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Proposed new Tourism Act comes under fire for ‘divorcing private sector involvement’



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Leading travel and tourism industry specialists, Anura Lokuhetty and Nilmin Nanayakkara, both counting over 40 years of experience in the industry lashed out at the proposed new Tourism Act, which divorces the private sector involvement in the industry completely.

Both specialists stated in one voice to “The Island Financial Review” that, firstly, this is not the time to bring a Tourism Act and secondly, there was no need to bring a new Act. “This is detrimental to the entire industry. It dilutes the importance of the private sector, which contributes more than 90 per cent to the industry, they said.

Lokuhetty the former president of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) recalled that the Tourism Act was first introduced in 1968 and then a new one was introduced in 1978. It created four separate bodies overseeing, Tourism Promotion (SLTBP) Regulation (SLTDA) HR Training (SLITHM) and MICE (SLTCB).

Lokuhetty added: “The private sector plays a 99 per cent role in the industry and has invested billions of rupees to build hotels, maintain them and employ over 600,000 staff.

“The industry brings in around USD 4.5 billion annually (pre Covid-19 era), making it the third forex earner, contributing 12.6 per cent to GDP and there are around 2 million dependents on the industry.

“Unlike in other countries, Sri Lanka travel sector stakeholders did not retrench staff even when the hotels were closed down during Covid-19 and Easter Sunday attacks, shouldering that financial burden as well.

“In addition, we also provide 1 per cent from our turnover and not from profits to the government (in addition to other taxes) as a Tourism Development Levy which is used for promotions and other matters.

“Today there are over 38,000 rooms and 50,000 other accommodation providers, including home stayers, in the industry. Under the present Tourism Act the private sector is very well represented in these four bodies creating a ‘good mix’ and when key decisions are taken the private sector ‘voice’ is represented.

“Under the proposed Act, one body is going to be created scrapping three of the institutions (excluding SLITHM), which will weaken the say of the private sector when it comes to decision making in key sectors, like land allocations (tourism has a large land bank spread all over Sri Lanka), providing budgets for promotions, overseas tours and other key areas and there would be no proper ‘check and balance’ system. One other area is the maintenance and deployment of the TDL fund which is now worth several billion.

“The Act is also going to be passed in a major hurry and this also raises suspicions over the bona fides of bringing such an Act. Some stalwarts of the industry too are not briefed properly and their views too have not been sought out.

” If Sri Lanka Tourism wants to make changes, they can always bring in amendments and not a completely new Act also not at a time when hoteliers are facing the biggest threat to their survival.

“Arrivals have dropped due to Covid -19 and hoteliers are facing power cuts, lack of diesel and gas and also skyrocketing commodity prices and other issues and to burden them with a new Act does not ‘fit’ well at this time.”

Meanwhile, a Tourism Ministry official when contacted said that the industry would only gain by bringing a new Tourism Act since it would speed up decision-making and lead to the betterment of the industry. “Today we have to upkeep and coordinate four bodies and obviously when they are trimmed to two, there are advantages. Still, there would be representation from the private sector and already over 70 tourism associations have endorsed this and are eagerly waiting until it is implemented to reap benefits, he said.

The official added: “It’s the large tourism hoteliers who oppose this as they are only ones reaping benefits from the industry and don’t want ‘small players’ to propose and get involved in the decision-making process. We have also had a series of discussions with several bodies and have also obtained Cabinet approval for this new Act which will help to increase the benefits of the revenue from the industry among small timers as well.”

Meanwhile, Nilmin Nanayakkara, former president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) said that the so-called 70 plus associations that Sri Lanka Tourism claims are supporting the industry were never even heard of four years ago and they have suddenly sprung up. “The leading associations are SLAITO, THASL, and ASMET (representing the SME sector) and all of them are against the Act. The current four bodies in tourism are not burdens but assets working towards the betterment of tourism as professionals are in them and they provide valuable inputs to the industry which are highly respected.”


