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No one left behind: Airtel-NIMH Mental Health Helpline expands to 24/7 service

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Building on the urgent national efforts to enhance access to professional mental healthcare services for all Sri Lankans, Airtel Lanka in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced the expansion of its Whatsapp service into a 24/7 operation.

The expanded service is designed to ensure that anyone facing challenges with their mental health can reliably reach out for help free-of-charge, and be assured of a compassionate and helpful response, day or night.

Prior to this, the NIMH was reachable 24/7 only through the 1926 helpline, and the operating hours of both SMS and Whatsapp lines had been restricted between 8am – 4pm.

“At a time when record numbers of Sri Lankans are facing extreme uncertainty, and unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, we believe that mobile technology can be better utilized to make sure that every Sri Lankan and especially youth have access to the support they need to more effectively manage their mental health. In this manner, we can ensure that no Sri Lankan is left behind,” Airtel Sri Lanka CEO/MD, Ashish Chandra stated.

He added that moving forward, Airtel would also be working to amplify awareness about the importance of mental health and available services for those facing challenges to young Sri Lankans across the country. In an effort to do so, Airtel sponsored art and trilingual essay competitions conducted by the NIMH. Leveraging existing communications channels and partnerships with educational institutions, these sessions were catered to students of all grades across schools island-wide, in honour of World Mental Health Day 2022 in October.

“Between the lockdowns, and economic hardships, we are seeing an increase in the number of Sri Lankans reaching out for help with a range of mental health issues through the 1926 service. Especially for our younger users, they are often much freer to talk to us through the Whatsapp service in the evenings. We are grateful to the Airtel team for helping us bring these essential services into a 24 hour format, and amplifying the reach of this life-saving service,” NIMH Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe said.

Since launching 2 years ago on World Mental Health Day 2020, the text-based 1926 service alone has helped to initiate over 1000 life-saving interventions, in addition to providing support, comfort and guidance to many individuals facing challenges with their mental health. Most recently, Airtel partnered NIMH to further expand the SMS service to also include a Whatsapp line.

The initiative is also aligned with Airtel’s global mission to connect and empower youth across the world. Currently Airtel operates in 17 countries across South Asia and Africa, with networks that serve over two billion people. Ranked among the top three mobile operators globally, in recent months Airtel has also engaged in novel partnerships with global tech giants like Google and Meta in order create opportunities for enhancing digital inclusion across the region.

If you or someone you know is facing a challenge with their mental health, simply call, or SMS 1926, or start a chat on Whatsapp by messaging 075 555 1926. Airtel users have access to all these services completely free of charge.



Business

Pan Asia Bank posts steady performance during FY 2023 –

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Aravinda Perera- Chairman & Naleen Edirisinghe - Director CEO of Pan Asia Bank

Profit before Tax increases by 258% amidst external challenges

Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reflected a steady performance amidst multitude of adversities emerging from challenging macro-economic conditions as the Bank reported its financial performance during 2023, which showed judicious portfolio management and prudency exercised in dealing with possible fallout on its asset quality in challenging times.

The Bank reported a Pre-tax Profit of Rs. 2,328 Mn for the year ended 31st December 2023, which is 258% increase compared to corresponding period last year, supported by improved net interest income, increased trading gains from government securities and reduced exchange losses.

The Sri Lankan economy has experienced some positive signs of gradual economic recovery and a measure of stability in macro-economic factors compared to the previous year, with the appreciation of LKR against USD and the IMF bailout followed by the Domestic Debt Optimization (DDO) announcement. The multiple economic scenario models used regarding collective impairment in 2022 were continued in 2023 to ensure that adequate buffers were in place to absorb any potential credit risk that could arise in the future. The allowance for overlays applied in previous year was continued and maintained during 2023 too. Meanwhile, the Bank managed to end the year with healthy credit quality matrices due to improved credit underwriting standards and concerted collection & recovery efforts despite the contraction in the loan book during 2023 which impacted the Bank’s Stage 3 Loan Ratio adversely.

