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Notable hike in workers’ remittances

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External sector performance – September 2020

Sri Lanka’s external sector recovered further in September 2020, supported by the continued improvement in the trade deficit, a notable increase in workers’ remittances and the resultant stability in the domestic foreign exchange market.

The trade deficit improved in September 2020, compared to a year earlier, with a more than expected rebound in merchandise exports and a reduction in merchandise imports during the month. In September 2020, workers’ remittances, recorded the highest year-on-year growth since end 2011. In the financial account, the government securities market recorded a marginal foreign investment inflow during the month, while the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) recorded outflows. Net inflows to the domestic foreign exchange market eased the pressure on the exchange rate and enabled the Central Bank to absorb foreign exchange, on a net basis, to build up gross official reserves. Reflecting these developments, the Sri Lankan rupee appreciated during the month of September 2020.

Trade Balance

A deficit of US dollars 525 million was recorded in the trade account in September 2020, which was significantly lower than the deficit of US dollars 757 million recorded in September 2019. The improvement in the trade deficit during the month was due to lower level of imports and higher level of exports in September 2020, compared to September 2019.

The cumulative deficit in the trade account from January to September 2020 narrowed to US dollars 4,337 million from the deficit of US dollars 5,612 million recorded in the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, terms of trade, i.e., the ratio of the price of exports to the price of imports, deteriorated by 1.1 per cent in September 2020, compared to September 2019, due to export prices declining at a higher pace than the decline in import prices.

Exhibiting the resilience of the export sector in the midst of the current global market conditions and its V-shaped recovery since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, earnings from merchandise exports in September 2020 increased, both on a year-on-year basis as well as on a month-on-month basis. Merchandise exports of US dollars 1,000 million in September 2020 were higher by 4.8 per cent than the exports of US dollars 954 million in September 2019. This was also 5.6 per cent higher than the exports of US dollars 947 million recorded in August 2020. The increase in exports of most agricultural goods and some industrial product categories, which surpassed the decline in other industrial exports and mineral exports, contributed to the overall increase in exports.

Export earnings from agricultural goods increased by 10.4 per cent in September 2020 on a year-on-year basis, led by coconut exports (both kernel and non-kernel), spices (mainly cinnamon), tea, minor agricultural products (mainly betel leaves) and seafood. Increased earnings from tea exports (3.3 per cent) were supported by higher prices (6.3 per cent), as export volumes declined (2.8 per cent).

 

 

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Sampath Bank continues to partner Central Bank on promoting QR payments

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Sampath Bank PLC joined hands with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) yet again to raise awareness and increase acceptance and usage of LANKAQR, the common Quick Response (QR) code standard for the country that was introduced in 2020.

Encouraging consumers to adopt LANKAQR for their day to day transactions, Sampath Bank held a 2-day promotional drive at one of Colombo’s latest outdoor dining destinations, Dining Capsule at Baladaksha Mawatha, near Galle Face Green on the 23rd and 24th of January.

Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director – Payments and Settlements, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, took part in the ceremonial launch of this initiative together with other senior representatives.

The Bank offered 25% cash back on payments made with the LANKAQR-enabled Sampath WePay digital payments mobile application at Dunhinda Colombo, Roots, Grand Monarch, Street Wok, Lavinia, Spice Junction, Giovanni’s Pizza al Taglio and BoxBar outlets at the Dining Capsule during this period.

“Offering greater convenience and security, technology continues to transform the way we conduct our day to day transactions. This is becoming increasingly true in Sri Lanka too, where consumers and businesses are actively adopting digital payments,” said Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC. “At Sampath Bank we have always focused on leveraging emerging technologies and delivering market relevant solutions that add value to our customers around the island. In line with this, we are delighted to partner with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on driving the acceptance and usage of LANKAQR.”

“Across Sri Lanka, a growing number of merchants and consumers are getting on board the LANKAQR ecosystem and beginning to appreciate the value offered by QR based payments. We are witnessing this phenomenon with Sampath WePay, the secure, one stop digital wallet from Sampath Bank that allows users to store all types of financial instruments from any bank and carry out a wide range of real-time online transactions.

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Taking cashless transactions across the country

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The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in coordination with leading financial institutions and telcos in the country set in motion the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ promotional campaign with a monumental event on January, 23. The ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ initiative represents the second phase of an island-wide campaign commenced late last year to introduce LANKAQR as the standard for mobile phone and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy society plus greater financial inclusion across Sri Lanka.

Held at Diyatha Uyana, Battaramulla, the event was graced by the Chief Guest, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ms. Yvette Fernando, Deputy Governor CBSL and the chairperson of the National Payments Council, D. Kumaratunge, Director Payments and Settlements – CBSL, and Thilak Piyadigama, chairman – CBSL appointed LANKAQR Committee/CEO SDB bank, among other distinguished guests.

The Colombo-leg of the LANKAQR national campaign, drawing on the participation of numerous high-profile guests plus the island’s top banks and financial institutions, aimed to advance the program’s overall vision of promoting digital transactions as the new norm and included city-wide promotions, covering major commercial locations in and around the city.

Developed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, LANKAQR is a common Quick Response (QR) code standard, and its adoption by most major financial institutions in Sri Lanka is a progressive step on the path to Sri Lankans fully embracing a future that is inevitably digital, gradually leading to an entirely cashless mode of transaction.

The LANKAQR system will allow banks, financial institutions and telcos, through their digital payment apps and platforms, to facilitate fast, secure and low cost digital payments to any merchant or service provider. LANKAQR provides customers with a mechanism for payment for all their needs ranging from groceries, healthcare to utilities, and even the purchase of goods from street-side vendors, directly from their bank account through the use of any LANKAQR-compliant mobile payment app.

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SLT-MOBITEL gives ‘Power to Your Dreams’ with special connectivity offers

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SLT-MOBITEL is all set to launch the ‘Power to Your Dreams – සිහිනයට සවියක්’ campaign to provide the latest connectivity solutions to microbusinesses on the of January, 25 the company announced recently. This program will provide ICT solutions packages encompassing products and services essential for microbusinesses, at maximum affordability.

Understanding the connectivity needs of the microbusiness segment, the promotion provides them solutions that fulfil their requirements. Accordingly, communication, business networking, cloud technology, entertainment & IoT, communications devices and business infrastructure services for various market segments within the microbusiness ecosystem is provided utilising SLT-MOBITEL products and services such as voice & mobile telephony, 4G LTE, SLT Broadband, SLT Fibre and Peo TV services.

Speaking on the planned promotion, Sanjeewa Jayamaha, General Manager – SME Business Development, Sri Lanka Telecom stated, “Microbusinesses are the bedrock of Sri Lanka’s economic activity, supporting day to day transactions for millions of people. It is vitally important that they receive the full benefit of the connectivity solutions offered by the national ICT solutions provider, Sri Lankan Telecom. The brand unification of SLT-MOBITEL means now we can offer a full bouquet of products and services to our clients. This promotion will ensure that microbusinesses from various segments can now access the connectivity solutions most important for their businesses to thrive.”

Microbusinesses operating in entertainment and leisure, fashion and beauty, daily essentials, medical and health care, education, special occasion services, financial services, e-commerce and software development, professional services, construction support and transportation and delivery services will be able to benefit from bespoke packages crafted by SLT-MOBITEL with their specific industry needs taken into consideration.

 

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