in the next decade albeit a brief break in between. So, we need to shore up our forex buffers – not with borrowed funds but with investments that bring in manufacturing and services with knowledge transfer on technology”.

“The government has decided not to obtain large loans for infrastructure projects in the next 2-3 years to control the debt stock. Fiscal re-balancing and ensuring systematic tax revenue would be vital for medium-term stability”.

“We needed certain monetary policy stances and import restrictions to face the current situation, but we should see them as necessary short term measures only. Beyond recovery, we need a new system which is agile enough to integrate with the global supply chain and be part of that success as they jump start their economies”.

“We need to raise funds through international sovereign bonds, foreign term deposits etc. For the past one and a half decades, Sri Lanka has had experience on foreign funded projects. We have experience on capital spending, converting debt to equity in infrastructure development projects etc. We can learn from them and seek funding on our terms”.

“Wider fiscal space will also assist the government to provide better social welfare support to the poor. Sri Lanka’s budget deficit is estimated to be between 9-11% in 2020, and public revenue streams remain uncertain even in 2021, according to analysts. This together with low debt sustainability was partly why Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating was downgraded earlier this month by international rating agency Moody’s”.”Sri Lanka cannot afford to lose out by holding onto protectionist measures. A seamless tariff regime is needed to join international value chains, and as the world recovers, we must rethink our approach to trade”.

“On the back of Sri Lanka’s political stability, the country can rethink its economic policies and come through its macroeconomic challenges,” Dr. Dushni Weerakoon noted.



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Dilmah voted Best Corporate Citizen in Ceylon Chamber Sustainability Awards 2020

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Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah was honoured in Sri Lanka’s apex corporate sustainability awards, as one of two recipients of the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award for Sri Lanka in 2020, a company news release said.

“Dilmah won in the category of Businesses with Less than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover based on complex criteria linked to social, environmental and economic value, compliance, resilience, stakeholder management and crisis response. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce award is judged annually – now in its 17th year – in an exhaustive process steered by a panel of eminent judges. The Best Corporate Citizen in the category of Businesses with greater than Rs. 15 Billion Annual Turnover was won by Ceylon Biscuits Ltd, also a Sri Lankan family business,” it said.

In addition to the coveted top award, Dilmah won category awards for Customer Relations, Environment Beyond the Business and was chosen as one of the Top 10 Corporate Citizens of Sri Lanka. The company stands out in its achievement as a family owned business with a singular focus on tea, among conglomerates and finance houses that form the top 10.

“Dilmah was formed by Founder, Merrill J. Fernando, on an unequivocal commitment to human service. The context was the colonial economic system that persisted in the tea industry in the 1950s, vestiges of which are evident even today in inadequate value addition to Sri Lanka’s high-quality tea and spices. The award scrutinised each finalists’ performance in areas including sustainability and business resilience in the wake of COVID-19, packaging sustainability, customer relations, commitment to environment and social development initiatives,” the release said.

Merrill J. Fernando, who recently celebrated his 70th year in tea is recognized as the face of fine Ceylon Tea in several countries where he started his business inviting tea drinkers to, ‘do try it!’ He commented on hearing of the accolade, ‘Mine was a simple wish – to present the finest tea with quality and integrity. What people call sustainability is a way of life for my sons and I. This award is a humbling accolade, because my journey in tea was marked more by criticism than appreciation.’

A minimum 15% of the company’s pre-tax profits directly benefit humanity through the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation, both formed to fulfill the company’s commitment to community and environment. The Dilmah philosophy has touched the lives of thousands through programmes for disabled children, empowerment initiatives for women, youth and communities. The company became carbon neutral in 2019 and plans to be carbon negative by 2030.

 

 

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Vision Care opens 60th branch at Medihelp Hospital in Homagama

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Vision Care, Sri Lanka’s premier eye care solutions provider, opened its 60th branch at Medihelp Hospital located at High-level road, Homagama. Present at the momentous opening were Chief Guest Dr. Prasad Pathirana – Eye Surgeon, Horana Base Hospital and Chandika Wijesiriwardana – Executive Director, Medihelp Hospitals, who graced the event.

“Vision Care has entered into a strategic partnership with Medihelp Hospitals to enhance the hospital’s eye care offering. Vision Care is focused on expanding its optical services to selected Medihelp Hospitals’ locations, thereby eventually covering all major districts in the country,” a news release issued in connection with the event said.

It said the new location offers a wide collection of affordable eyewear and specialized services such as primary eye examination, refraction, contact lens assessment, eye pressure diagnostics, hearing aids and other related services.

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Kangaroo Cabs adopt strict measures to safeguard customers against Covid-19

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Kangaroo Cabs (Pvt) Ltd., Sri Lanka’s leading cab service provider trusted by customers for the past 33 years, has adopted many stringent measures to ensure customer safety against Covid-19.

This includes providing hand sanitizers, touchless thermometers and face masks to all drivers registered under Kangaroo Cabs. They are advised strictly to follow health guidelines and pay attention to safeguard their valued customers. Customers’ body temperature is checked and hand sanitization provided before every trip.

The car is sanitized at the end of every journey to ensure the safety of the next customer and the drivers. Drivers are advised to wear face masks and follow health guidelines right throughout the journey. Precautions and safety measures are a top priority at Kangaroo Cabs.

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