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People’s Bank celebrates its 60th anniversary

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30th June 2021, Colombo:

On the 1stJuly 2021, People’s Bank celebrated its 60th anniversary on 1st of July 2021 marking a period during which it revolutionized the Sri Lankan banking industry by taking innovative banking to touch the lives of even the most grass root level customers who had had been largely overlooked by the industry.

During the past 60 years, the bank has always strived to understand its customers’ needs and was able to use new technology and innovative products to meet those needs. It is this approach that has won them Sri Lanka’s largest customer base of over 14 million.

People’s Bank was established under Act No. 29 of1961 with the aim of uplifting the corporate business and rural banking systems. This Act was submitted to Parliament by then Minister of Trade, Food, Co-operatives and Shipping,T. B. Illangaratne, during the regime of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Vincent Subasinghe was the first Chairman of People’s Bank; he was a pioneer in providing banking services to the corporate sector.

In an era when banking services were limited to English speaking upper end of the society,

It was the establishment of People’s Bank that changed that phenomenon, by starting to work in Sinhala and Tamil. 

Right from the inception, the bank started working towards its mission to serve the masses. Accordingly, People’s Bank has introduced many firsts to the country such as agriculture loans, Pawning, SME loans, Women’s Savings Accounts and Children’s Savings Accounts to name few. Most of these product concepts were so widely embraced by the society, that almost all the local commercial banks are now offering them under different brand names.

Currently, People’s Bank is one of Sri Lanka’s largest financial institutions, boasting over Rs.2.3 trillion in assets. Its network of 741 branches/service centres is the country’s largest. The bank also possesses a network of over 250 Self Banking Units operating 24/7 all 365 days of the year. This enormous network has enables the people to get their banking done safely, securely and with ease of accessibility.

Speaking at a 60th anniversary celebratory event, the Chairman of the People’s Bank Mr. Sujeewa Rajapakse stated “Marking a turning point in the Sri Lanka banking sector, People’s Bank was established on 1st July 1961. Today, we celebrate the 60th anniversary with much pride. As a reputed state bank, People’s Bank not only provides state-of-the-art financial facilities but also renders their services to uplift the social economy. As a state bank, People’s Bank’s objectives transcend beyond mere profits and the main focus has always been the country’s development. Hence many a time we have provided financial facilities for exports, education, health, expressways and tourism infrastructure.

People’s Bank has always come forward to shoulder the societal responsibilities and even the current COVID-19 pandemic is no different. We are very much a part of this nation and this is why the country in turn considers us as the pride of the nation”.

 Ranjith Kodituwakku – Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, People’s Bank also commented “From the inception, People’s Bank was open to the common man instead of just one strata of the society. Although the bank was catering the mass market, that did not prevent it from being innovative and technology oriented. This is why People’s Bank expanded rapidly in terms of network, financial performance, product portfolio and brand value. Furthermore, People’s Bank has greatly supported the country’s socio-economic development. People’s Bank continues to introduce new banking technology to the financial sector and to its customers in order to establisher stronger relationships with them. We look to pioneer modern banking solutions in the future as well”.

 

While the bank initially focused on rural sectors and cooperative movements, since then the bank has evolved and is currently offering a range of products to support their customer’s standards of living. The loan schemes on offer include, Personal Loans, Housing Loans, Professional Loans, Educational Loans and Vehicle Loans. Furthermore, People’s Bank from time to time has introduced special loans schemes to assist farming and fishing communities especially to revive the country’s economy after challenging times.

 

Adapting to the modern world, the People’s Bank launched a digital banking project in 2015, to ensure that their customers could transact easily, safely and efficiently. People’s Bank was the first bank in the island that took steps to undertake a comprehensive digital transformation project covering major part of its operations. As a result People’s Bank now provides a world class digital banking experience to all its customers.

 

For example, People’s Bank has enabled customers to open an account paperless in as short a time as 10 minutes. As another key component of the digitization journey, People’s Bank introduced People’s Wave mobile banking App for customers to transact any time of the day using their mobile phone without having to go to a bank branch and this has become the most downloaded app in Sri Lanka. Also, People’s Wiz Loan Originating System has enabled the bank to grant personal loans within 24-hours.

 

In addition, a mobile app was specially introduced to institutional customers called People’s Wyn. Online banking facilities targeting both retail and corporate customers were introduced in 2018.

 

In recognition of the unparallel contribution made by the People’s Bank towards betterment of the country, banking industry and customers, it has been recognized with many an award both locally and internationally over last several years. Recently the Bank won multiple awards from leading institutes such as The Asian Banker magazine (Sri Lanka’s Best Retail Bank & Sri Lanka’s Best Digital Bank in 2021″ and Asia Money magazine (Best Domestic Bank and Best Digital Bank in Sri Lanka in 2020). Additionally, The Banker Magazine named People’s Bank as one of the top 1000 banks. Locally, People’s Bank has won “Banking Services Provider of the Year” award at SLIM Nielson awards for 15 consecutive years.