Private Tutoring Amidst Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Issues Faced by Students



By Usha Perera

Sri Lanka’s education sector, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, now faces acute challenges due to the current political and economic crises. The sudden imposition of curfews and the lack of transportation have resulted in school closures and students being deprived of structured and systematic in-school education. In Sri Lanka, closing schools for just one day causes a loss of 25 million learning hours and 1.4 million teaching hours. Alongside this, private tutoring has gained greater importance. This blog discusses the issues faced mainly by Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) students in attending tuition classes based on an IPS study. The study findings are derived from a sample of about 340 students, and 16 teachers and tutors across Sri Lanka.

Affordability of Private Tuition Classes

The surge in the cost of living with wages failing to keep pace with inflation and loss of income generation channels have been unbearable for parents of school-going children. The IPS study found that students who belonged to family income levels below LKR 30,000 spend approximately LKR 3,000-Rs. 7,000 per month while students whose family income was above LKR 200,000 spend approximately LKR 18,000- LKR 20,000 per month on private tuition depending on the grade of the student. This scenario is illustrated in Figure 1.

Further, most O/L and A/L level students spend more than LKR 2,000 per month on data packages for both school and tuition online classes, while most students who spend more than LKR 2,000 per month are concentrated among the higher family income categories. If LKR 2,000 is spent on monthly data packages, it would approximately account for 1% of whose family income is above LKR 200,000, and more than 7% of whose family income is below LKR 30,000. All this highlights the perceived importance of private education, especially among O/L and A/L grades, and the financial burden it imposes on a family’s household income.

These affordability concerns were partly offset by the introduction of free online classes during the pandemic, which has provided considerable relief for financially vulnerable students according to students interviewed for the IPS study. Affordability concerns were further allayed by reduced class fees by some tutors. The fees reductions were made accounting for the structural changes of administrative and operating costs of an online setting applicable based on the scale and intensity of operations of tutors. Financial issues faced by the families experiencing household income losses during the pandemic were also considered in fees reduction.

Accessibility to Online Classes

Online platforms were the sole medium for conducting classes during the pandemic while it becomes an option in the current context considering the social unrest, curfews and travel constraints due to fuel shortages. However, many students faced accessibility issues in joining online classes. The issues faced were poor signal coverage, high data costs, lack of necessary devices, and affordability concerns in the context of lost household income during the pandemic. Most of the students who belonged to a family income level above LKR 200,000 used a laptop/tablet while most of the students who belonged to a family income level of below LKR 30,000 relied on a smartphone. Smartphones were found to be less user friendly for academic use. In addition to the above issues, the ongoing power outages also present impediments to online education.The accessibility issues are mainly experienced by students from families with comparatively lower income levels, and those who had to rely on a smartphone for academic purposes. This implies a close positive relationship between household income and the quality of the education received; financial strength being the primary determinant of accessibility.

Figure 1: Monthly Tuition Expenditure by Monthly Household Income
Source: Institute of PolicyStudies of Sri Lanka, 2021.

However, these accessibility issues were partly offset by the divergent opportunities experienced by students, especially in the context of online platforms. These prospects included the ability to join online classes conducted in distant locations that would otherwise have been restricted due to travel constraints and increased time available due to school closures. As a result, they increased the duration of tuition classes using the saved travel time.

Way Forward

While private tutoring became a way of bridging the gaps in the education system during the crisis, learning losses for the most vulnerable groups have further widened with accessibility and affordability issues. Since these issues were mainly observed among O/L and A/L student groups, there is a higher risk that vulnerable student groups would be highly challenged during their most decisive years leading to higher education and career development. Thus, it is necessary to address the affordability issues, focusing more on the vulnerable student groups. Financial assistance could be provided in terms of a certain number of free hours of teaching for selected financially vulnerable students and allocating a selected proportion of students to be taught at a concessionary rate.

To address the accessibility issues, recording the lessons and distributing the notes on different platforms will help to a certain extent. Providing digital equipment and networks for selected tuition centres and schools could also be considered since the lack of facilities and resources was identified as major accessibility issue for distance education. These would require collaborative efforts among the government, tutors, parents, non-government organisations and any other well-wishers.

