The first phase completion of National Savings Bank (NSB) Data Centre was reached recently.
The Bank became the first bank in Sri Lanka to be awarded a TIER III Design Certification (TCDD) for its Data Centre and will soon obtain the Facility Certificate for the built facility (TCCF) from the UPTIME Institute for its state-of-the-art Data Center located in Colombo.
The Tier III Certified Data Centre is expected to significantly enhance NSB’s digital banking services by making the system available at any time to end-users as well as staff. The certification is testament to the data center’s ability to stand up to real-world challenges and reaching the many IT requirements of the Bank for years to come.
The most advanced data centres in the world are built to comply with Tier standards and the UPTIME Institute of USA has awarded this prestigious certification after rigorous inspections of the design & built facility including failure simulations.
“We are honoured to receive the TIER III certification for our data center, a first for the banking sector in the Island which was designed and built by N-able for us. The data centre is a step in the direction of increasing transaction reliability, speed and zero downtime for the bank’s day to day IT transactions,” said Mr. Ajith Peiris, General Manager/CEO of NSB.
TIER III standards place stringent demands on several facets of data centre construction and performance including but not limited to critical electrical systems, mechanical (critical cooling) systems, security systems, fail-safe operational methodologies for redundancy operation and control systems.
Uptime Institute’s Tier Standard is the globally recognized standard for data center reliability and overall performance. It allows various levels of performance to be chosen based on the intended applications and business parameters associated with those applications.
Significance of repatriation and conversion of export proceeds for external sector stability and overall financial system stability
Sri Lanka’s merchandise export sector has shown a notable improvement in 2021 compared to the pandemic-affected 2020. As per the latest Customs data, export earnings have averaged US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021 compared to a monthly average of US dollars 837 million in 2020, while the average earnings have amounted to US dollars 1,064 million during June-August 2021. This is an appreciable development as the merchandise export sector (comprising diverse products) is the largest foreign exchange earner in most countries, including Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has had a trade deficit each year since 1977, and the gap between merchandise imports and exports is typically financed by other inflows to the external current account (such as tourism and other services inflows as well as workers’ remittances), and financial inflows (such as investments and borrowing).
In this background, some recent developments in the foreign exchange market have raised several concerns, particularly as some of these typical avenues of foreign exchange inflows have been affected due to pandemic-related pressures, as explained below:
a) Compared to the monthly average exports as reported by Customs (goods flow) of US dollars 985 million during the eight months ending August 2021, the monthly average repatriation of export proceeds during July/August 2021 has been US dollars 640 million as reported by banks (financial flow). Accordingly, there has been a significant gap of US dollars 345 million between these two figures. This observation therefore, raises the serious question as to whether exporters comply with the regulation on 100 per cent repatriation of export proceeds.
b) It also appears that due to an undue speculation on exchange rate movements, there has been a reluctance to convert export earnings during the period from January 2020 to July 2021, thereby limiting inflows to the domestic foreign exchange market, which situation has then resulted in a buildup of foreign currency deposit balances with the banking sector by a significant US dollars 1.9 billion. In addition, with low rupee interest rates, some exporters have found it more lucrative to borrow and import to meet their input requirements, leading to further tension in the domestic market.
c) As per the data available, it would also be noted that if there had been a 100 per cent repatriation and 100 per cent conversion of export proceeds, the monthly export foreign exchange flow into the domestic market would have been US dollars 985 million, and with the average expenditure on imports of US dollars 1,670 million, that would have resulted in a monthly average gap of US dollars 685 million. This could have been easily financed using other foreign exchange inflows into the country.
d) Based on the above past statistics in general, and the experience during July/August 2021 in particular, the monthly average gap between the conversions of export proceeds with an incomplete repatriation and expenditure on imports has been quite alarming.
It would also be fair to state that there is a necessity for a country to ensure that the foreign exchange generated through export activities are duly repatriated into the country and converted into its currency. In fact, many emerging market economies have repatriation and conversion requirements imposed on merchandise and services exports. Country experiences vary, and over time, with the buildup of a country’s foreign exchange reserves through such non-debt inflows, countries have also gradually relaxed these requirements. Regional economies such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand have export proceeds repatriation requirements currently in place varying from 3 months to 2 years of the export. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have repatriation requirements on both goods and services export proceeds, while in Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia, the repatriation requirement is only applicable on goods exports. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Thailand have rules on conversion to respective local currencies in different percentages based on nature and the amount of repatriated export proceeds and their utilisation. Such repatriation and conversion requirements ensure the fulfillment of the demand for foreign currency, including intermediate and investment goods imports directly required by the export sector, as well as essential fuel and medical requirements of the country, which are indirect inputs to all sectors including the export sector.
Therefore, it would be reasonable for the Government (which supports the export sector through lower taxes and numerous other incentives) and the Central Bank (which is expected to deliver price and economic stability as well as financial system stability) to take steps to ensure the complete repatriation of export proceeds within a reasonable period and the conversion of inflows of export proceeds into the local currency, including the proceeds already accumulated in exporters’ accounts, so that the true purpose of exports is realised.
