The first of its kind, the Microsoft Enabler Program provides cloud & AI training for PwDs, accessibility education for employer partners, and inclusive hiring from non-profit organizations supporting PwDs.
Microsoft recently launched a program to increase employability for people with disabilities (PwDs). The Microsoft Enabler Program pioneers disability inclusive workplaces across Asia Pacific by removing the barriers for a more diverse workforce. With more than 1 billion PwDs in the world, disability-inclusive employment can lead to 1-7% rise in GDP in Asia Pacific through increased economic productivity. [United Nations ESCAP]
The program will pilot in five markets: Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, before expanding to the rest of the region by the end of 2020.
Organizations committed to the program will receive training from the Non-Profit organizations (NPOs) to become inclusive employers, and these businesses will in turn provide job shadowing, internships, mentoring and opportunities in tech jobs for PwDs identified by the NPO’s. Microsoft will provide industry required training in cloud & artificial intelligence, as well as a platform for all three to collaborate towards an inclusive future for every person.
“In today’s workplace, it is imperative that we include everyone, and accessibility is that vehicle to inclusion. It is a responsibility and an opportunity. There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it,” said Vivek Puthucode, Chief Partner Officer at Microsoft in Asia Pacific. “Inclusive organizations outperform their peers and attract and keep top talent, and we have seen how inclusion drives innovation.”
Microsoft will provide online training in data engineering and programming, cloud computing on Microsoft Azure and application development in GitHub to the PwDs. These modules will provide crucial technology skills that are globally recognized, and highly sought after in our digital first and remote everything world, therefore providing them with a learning path for industry leading skillsets that improves their employability. For the employer partners, Microsoft will conduct workshops on inclusive design and assistive technologies enabled through artificial intelligence on Microsoft Azure.
“At the heart of the Microsoft Enabler Program is a comprehensive accessibility model that will not only improve inclusion of people with disabilities across Asia Pacific for years to come; it also connects to local talent from underrepresented communities and improves our society. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and when we look at the incredible number of businesses and governments who have pivoted to cloud with Microsoft in the region, tech roles and digital skills will be the backbone of the economic recovery every country. And one of the ways we can enable an inclusive recovery is by empowering every person and every business with technology skills,” continued Vivek.
Microsoft’s partners in the region commit to providing opportunities for PwDs by providing job shadowing, training, mentoring and internship attachments in technical roles. These opportunities will be offered in close collaboration with the NPO’s who will match the most suitable PwD profile, skills, qualifications, and ambitions with the requirements of the role.
“Accessibility starts with building a culture of inclusion in the workplace. The more you focus on it, the more your culture will improve and evolve. The company culture and workplace environment are important elements of a successful accessibility program. At Microsoft, our vision and strategy of accessibility was to embed inclusive, accessible design into the fabric of the company. And we want to enable every organization to be inclusive,” concluded Vivek.
Cinnamon Air resumes daily scheduled flights in Paradise
Cinnamon Air, Sri Lanka’s premier domestic airline, has resumed daily scheduled flights after a temporary suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline is the only domestic carrier in Sri Lanka offering daily scheduled flights and the only such airline to operate flights from the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) with a dedicated passenger terminal and aircraft maintenance facility.
As the airline resumes its daily scheduled flight operation from 15th December 2022, the entire Cessna 208 fleet of Cinnamon Air will operate to destinations such as Sigiriya, Castlereagh, Trincomalee, Batticaloa (serving Pasikudah), Koggala and Weerawila from (BIA) and Water’s Edge Colombo. The daily scheduled flights were temporarily halted during the pandemic due to the sharp decline in tourist arrivals (the key source of demand for the airline) to the country.
However, while strictly adhering to health and safety protocols, the charter flight service continued without disruption. During this period of reduced demand, Cinnamon Air geared itself to better serve its customers through streamlining operations by relocating to a new state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance facility (hangar) at BIA, which is in close proximity to its passenger terminal. As visitor arrivals improve, the airline is expected to be the preferred choice for safe and convenient mode of travel for tourists to swiftly reach popular destinations within the island.
Regarding the resumption of the scheduled flight operation, Sean Dwight, the Chief Executive Officer of Cinnamon Air, commented, “We have been a premier mode of transportation to many individuals visiting Sri Lanka, enabling them to reach popular destinations throughout Sri Lanka in a hassle-free manner at a fraction of the travel time.
To ensure smooth connectivity with our flights, without long transit times, we have synchronized our flight times with the arrival and departure times of Sri Lankan Airlines and other major international airlines. He continued, “as the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is regaining its volumes, we are poised to add value to foreign travelers’ experience in Sri Lanka through our scheduled flights which, in turn, will enhance the image of the country as an upmarket tourist destination. In fact, our passengers consider us as an attraction in addition to being a mode of travel due to the unique experience of taking off and landing on water as well as the breathtaking aerial views of Sri Lanka. Further, in order to ensure that our travelers have a safe and enjoyable travel experience, we have health and safety protocols in place, on board as well as prior to boarding the flight”.
