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President opens South Asia’s biggest US$ 250 million tyre factory

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa inaugurated South Asia’s largest tyre factory built at a cost of US$ 250 million, at Wagawatte in Horana on Thursday.

Ferentino Tyre Corporation (Pvt) Limited is Sri Lanka’s biggest manufacturing facility for tyres and radials.

Ferentino Chairman Nandana Lokuwithana recalled how he was continuously motivated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to kick-start the plant without any delay.

“The President not only emphasized on getting the factory started but also mobilized and provided the support of relevant government institutions including the Board of Investments (BoI) towards getting the infrastructure and other operational aspects in place to ensure its commencement,” he said.

Lokuwithana said that the local manufacturers and entrepreneurs are encouraged by the President’s vision to boost production of goods for the local and export markets. “We believe we can rely on the government’s support in the future too,” he said.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa and Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunwardena. The facility constructed with an investment of USD 250Mn is the brainchild of reputed entrepreneur Nandana Lokuwithana, the incumbent Chairman of Ceylon Steel Corporation (Pvt) Ltd.

The project will be the largest such facility in Southeast Asia manufacturing Passenger Car Radials (PCR) including specialized category for SUVs, two-wheelers, three-wheelers, trucks, buses and solid tyres seamlessly combining local talent with sophisticated European technology.

The new manufacturing plant combines state-of-the-art European technology in tyre manufacturing with local craftsmanship for an optimum, world-class output. The project was facilitated by the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) and aims to generate a substantial amount employment opportunities directly and indirectly.

Ferentino Tyres will use locally sourced rubber as a main ingredient thereby compelling the local industry to level itself to deliver to the global expectation. The Phase 1 of the project has already been completed and commissioned while the construction of Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed in March 2022.

Lokuwithana also heads Onyx Group in the UAE with a host of subsidiaries including a steel fabrication company. His other investments include: Marriot Al Jadaf Hotel in Dubai, up-coming state-of-the art Cement Grinding Plant in Mirijjawila, Hambantota slated to be commissioned in May 2021 and Marangoni Industrial Tyres Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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