Furthermore, the Bank increased impairment provision buffers held regarding investments in International Sovereign Bonds of Government of Sri Lanka (SLISBs) further during 2023 with the expectation of possible adverse outcomes of the on-going government External Debt Restructuring (EDR) programme. The Bank recognised an impairment charge of nearly Rs. 2 Bn regarding International Sovereign Bonds during 2023.

The interest income for the year 2023 rose by 39% due to the high interest rates that prevailed during the period under review compared to corresponding period of the last year and the re-pricing effect of facilities in response to the market conditions. Further, the growth in interest income was supported by the increased interest income from Rupee denominated securities of the Government of Sri Lanka (T-Bills & Bonds) due to increased investments and high interest rates offered on such new investments compared to the previous year. Consequently, the net interest income increased by 9% in 2023 compared to the last year. (Pan Asia Bank)

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SLT-MOBITEL celebrates the season of love with exciting giveaways

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SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, celebrated Valentine’s Day with a series of heartwarming promotions and networking activities, spreading love and joy for customers across the country.

Connecting hearts from all around the world on social media, SLT-MOBITEL invited participants to share their loving memories for a chance to win movie tickets. Customers were also given the opportunity to dedicate romantic ringing tones to their loved ones by dialling special codes.

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, SLT-MOBITEL also offered a special promotion, providing a special screening for the glamorous movie ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’, powered by SLT-MOBITEL. Furthermore, customers were treated to a surprise bonus of 10GB of free data upon recharging their SLT-MOBITEL mobile numbers with Rs. 500 or more through any banking app.

Taking love to the hill country, in a special engagement event at the Kandy City Centre, fans were able to participate in activities and interact with the ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’ cast including Hemal Ranasinghe, Sheshadri Priyasad, and many others.

Through these exciting promotions, SLT-MOBITEL helped spread love and joy this season while enhancing the customer experience with exclusive activities.

To discover more of SLT-MOBITEL’s Valentine’s Day promotions, visit https://www.facebook.com/SLTMobitel.

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Call for Proposals: Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024

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The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) is inviting proposals for the Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024. The grant is an annual, merit-based grant awarded to an outstanding undergraduate studying in a Sri Lankan university. It aims to promote policy entrepreneurs among undergraduates by encouraging policy-relevant, rigorous and innovative socio-economic research.

The grant was established in 2018 to honour Dr. Saman Kelegama’s legacy of independent research and public policy engagement in socio-economic development in Sri Lanka and the wider South Asian region. Dr. Kelegama was the Executive Director of the IPS from 1995 to 2017.

Fourth-year undergraduates studying economics or a related subject in a University Grants Commission approved university or higher education institution in Sri Lanka are eligible to apply. Proposals must be written according to the guidelines provided and emailed to tharakam@ips.lk on or before the submission deadline of 30 April 2024.

HOW WILL THE WINNER BE CHOSEN? The quality of the proposals will be judged for its policy relevance, feasibility, originality and creativity. Three finalists will be chosen and invited to present their proposals at the IPS, where the award recipient will be selected.

OUTCOMES OF THE GRANTS – The recipient will be expected to produce a Policy Discussion Brief within six months of receiving the grant. The research report can be written individually or jointly with an IPS senior researcher.

BENEFITS OF THE GRANT – The beneficiary will be awarded a one-time research grant of LKR 200,000 to carry out the proposed research and a three-month internship at the IPS. The recipient will be able to seek guidance from senior researchers and benefit from IPS resources to complete the proposed study during the internship. To enable students from all over Sri Lanka to benefit from this opportunity, the terms of the internship will be flexible. The internship can either be a fully in-house internship at IPS, or it can be an in-house plus online internship. In the case of the second option, the in-house component of the internship should be at least six weeks. To encourage research dissemination, an additional subsidy will be provided for presenting the research findings at local conferences and workshops.

Important Dates

30 April 2024 – Deadline for Submission of Proposals

01 June 2024 – Announcement of Finalists

23 June 2024 – Announcement of the Winner

Further information is available at: https://www.ips.lk/saman-kelegama-memorial-research-grant/

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