Top economists and business leaders discussed the outlook for the global and local economy during the first session of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2020 organised by The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC). Eric Robertsen – Global Head, Research and Chief Strategist, Standard Chartered Bank and Deshamanya Prof W D Lakshman – Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) were the two speakers at the session while Deshamanya Mahesh Amalean – chairman, MAS Holdings and Krishan Balendra – chairman, John Keells Holdings PLC joined the panel discussion moderated by Shiran Fernando – Chief Economist, CCC.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, Eric highlighted in his speech several positive global developments to take note of. He stated that export levels of emerging markets in Asia had rebounded to pre COVID levels. The recovery in global trade was recorded in two quarters compared to 6-7 quarters in the period post the global financial crisis. Further, he highlighted that a combination of monetary policy support, low level of interest rates and inflation would create a platform for a better economic narrative in 2021.The continuation of a weaker dollar would also be favourable for emerging market assets. Eric stated that according to their research they believe that the recovery of 2021 will look almost like the post war economic recovery with similar economic destruction as a result of the health crisis due to COVID-19.
Central Bank Governor Prof W D Lakshman highlighted that with National Budget 2021 and the policy measures put in place by CBSL and the government, Sri Lanka possesses the potential to emerge as a stronger and more resilient economy in 2021. The focus was in developing the real sector in reviving industries and expanding business opportunities through encouraging home-grown industries, large as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Addressing the fiscal and debt concerns the Governor highlighted that high levels of debt could be sustainable when domestic debt was the predominant component in the debt portfolio. He went on to state that the ratio of government’s foreign non-concessional debt to GDP was around 23 per cent, and the remainder was either domestic debt that can be rolled over or long-term concessional financing. The annual foreign debt service payments as a percentage of export earnings and remittances stood around 12 per cent in ‘business-as-usual’ years such as 2018. The Governor highlight that public debt will be managed in such a way the domestic to foreign component of the debt will adjust from 55:45 in 2020 to 60:40 in 2021. This and the stated policy of not pursuing foreign debt-creating public investments will make government debt more manageable.
In the panel discussion, Mahesh highlighted that exports should be the key element in the roadmap for economic recovery of Sri Lanka. In terms of the apparel sector, he highlighted two trends which Sri Lankan businesses must focus on which were that customers were increasingly looking vertically in their sourcing and the rapid growth of digitalisation in the value chain. Krishan highlighted the setback due to COVID-19 for the domestic economy but was optimistic in a rebound during 2021. Citing one example in tourism, he highlighted that their resorts in Maldives has seen higher forward bookings for March-April 2021 compared to previous year’s.
Responding to questions by the participants on the potential for low global interest rates driving capital inflow into markets like Sri Lanka, Eric noted that initially investments would flow to the largest and most liquid markets but could later expand to other diversified investment portfolios with higher risks and returns. In closing Mahesh highlighted three areas for businesses to focus on: operate close to the customer and understand the expectations, understand the capabilities required by companies to operate in this challenging environment and strive for operational excellence in terms of manufacturing competitively and agile. (CCC)
Sampath Bank continues to partner Central Bank on promoting QR payments
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.
Taking cashless transactions across the country
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.
SLT-MOBITEL gives ‘Power to Your Dreams’ with special connectivity offers
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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