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Public support vital for SL’s economic recovery process – CBSL Governor

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By Lynn Ockersz

The duration of Sri Lanka’s economic recovery process depends on how successfully the governing authorities implement the relevant reforms and restructuring programme currently under discussion. Moreover, without public support for these recovery efforts, they would not prove fully successful, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

Making the keynote address yesterday on the occasion of the launching of its 2022 ‘State of the Economy’ report titled, ‘Driving Policy Action from Crisis to Recovery’, by the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka, at its Dr. Saman Kelegama Auditorium, in Colombo Dr. Weerasinghe expressed optimism that Sri Lanka could achieve economic stability going forward.

However, public support is vital for the successful implementation of Sri Lanka’s economic recovery process, the Governor observed. Underscoring the importance of the media in this regard he said that it is up to the media to convey clearly to the public the issues at the heart of the economic recovery effort. Right now, this is not occurring to the desired extent. He said a vital requirement is responsible reporting and commentary by the media on the questions at hand.

The following are some extracts from Dr. Weerasinghe’s address: ‘The ongoing economic stabilization effort is a painful one, but whether there is an alternative to it is the question. It is up to those criticizing the state’s decision to go to the IMF to come out with a viable alternative programme and this is not easy to formulate. Conspiracy theories are also being aired in some quarters to the effect that the state announced a debt default prematurely to bring the country under IMF control. There is no truth in this allegation. Going forward, the recovery process is going to be difficult for the country but there are some improvements in the local economy currently.

‘Recovery is possible through Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring effort but we need to have a stable banking system which our creditors could believe in. Currency and banking crises need to be averted as we forge ahead and we need to establish market access for our export products sooner rather than later.’

Answering a question from the audience with regard to the fairness of some stipulations in the envisaged tax reforms, Dr. Weerasinghe said that taxation is only a short term solution to the country’s economic worries. While it is true that very many sections could be affected negatively by some of the income criteria that would be guiding the paying of taxes from the better-off sections of the public, people living below the poverty line, who are numerous, are more gravely affected than the middle classes. The contemplated taxation measures would help in extending and sustaining welfare measures to these poverty-stricken sections.

‘But there is no denying that there is a need to widen the tax net in an equitable manner. Burden-sharing in taxation is of vital importance. Fiscal transparency is important and the same goes for corruption-reduction, the Governor said.

Speaking earlier, Secretary to the Treasury/Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies K.M. Mahinda Siriwardana said, among other things, that it is vital that the ‘political will’ be demonstrated by the authorities to take necessary but unpopular decisions to take the country on the recovery track. He underscored the importance of debt restructuring and pointed out that in the short term, monetary and fiscal policy improvements are vital. Likewise, it is important to adopt consistently, monetary and fiscal policy measures in the long term.

Pointing out the importance of revenue-based fiscal consolidation, Mr. Siriwardana stressed the need to reduce the budget deficit. In this effort the raising of enhanced corporate income tax becomes important.

The same applies to personal income tax. Some proposals under the latter head when implemented, could prove very painful to some sections, but there is no alternative. Such taxation measures could go a long way in assisting the poor. He focused on the need for short term sacrifices.

Initially, IPS Executive Director, Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, flagged off the event by making a wide-ranging analysis of the state of the Sri Lankan economy. In the course of her presentation she drew attention to the risks of ‘shallow restructuring’ that could prove counter-productive to countries such as Sri Lanka. Minimizing output loss, she said, is essential. ‘Bringing inflation under control is critical to economic stabilization, she stressed. These and other issues raised by the IPS Head set the stage for the presentations by the key speakers of the morning’s session of the forum.



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Top agents from Kuwait visit Sri Lanka on familiarization tour

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Eleven of Kuwait’s top tour operators and travel agents arrived in Sri Lanka this week on Jazeera Airways on a familiarization tour. Jazeera Airways currently operates three flights weekly to Sri Lanka connecting the leisure and labour markets. The familiarization tour was organized and sponsored by Jazeera’s General Sales Agent in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence PLC.

The familiarization group travelled and enjoyed the highlights of Sri Lanka during their stay in Sri Lanka. Commenting on the tour, Travel agent P Mayur stated “We love the Sri Lankan people’s smile, hospitality and their humbleness” We heard lots of negative news prior to our arrival, and were wondering if we were making the right decision. However, when we came into the country, our experiences were nothing negative”. I am definitely coming back to this beautiful country to enjoy the beaches with my family and it won’t be too long” Another member of the group Sami Malik stated that “it’s amazing to see how Sri Lankan’s love and preserve their cultural values of the country. The rich history and heritage are something our clients would love to discover in Sri Lanka”

The Jazeera airlines familiarization tour concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing the airlines top agents. The event was graced by the Minister of Tourism and Land Harin Fernando and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya.

Jazeera airlines has good connections in the Middle East region and can contribute to the revival of tourism in Sri Lanka by connecting the middle east travellers to the country. The agent familiarization tour is expected to contribute towards promoting destination Sri Lanka. Jazeera now operates three flights per week from Kuwait to Colombo; however, the airline expects to raise its frequency of flights per week by early 2023. Jazeera Airways operates its best-in-class Airbus 320 Neo aircraft to Colombo, connecting more than 50 destinations across the continents.