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Reform or perish, it’s not too late

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Sri Lankan economy in historic crisis

By K.D.D.B Vimanga and Naqiya Shiraz

The Sri Lankan economy faces a historical crisis. The root causes are the twin deficits. First, the persistent fiscal deficit – the gap between government expenditure and income. Second, the external current account deficit – the gap between total exports and imports. The problems have been festering for too long. Without urgent reforms, the crisis could easily morph into a full-blown debt crisis.

Sovereign debt workouts are extremely painful for citizens. A mangled debt restructuring can perpetuate the sense of crisis for years or even decades. A return to normal economic activity may be delayed, credit market access frozen, trade finance unavailable.

With the global pandemic, these are unusual and difficult times. The next five years are going to be crucial for the country. The problems can no longer be avoided and should be faced squarely. The journey ahead is going to be painful but the longer these are delayed the worse the problem becomes and the magnitude of the damage compounds.

State of the Economy

The new government inherited a fragile economy, battered by the Easter attacks of 2019, the constitutional crisis of October 2018 and the worst drought in 40 years in 2017. With the pandemic in 2020 Sri Lanka’s economy shrank by 3.6% with all sectors of the economy contracting.

Yet, the pandemic is not the sole cause – it only accelerated the decline of Sri Lanka’s economy that was weak to begin with. The country has long been plagued by structural weaknesses, with growth rates in the last few years even below the average growth rate during the war. Mismanaged government expenditure coupled with a long term decline in revenue have characterised Sri Lanka’s fiscal policy. As of 2020 total tax as a percentage of GDP fell to just 8%, while recurrent expenditure increased.

Borrowing to finance the persistent budget deficits is proving to be unsustainable. Total government debt rose to 101% of GDP in 2020 and has grown since. Sovereign downgrades have shut the country from international debt markets. The foreign reserves declined from US$ 7.6 bn in 2019 to US$ 5.7bn at the end of 2020 and to US$ 2.8 bn by July 2021. This level of reserves is equivalent to less than two months of imports. With future debt obligations also in need of financing, the situation is dire.

The import restrictions placed to combat this foreign exchange crisis have failed to achieve their purpose and are doing more harm than good. imports rose 30% in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020 despite stringent restrictions.

The problem lies not in the trade policy but in loose fiscal and monetary policy that has increased demand pressures within the economy, drawing in imports and leading to the balance of payments crisis and consequently the depreciation of the currency.

Measures by the Central Bank to address this by exchange rate controls and moral suasion have caused a shortage of foreign currency leading to a logjam in imports.

Fundamental and long-running macroeconomic problems were intensified by the pandemic.Import restrictions, price and exchange controls do not address the real causes.

Treating symptoms instead of the underlying causes is a recipe for disaster.

The continuation of such policies will lead to the deterioration of the economy, elevate scarcities, disadvantage the poor who are more vulnerable and in the long run lead to even higher prices and lower output due to lack of investment.

Sri Lanka’s GDP growth over the last decade has been alternating between short periods of high growth and prolonged periods of low growth. This is a result of the state-led, inward looking policies of the last decade.

A comprehensive reform agenda must be built around five fundamental pillars:

i) fiscal consolidation – The need to manage government spending within available resources and to reduce debt are paramount. Revenue mobilization must improve but the control of expenditure cannot be ignored. Budgetary institutions must be strengthened and there must be reviews not only of the scale of spending but also the scope of Government.

ii) Much of government expenditure is rigid – the bulk comprises salaries, pensions and interest so reducing these is a long term process. Reforming State Enterprises, especially in the energy sector and Sri Lankan Airlines is less difficult and could yield substantial savings. Continued operation of inefficient and loss-making SOE’s is untenable under such tight fiscal conditions. Financing SOE’s from state bank borrowings and transfers from government reduces the funds available for vital and underfunded sectors such as healthcare and education. Excessive SOE debt also weakens the financial sector and increases the contingent liabilities of the state. Therefore SOE reforms commencing with improving governance, transparency, establishing cost reflective pricing and privatisation are necessary. This can take a significant weight off the public finances and by fostering competition contribute to improvements in overall economic productivity.

iii) Tighten monetary policy and maintain exchange rate flexibility. Immediate structural reforms include, Inflation targeting, ensuring the independence of the central bank by way of legislation and enabling the functioning of a flexible exchange rate regime. Further significant attention has to be placed on the financial sector stability with a cohesive financial sector consolidation plan, with special emphasis on restructuring of SOE debt.

iv) Supporting trade and investment. Sri Lanka cannot achieve economic growth without international trade which means linking to global production sharing networks. Special focus has to be given to reducing Sri Lanka’s high rates of protection which creates a domestic market bias in the economy along with measures to improve trade facilitation and attract new export oriented FDI.

Attempts to build local champions supported by high levels of protection have

(a) diverted resources away from competitive businesses,

(b) created a hostile environment for foreign investment,

(c) been detrimental to consumer welfare,

(d) dragged down growth

v) Structural reforms to increase productivity and attract FDI – Productivity levels in Sri Lanka have not matched pace with the rest of the growing economies. The reforms mentioned above are extensively discussed in Advocata’s latest publication “Framework for Economic Recovery”.