Cinnamon Air (www.cinnamonair.com), owned and operated by Saffron Aviation (Pvt) Limited, is a joint venture between Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate, John Keells Holdings PLC, MMBL Leisure Holdings (a part of the Mercantile Merchant Bank Group) and Phoenix Ventures (parent of the Brandix Group). In addition to scheduled flights, Cinnamon Air also offers charter services to and between all Airports and Water Aerodromes in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, all Cinnamon Air scheduled flights operate in codeshare with Sri Lankan Airlines, consequent to which they are also available for sale throughout the Sri Lankan Airlines network and all Travel Agents around the world via Global Distribution Systems, under a “UL” designated flight number.
Earnings from merchandise exports decline for first time since March
External Sector Performance – October 2022
Earnings from merchandise exports declined in October 2022, on a year-on-year basis, for the first time since March 2022, mainly due to lower earnings from garments exports. The decline in import expenditure continued in October 2022, (y-o-y), for the eighth consecutive month, despite recording an increase, compared to September 2022.
The merchandise trade deficit recorded a notable contraction in October 2022, compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, the workers’ remittances steadied and earnings from tourism improved in October 2022, whereby earnings from tourism crossed over USD 1 bn during January-October 2022, while workers’ remittances reached about USD 3 bn during January-October 2022. Foreign investment in the government securities market and the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) recorded a marginal net inflow during October 2022. The Central Bank continued to provide forex requirement to finance essential imports, exhausting the liquid level of gross official reserves. Meanwhile, the weighted average spot exchange rate in the interbank market remained around Rs. 363 per US dollar during the month .
Merchandise Trade Balance and Terms of Trade
Trade Balance: The deficit in the merchandise trade account narrowed to US dollars 285 million in October 2022, compared to the deficit of US dollars 502 million recorded in October 2021, despite it widened compared to September 2022. The cumulative deficit in the trade account during January-October 2022 recorded at US dollars 4,389 million, declined from US dollars 6,501 million recorded over the same period in 2021. The major contributory factors for the decline in the cumulative trade deficit are shown in Figure 1.
Terms of Trade: Terms of trade, i.e., the ratio of the price of exports to the price of imports, deteriorated by 4.0 per cent in October 2022, compared to October 2021, as the increase in import prices surpassed the increase in export prices.
Performance of Merchandise Exports1
Overall exports: Earnings from merchandise exports declined by 11.9 per cent in October 2022, over October 2021, to US dollars 1,051 million for the first time since March 2022. Meanwhile, export earnings in October 2022 recorded a decline for the second time on month-on-month basis. A decline in earnings was observed in industrial and agricultural exports, driven by lower demand mainly for garment exports due to increased global inflation conditions, while a marginal increase was recorded in mineral exports. Cumulative export earnings during January-October 2022 increased by 8.9 per cent over the same period in the last year to US dollars 11,032 million, which was mainly driven by the improvements in industrial exports.
Industrial exports: Earnings from the export of industrial goods declined in October 2022 by 13.4 per cent, compared to October 2021, mainly due to the decline in the exports of garments by 12.9 per cent, food, beverages, and tobacco by 51.3 per cent (primarily, miscellaneous food preparations) and transport equipment by 60.7 per cent (due to the base effect of exporting cruise ships in October 2021). Exports of garments to most of the major markets recorded a decline (the USA, the EU and the UK). Further, earnings from exports of petroleum products that comprise bunkering and aviation fuel also declined due to lower export volumes despite a notable increase in average export prices in line with higher global fuel prices.
CSE’s net foreign inflows cross Rs 20 billion mark
By Hiran H. Senewiratne
The CSE remained bearish yesterday with net foreign inflows year to date crossing more than the Rs 20 billion mark, while both indices began the fresh week positively, stock market analysts said.
Amid those developments the stock market was positive throughout the day, because China has expressed its interest in debt restructuring for Sri Lanka. It has invited the IMF delegation to begin a discussion, market analysts said.
Both indices showed an upward trend. The All- Share Price Index was up by 72.7 points and S and P SL 20 up by 43.6 points.
Turnover stood at Rs 3.1 billion with two crossings; those crossings were reported in Expo Lanka Holdings, which crossed 2.3 million shares to the tune of Rs 403 million and its shares traded at Rs 205 and John Keels Holdings 2.9 million shares crossed to the tune of RS 427 million with its shares trading at Rs 147.
In the retail market top five companies that contributed to the turnover were; Browns Investments Rs 626 million, Expo Lanka Rs 289 million, Dialog Rs 169 million, Lanka IOC Rs 142 million and LOLC Holdings Rs 118 million.
It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Expo Lanka Holdings.
Mixed interest was noted in Lanka IOC, Aitken Spence and JKH, while retail interest noted in Brown Investments, LOLC Finance and SMB Leasing.
The transport sector was the top contributor to the market turnover on account of Expo Lanka holdings.
During the day 149.5 million share volumes changed hands in 23000 transactions.
Yesterday, the US dollar parity rate was Rs 371.75.
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