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Sysco LABS’ Managing Director, Shanil Fernando Emphasizes HR’s Role in Retaining Local Talent

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Shanil Fernando, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Sysco LABS Sri Lanka, recently spoke at the ‘Employing Tomorrow’s HR Today: The CEO’s Perspective’ panel discussion organized by the Association of HR Professionals Sri Lanka (AHRP).Representing the ICT industry, Shanil shared his insights on retaining and developing talent, unique people initiatives at Sysco LABS, and how emerging technologies like AI are transforming HR processes.

An industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in technology and innovation, Shanil highlighted the importance of HR’s role in transforming the workplace into a sanctuary that gives employees peace of mind to do their best work. Speaking about people challenges, he focused on the local tech industry’s current issue of attrition and emphasized the necessity for crafting a sound employee engagement and retention strategy that addresses both financial and mental well-being.

Alluding to the present economic crisis, he said: “The country’s key industries, including technology, are experiencing significant attrition at the moment. Collectively, retaining talent has become a major challenge. The primary reason for this migration is the socioeconomic impact of the current economic crisis. In order to mitigate this, the economic situation must be addressed urgently. High public taxes will also compound the problem. The government must take the necessary steps to reduce the burden put on the private sector by introducing significant reforms to non–performing State-Owned Enterprises, avoiding public funds being used to keep loss-making SOEs afloat. Privatization or listing such enterprises on the stock exchange will allow them to be scrutinized in the same manner as a well-run private company, ensuring true transparency and accountability. As organizations, what we can do is build mechanisms that insulate employees, as much as possible, from the impact of the current economic crisis. For example, if the company is at an advantage as a FOREX generator, they can share this advantage equitably with their employees.”

Shanil emphasized the importance of transforming modern-day HR professionals into strategic business partners who are creative, innovative and able to proactively deliver solutions. Elaborating on vital steps taken at Sysco LABS, to transform its people operations to be more strategic in identifying talent needs, he said: “We are a strong, culture-oriented company. The pandemic dampened our culture efforts in the last 2 years, but we’re now focused on rejuvenating this culture and HR must be a flexible change agent that works together with other business functions to enhance the workplace experience for everyone. At Sysco LABS, every associate is allocated an HR Business Partner who will support them throughout their entire journey at the company and ensure all their needs are met. This enables us to deliver a more wholesome work experience to our associates.”

Shanil also spoke about how emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can transform the HR function, noting that AI creates opportunities for greater efficiency and more intelligent decision-making. He suggested that HR leaders must adopt AI as it gives businesses a critical edge when gauging future talent needs and understanding how to better create a compelling people experience.

Summing up the impact of initiatives implemented at Sysco LABS, Shanil said, “Sysco LABS is impacting a Fortune 100 company and a trillion-dollar, global industry from here in Sri Lanka. Our people are our most precious resource, and we strive to make the workplace a sanctuary for all of them. We want our associates to feel supported and cared for, with our initiatives driving engagement and camaraderie reflecting that. It’s these initiatives that have enabled us to maintain a purpose-driven, world-class workspace exposing our associates to global experiences and opportunities.”

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CICT pledges US$ 25,000 for sight-saving surgeries in Sri Lanka

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Another group of Sri Lankans with correctable eye diseases and disorders will soon begin surgery to restore clearer vision, thanks to the latest phase of a community initiative of Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) in partnership with the Nawaloka Hospital.CICT recently donated US$ 25,000 (Rs 9.25 million at current exchange rates) it has pledged for the project. The donation is part of CICT’s ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ that the Company launched in 2015.

Nawaloka Hospital will procure, supply and utilise all the resources needed to implement the project, including providing professional medical staff, lenses, accessories, and other equipment to perform surgeries, under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two organisations. The patients for these free surgeries will be selected from the waiting lists of several government hospitals in Sri Lanka, on the recommendations of the signatory organisations.

Commenting on CICT’s continuing support to this eye care programme, the Company’s General Manager – Administration and Corporate Social Responsibility Mr Grant Yang said: “The C-Blue Restore Sight Project was launched to enable access to eye care, especially for those living in impoverished conditions. The recent economic crisis in Sri Lanka has pushed many more beyond the poverty line, and often, non-emergency healthcare is one of the casualties on the list of priorities. With this latest phase of the project, CICT is reaffirming its commitment to the continuity of this initiative, despite the challenges faced by the business.”

Cataract surgeries, refractive surgeries that reshape the cornea (LASIK surgery), and Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) including squint correction and keratoplasty will be performed under this phase of the CICT ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project.’ Additionally, selected patients requiring the Avastin injection for visual defects too will be accommodated. Plans to conduct eye camps in certain needy areas identified by CICT are also in the pipeline.

At a ceremony held recently at the Hospital, Mr Grant Yang presented a symbolic cheque to the Chairman and CEO of Nawaloka Hospitals Dr Jayantha Dharmadasa and the Hospital’s Director/General Manager Vidya Jyothi Emeritus Professor Lal G. Chandrasena. Thereafter, the CICT team visited some of the patients scheduled for surgeries. Since the launch of the ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ in 2015, CICT has funded more than 450 cataract surgeries to restore sight, in collaboration with the National Eye Hospital.

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