Sri Lanka stumbled into the coronavirus crisis in bad shape,with weak finances; high debt and widening fiscal deficits. It no longer has the luxury to delay painful reforms. Failure to do so will not only jeopardize the economy; it could even spawn social and humanitarian crises.

Naqiya Shiraz is the Research Analyst at the Advocata Institute and can be contacted at naqiya@advocata.org.K.D.D.B. Vimanga is a Policy Analyst at the Advocata Institute. He can be contacted at kdvimanga@advocata.org.

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Samsung Galaxy 5G-ready devices now available at Dialog

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Dialog Axiata PLC recently announced the pre-order availability for the all new 5G-ready Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G devices.

 The latest foldable smartphone range by Samsung is now available for pre-order via Preorder.dialog.lk until 30th September 2021. Dialog Customers will also receive anytime free Data worth 200 GB (valid for 60 days) with Fold3 purchases or 150 GB (valid for 60 days) with Flip3 purchases made on or before the 30th October 2021. Club Vision members have the added benefit of redeeming their loyalty discounts when purchasing the devices from Dialog. Customers are also provided with the convenient payment method of purchasing the latest Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 and Fold3 on monthly instalment plans at 0% interest – up to 40 months with leading credit cards. All online purchases will also receive free doorstep delivery.

Opening the next chapter in foldable innovation, both devices are premium foldable smartphones built with the craftsmanship and flagship innovations Samsung users have come to love and expect. The third generation of these category-defining devices incorporates key improvements that Samsung foldable users have asked for—making them highly durable with more optimized foldable experiences than ever before. From iconic design to immersive entertainment, Galaxy Z Flip3 and Z Fold3 offer users unique new ways to work, watch, and play. For those who need the ultimate device for productivity and immersive entertainment, Galaxy Z Fold3 is a true multitasking powerhouse with next-level performance, an undisrupted 7.6-inch Infinity Flex Display, and the first-ever S Pen2 support on a foldable device. For those who want style that comes with function, Galaxy Z Flip3 is the ideal device with its sleek, compact, and pocketable design, enhanced camera features, and a larger Cover Screen built for quick use on the go.

 The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is available in the colour Cream with an 8GB RAM + 256 GB internal storage capacity and is priced at Rs. 249,999/-. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is available in the colours of Phantom Black and Phantom Green with a 12 GB RAM + 256 GB internal storage capacity and is priced at Rs. 399,999/-.

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BoardPAC appointed Strategic Partner of Commonwealth’s Business Network – CWEIC

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BoardPAC, the Sri Lanka-based multinational Board meeting automation solutions company, has been appointed a Strategic Partner of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), the organization officially mandated by the Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote trade and investment between the 54 Commonwealth member countries, a company news release said last week.

“This prestigious appointment will see CWEIC relying on BoardPAC’s award-winning solutions to conduct board and committee meetings with members and maintain relationships across the Commonwealth network at a time when the global pandemic’s complete disruption of business activity has resulted in a surge in the demand for efficient board meeting automation,” it said.

The Company said the partnership will also effectively promote the BoardPAC platform to new users and facilitate its expansion into new territories and focus markets. BoardPAC already has a global user base in excess of 50,000 and a presence in more than 40 countries.

Noting that BoardPAC’s latest partnership serves as yet another testament to the quality of its solutions, BoardPAC Co-Founder/CEO, Lakmini Wijesundera stated: “Our growth plan includes expanding our worldwide network, and our strategic alliance with CWEIC will strongly help us extend our presence into Commonwealth territories. The strategic cooperation between CWEIC and BoardPAC is especially relevant in light of the worldwide pandemic, and the emerging need for secure remote working and filling the void in virtual board meetings.”

CWEIC Chairman, Rt. Hon. Lord Jonathan Marland said: “We are looking forward to work closely with BoardPAC. The alliance will not only help CWEIC to conduct virtual board meetings securely and safely, but also align ourselves with all governance, risk and compliance as well as environmental, social, and governance frameworks.” Echoing this sentiment, CWEIC Deputy Chair, Sir Hugo Swire stated: “We are excited to partner with BoardPAC and extend modern digital governance and compliance solutions to organisations operating in the Commonwealth.”

A commercial, not-for-profit membership organisation, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council’s network includes around 100 business and government Strategic Partners (members) including Standard Chartered, Zenith Bank, Trade & Investment Queensland and the Government of the Maldives from 30 countries and territories. Every two years, CWEIC hosts the Commonwealth Business Forum in association with the host country of The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

BoardPAC is an award winning, multinational, paperless board meeting automation solutions provider, recognized for driving simple, secure, sustainable and experiential communications for Board and Executive members. Leading corporates such as Petronas, Deloitte, EY, Mercedes Benz, Prudential, Hong Leong Group, Stock Exchange of Malaysia, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Bombay Stock Exchange, Bank Negara, Maybank, Power Grid Corporation of India, Colombo Stock Exchange, and Sri Lankan Airlines are just some of BoardPAC’s success stories, and the Company said the partnership with the CWEIC will pave the way to several more high-profile additions to this list.

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