by Sanath Nanayakkare
In the backdrop of dwindling foreign currency reserves and capacity shortages, the only logical solution for Sri Lanka to take is to adopt renewable energy as the primary source of energy production, Manjula Perera, Secretary of the Wind Power Developers Association said in Colombo yesterday.
He said so speaking at a press conference held at the Hilton Colombo Residencies, convened by the associations of local entrepreneurs who have invested in the development of wind power, small hydro power, ground mounted solar power and bio energy.
Notably, the associations reiterated the fact that they want only the policy support and that they can provide themselves with necessary funding for the projects if the government, CEB and related line ministries act together to remove the bottlenecks which are there for no clear purpose.
“Sri Lanka is currently facing an acute energy crisis, primarily due to the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuel. The solution to this is for the country to move on to more renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, bio-gas, biomass and hydro power. Renewable energy also presents a host of other benefits both socially and economically as well,” Manjula Perera said.
“Renewable energy can be generated using Sri Lanka’s ample natural resources. This would also offer some relief to Sri Lanka’s diminishing foreign reserves as renewable energy does not need to rely on fuel imports,” he noted.
‘However, one of the main issues which the renewable energy sector faces is the government approval process which can take years to complete. This process needs to be streamlined and implemented in an efficient manner as possible. Renewable energy developers also run into a myriad of challenges from the CEB that has delayed approval and grid connections, sometimes attributed to incorrect technical analysis. Bringing correct knowledge and international best practices to the CEB will help sort out these issues,” he pointed out.
Riyaz Sangani, Past President of Hydro Power Developers Association said, “Our goal as the renewable energy sector is to help the government and the people overcome the current energy crisis in the country. We believe that the key to this is to increase co-operation between the government and the private sector. Only then will we be able to successfully overcome all obstacles and make the switch to renewable energy.”
“There are currently a total of 294 private sector renewable energy developer projects which have been commissioned. These projects have combined capacity of 718.334 megawatts (MW). The total number of projects needs to increase drastically, for the country to truly reap the full benefits of renewable energy,” Thusitha Peiris, Small Hydro Power Developers Association President said.
He said that small hydro power projects have been brought to a halt for years now, and today the need is ever more acute for local entrepreneurs to be allowed to restart investing in this sector in a conducive operating environment.
“Another issue that has hampered the success of the renewable energy sector is the importation restrictions imposed on the sector, which has made it difficult to obtain the machinery necessary,” the associations said.
“In addition to the immediate benefits which the country will receive, renewable energy sources also pose less of a risk to the climate and environment. This will help protect the environment and ensure that the country’s development will not be hindered by any environmental issues in the future,” they observed.
“There have been many local and foreign investors who have shown interest in investing in renewable energy for Sri Lanka. These investors need to be shown that it is a worthwhile investment and that hindrances will be minimal. Only then can Sri Lanka overcome its socio-economic woes and continue with development,” they pointed out.
Pelwatte Dairy conducts O/L Seminars as part of its CSR campaign
Pelwatte, a local dairy brand with international standards and an unwavering promise of delivering quality fresh milk to its customers recently organized a series of seminars for the GCE Ordinary Level students. This was done with the intention of furthering Pelwatte’s corporate philosophy of uplifting livelihoods through sustainable methods. The seminars commenced during the last week of March and concluded in the 1st week of April 2022.
The seminars focused on maths in particular as it was found that many students either struggled in maths or were highly doubtful about it. Pelwatte, being a responsible brand took initiative to help these students in this time of need. With Education being at a critical juncture and O/Ls being a critical stage in a student’s career, this program was initiated. The Managing Director of Pelwatte Mr. Akmal Wickramanayake said “Pelwatte is a brand that goes to every extent to ensure that our communities are treated well. This includes ensuring that the next generation is well versed in their education”.
He said this while commending his in-house experts, Mr Asela Sampath who is a mechanical engineer and Mr. Kavinda Umesh who is a chemical and processing engineer attached to the Pelwatte Engineering and Technical team. These two individuals led the seminar and took the students through not just the entire syllabus but also through several model papers. They made sure to answer and clarify any and all doubts that these students had before they wrapped up.