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Allianz Divitharana: A new take on Life and Health Insurance



The world’s number one insurance brand Allianz has announced the launch of its new Divitharana Insurance product, which provides comprehensive life and health insurance for policyholders and their loved ones, at an easily accessible and affordable price. The product, which has been designed for the mass market, a segment that is highly price sensitive, comes with a host of benefits and features, making it a truly comprehensive insurance product, that covers all of life’s important bases, protecting life’s most precious things.Tailored for the mass market, which includes farmers, fisherfolk, technicians, teachers, executives and other members of the general public, Divitharana Insurance provides life insurance at a flexible and economic price point, with the option for policyholders to settle the premium in monthly, quarterly, biannual or annual instalments, while also providing the convenience of increasing the cover provided during the policy period, without having to go for a new policy. These are particularly important features amidst the present economic challenges the nation is facing, as it allows everyone to have access to good and reliable insurance, regardless of their income level and style.

A key differentiator of Divitharana insurance is that each policyholder will be entitled to an individual investment account, on which an annual dividend will be declared and the proceeds credited to the policyholder’s account. On top of this, policyholders will also be entitled to an additional loyalty bonus of 20%, which will be added to the maturity value for continued on-time premium settlements. other than the life cover provided by Divitharana, policyholders can also opt to include additional covers such as Disability Benefit, Critical Illness and Hospitalisation cover, while also enjoying the flexibility of extending the insurance cover to include their spouse & children.

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SLT-MOBITEL doubling the cloud with country’s first-ever VMware Cloud Foundation deployment



Understanding the importance of breaking new ground to reap the benefits of Enterprise premium cloud services, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, has become the country’s first-ever service provider to enable VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) deployment in the island and importantly the first telco provider to have two clouds. Amidst the changing dynamics, the deployment milestones are supporting SLT-MOBITEL’s Cloud programme in accelerating digital transformation.SLT-MOBITEL Enterprise premium cloud was launched in 2018. Having a successful journey for over three years, the new mobilization now elevates and transforms the premium cloud through VMWare Cloud Foundation. Importantly, SLT-MOBITEL is the first local organisation to partner VMWare as a Business Continuity Certified Planner (BCCP) and initiate VMWare Cloud Foundation in Sri Lanka.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a suite of VMware products that provide building blocks necessary to implement an integrated software-defined data center platform. Its components combine to automate deployment and lifecycle management, helping to simplify IT operations and reduce administrative overheads for enterprises.With its Cloud Verified Status and as a VCF Enabled Partner, SLT-MOBITEL is now in the forefront as the only service provider in the country offering a range of new differentiated services such as automate infrastructure and application delivery with self service capabilities to help organizations plan, manage and scale their data center operations especially dramatically reduce provisioning times and cut operational costs.

The SLT-MOBITEL VMware VCF deployment ensures customers transition to the industry’s most advanced cloud platform with a complete set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management to run enterprise apps in private or public environments.By doubling the cloud SLT-MOBITEL establishes customers have both production and disaster recovery sites with different scales, located at two different Data centres with required ROP and RTO. The Disaster recovery site can be deployed at any scale with respect to production sites according to the enterprise customer’s requirement. SLT-MOBITEL also provides migration as a service with the features from NSX –T.

Through VCF, SLT-MOBITEL is offering customers the benefit of real disaster recovering services, a Software-defined Data Center (SDDC) and monitoring services, latest networking enablers with NSX – T up-to-date versions of VMware software vSphere, vSAN and intelligent, advanced VMware capabilities including ESXI and VSAN and efficient and effective migration services. SLT-MOBITEL also provides IaaS services, Virtual Machines, and Virtual Data Centers along with a range of other support facilities such as Disaster avoidance with Stretch Cluster (RPO 5 minutes), Disaster Recovery as a Service, and Backup as a service.Above VCF deployment is directly done by Vmware Professional Service team to ensure the highest quality deployment .

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