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Positive outlook on post COVID-19 economic recovery

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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)



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SLT-MOBITEL AkazaLMS enables corporate employee capability development

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As SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT solutions service provider, continues to play a pivotal role in driving Sri Lanka’s digital transformation through its Cloud-managed offering, SLT-Mobitel AkazaLMS takes centre-stage as the nation’s leading Learning Management System (LMS). SLT-Mobitel AkazaLMS offers a unique, locally developed, comprehensive enterprise learning solution designed to cater to diverse training needs without compromising on quality.

Commenting on the initiative Chief Enterprise & Wholesale Officer of SLT, Lakmal Jayasinghe said “Especially in today’s competitive environment where human capital is more important than ever, companies need to create a learning strategy that aligns to robust curricula, employing relevant and available learning methods and technology. Addressing this need, SLT-Mobitel AkazaLMS Cloud is an enterprise e-learning solution hosted in Sri Lanka on the top of a private cloud, providing corporate and institutional customers the ability to deliver their own learning material to their users with zero cost infrastructure. With greater convenience and without additional IT resources, customers have access to their own training needs via a simple web browser”.

Empowering corporates and educational institutes, SLT-Mobitel AkazaLMS is a comprehensive locally developed platform, containing a self-portal where the user develops their own e-learning and purchase it as a SaaS product. Especially during these challenging times, when classroom lectures are not possible and distance learning methods vital, the SLT-Mobitel AkazaLMS facilitates exams, assignments, quizzes, etc. tailor-made and customised for corporates and educational institutes targeting their own specific needs.

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LIOC shows stability in earnings and margins compared to volatility during previous years

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First Capital expects stability in LIOC earnings and margins ahead, compared to the significant volatility witnessed during the previous years.

“With the new pricing formula, we expect a stable outlook for LIOC which is currently trading at a TTM PER of 7.5x on FY22 earnings while also trading at a PBV of 1.5x”, they said.

“The government’s implementation of the new fuel pricing formula on 24th May 22 includes all costs incurred in importing, unloading, distributing to the stations and taxes. With that, fuel prices will be revised on a monthly basis, and if necessary, it will be reviewed every two weeks. Accordingly, the next price revision was scheduled for 24th Jun 22. Considering the price revision, In addition to that, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved a bill to impose a 2.5% tax on companies with an annual turnover of LKR 120.0Mn, which will only have a marginal effect on company margins.”

“With regards to investment in joint venture, LIOC has invested in Trinco Petroleum Terminal (Pvt) Ltd (TPT) in Jan-22 and acquired 49% of the stake with CPC which holds 51% of the ownership of TPT in order to develop 61 tanks at the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm and allied facilities in the Upper Tank Farm of the China Bay Oil Tank Farm. Also, LIOC has entered into a Lease of State Land with the Government of Sri Lanka for a term of fifty years to develop the Lower Tank Farm of the China Bay Oil Tank Farm,” First Capital said.

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Apprenticeship programme in partnership with Hatch MakerStudio and Vocational Training Authority

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From left: : Krishantha Pathiraja, Chairman at Palmyrah Development Board, Florian Manderschied, Head Maker at Hatch MakerStudio, Brindha Selvadurai, CEO and Co- Founder, Hatch, Eranga Basnayake, CEO and Chairman of Vocational Training Authority, Mahesh Ariyarathne, Vice Chairman of VTA

The next generation of Sri Lanka’s industry workforce is currently studying at Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutes (​​TVET) all over the country. Since the manufacturing technology is under permanent development, the requirements for TVET graduates have also evolved. In order to address the industry’s needs for skilled and competent workers, the Vocational Training Authority and Hatch MakerStudio have joined forces to pilot an innovative apprenticeship programme.

The apprenticeship programme is designed for students in the field of mechatronics, robotics, automation and CNC-technologies and is focusing on the upskill, entrepreneurial mindset and problem solving capabilities. Together with industry partners, the selected apprentices will undergo a one month training programme at Hatch MakerStudio before being placed in the companies. The programme comprises of:

Product development training

Software and rapid prototyping training

Problem solving and design thinking exercises

During the course of the apprenticeship, Hatch MakerStudio will provide supervision and support for both the apprentices and companies, in order to ensure effective skills development and utilization of working power. Students with their own specific product ideas and business models can choose Hatch MakerStudio as their place of apprenticeship.

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