As would be well appreciated, an export would realise its objective only when it finally culminates in the flow of foreign exchange that is generated by the export into the country’s financial system in its local currency. That objective would obviously not be fulfilled if the final conversion of export proceeds into local currency does not take place. Accordingly, steps must be taken to strengthen the systems to ensure monitoring and to implement measures that lead to this objective. It is only then that the gap between the foreign exchange liquidity provided through exports and the foreign exchange liquidity demand for imports would reduce to the level as published in the Central Bank’s own reports.
LOLC and Expolanka drive bourse along bullish path
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
CSE trading activities initially yesterday were extremely bullish and were driven by two leading entities/counters, LOLC Group and Expolanka. The reason for the LOLC Group to perform well in the stock market was because LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. that was established in 2018, announced a debenture issue for September 29 to raise Rs. 1 billion, stock market analysts said.
LOLC (Ceylon) Ltd. is planning to purchase all three finance companies under the LOLC Group to make them function as one entity in the future. Initially they will transfer 55 percent of LOLC Development Finance (NIFL) from LOLC Group. Part of the money raised from the debenture issue and the balance two companies, namely LOLC Finance Plc and Commercial Leasing Plc, will join the company in the future, market analysts added.
Meanwhile, E M L Consultants Limited commenced trading on the Empower Board of the CSE yesterday. The company listed 90,900,000 Ordinary Voting Shares and has been classified under the Industry Group “2020 – Commercial & Professional Services”. With the commencement of the very first day of trading its share price appreciated by 690 percent. Its shares started trading at Rs 2 and at the end of the day they shot up to Rs. 15.80.
Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 364 points and S and P SL20 rose by 79.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 6.7 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in JKH, which crossed 5.7 million shares to the tune of Rs 771 million and its shares were traded at Rs 136, Sampath Bank 3.6 million shares crossed for Rs 182 million, its shares traded at Rs 49.50, LMF 250,000 shares crossed for Rs 45 million with its shares fetching Rs. 180 and Nestle 16000 shares crossed for Rs 20.1 million, its shares fetching Rs. 1250.
In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Rs. 2.5 billion (13.5 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 653 million (67.6 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 411 million (43.7 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings
Rs 402.9 million (730,000 shares traded) and Commercial Leasing Rs 204.4 million (7.5 million shares traded). During the day 202.7 million share volumes changed hands in 38000 transactions.
Asiri Hospitals have topped the league in the first-ever ranking of listed entities in Sri Lanka in an exercise for the year ended 31 March 2021, done by K Seeds Investments. All six listed hospital companies were assessed on Net Profit Margin, EBIT Margin, Return on Equity, Return on Assets Debt to Equity Ratio, Current Ratio, Revenue Growth and Net Profit Growth.
On that basis, Asiri Surgical Hospital has come on top, followed by Asiri Hospital Holdings, Ceylon Hospitals (Durdans), Nawaloka Hospitals, Lanka Hospitals, and Singhe Hospitals.
The current USD to LKR exchange rate is Rs. 200.04 per US dollar.
‘Government going to the financial rescue of MSMEs’
By Hiran H .Senewiratne
The Cabinet took the initiative to provide financial assistance and support to micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) industrialists who are struggling to do business due to adverse impacts of the COVID pandemic, the Minister of Industry and Commerce Wimal Weerawansa said.
“For that matter I have presented a Cabinet proposal titled ‘Difficulties Faced by Small and Medium Enterprises’. The proposal made to the Cabinet meeting held two weeks ago was approved with few amendments. We are ready to publish all the contents in another week, Weerawansa said during a webinar held last Saturday evening.
The event was organized by the Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI) and was powered by the Institute of Money and Entrepreneurship Development (IMED). The event was titled ‘Empowering MSMEs to embrace the new normal’.
Weerawansa said this initiative will provide financial relief to SME industrialists who are faced with various difficulties amid the pandemic.
“These entrepreneurs need a little financial support to continue with their business activities that were impacted by the pandemic, he said, adding that all countries are faced with economic difficulties.
Weerawansa added: “The entire world is faced with a most unprecedented pandemic and all economies are faced with different challenges. Economic activities have been impacted severely and all industries are making every effort to stay afloat in these uncertain times.
“A special Guarantee Fund is now established under the Finance Ministry to support inventors.
“The Guarantee Fund is available for industrialists who can invent market-winning products, but do not have the capital to do so mainly because they are unable to obtain bank loans.
“The fund was established with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“The Guarantee Fund was a 2020 budget proposal, which was implemented by Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“The ‘Empowering of MSMEs to embrace the new normal’ initiative by the SLCSMI which helps to build the mindset of entrepreneurs and industrialists is commendable.
“If the mindset breaks down, entrepreneurs will not be able to overcome the challenges despite their financial capabilities. That encouragement is essential at this moment – to revitalize a broken-minded entrepreneur, an industrialist, by pointing out their weaknesses and assuring them with a ‘you can’ mindset to overcome the challenges. The Chamber has stepped in to fill a key void in the industry.”
President, SLCSMI Prof Rohan De Silva said that the SME sector contributed more than 55 percent to 65 percent to the GDP. Therefore, to support this sector is the need of the hour, while the country’s economy is in a serious state.
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