These series of seminars were conducted mainly in Buttala with the participation of schools such as Pelwatte Mahavidyalaya, Kukuranpola Vidyalaya, Dutugemunu Mahavidyalaya and Pelwatte Ranjan Wijeratna Vidyalaya. Students in the Hundreds attended these seminars which lasted for a day. Students from the respective schools got to learn from two qualified engineers who not only showed them how to solve mathematical problems but also gave them an idea about the type of career they can go into in the future to develop the engineering field in Sri Lanka.
Pelwatte received many blessings from both the students and their parents who were present for carrying out such programs. The current situation of the country is such that many corporates have either completely scrapped their community welfare programs or have limited it. However, Pelwatte aims to continue doing such activities to not only uplift communities but to also boost morale. Education is a very important focus area for Pelwatte as it has continuously done many activities to uplift education especially in rural areas that are in need of programs like this.
‘HNB continues to demonstrate resilience under stressed conditions’
In the backdrop of turbulent market conditions, Hatton National Bank PLC continued to demonstrate resilience, strength and stability, posting a profit before tax of Rs 5.9Bn and a profit after tax of Rs 4.8Bn for the first quarter of 2022 recording a YOY growth of 7% and 3% respectively. At Group level PBT and PAT were at Rs 6.4 Bn and Rs 5.4 Bn respectively.Commenting on the first quarter performance, Aruni Goonetilleke Chairperson of Hatton National Bank PLC, stated that “as Sri Lanka goes through unprecedented times, HNB has yet again demonstrated resilience. At this critical time, I wish to reiterate our commitment to all our stakeholders. As a responsible Domestic Systemically Important bank, ensuring safety, stability and sustainability is our prime focus.”
With the tightening of the monetary policy since August 2021, the AWPLR increased by nearly 400 bps over the 12 months up to March 2022. This enabled the Bank to record a 59% increase in NII during 1Q 2022 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. The Net Fee income grew by 42% YoY to Rs 3.2 Bn for the first quarter of 2022, driven mainly by improved cards transactions and trade income.The significant devaluation of the rupee as at March 2022, compared to the previous year, resulted in trading gains of approximately Rs 7.5Bn in 1Q 2022. The Bank also, booked an impairment of Rs 7.4Bn against the impact of the currency devaluation on foreign currency denominated loans and investments, which was set-off against the position revaluations.
The Bank’s net stage III loan ratio improved from 2.55% as at December 2021 to 2.41% as at end March 2022 while stage III provision cover increased to 59%, maintaining its position as one of the best in the industry in asset quality. However, considering the significant volatility in macro-economic factors in 1Q 2022, the Bank recognized a higher impairment charge of Rs 13.4Bn. This included an impairment of Rs 6.7Bn on account of investments in foreign currency denominated government securities, subsequent to the announcement made by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in relation to suspending the repayment of external foreign currency debt obligations of the Government and the sovereign rating downgrade.Operating expenses increased by 21% in 1Q 2022 driven by salary revisions, relatively higher card transaction volumes with the pickup of economic activity and general expenses increasing in line with higher inflation. However, the stronger growth in income, enabled HNB to record a cost to income of 25% during the first quarter of 2022.
HNB’s total tax charge increased by 33% to Rs 2.8Bn for the first quarter. The effective income tax rate increased from 31% in March 2021 to 37% in March 2022 due to the YoY reduction in interest income from foreign currency denominated government securities.Jonathan Alles, Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of Hatton National Bank PLC stated that, “Sri Lanka has been travelling through a tough terrain over the past few years commencing from adverse weather conditions experienced in 2017-2018 to, unfortunate Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 and then the most unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which impacted the entire globe. The banking sector of Sri Lanka and HNB has weathered these challenges and emerged strong and stable. Today, Sri Lanka as a nation is facing one of the most challenging times in its history. The next few months would be even more challenging. As such, it is extremely important that we play our part as responsible Sri Lankans at individual, organizational and country level. We believe that the authorities would take necessary steps to ensure political, social, economic and financial stability enabling successful conclusion of discussions with International Monetary Fund, the multilateral organizations and supporting nations to secure much needed funding.”
“It is equally important that we focus on the real economy and sustainable foreign exchange earning avenues that will support us over the medium to long term. Providing necessary support to drive exports, remittances, tourism, manufacturing and industrial development would be key. At the same time, diversifying foreign exchange earning sources would also be important. Focusing on Sri Lanka as an education hub, promoting agri-preneurs, IT, KPO, BPO industries would also be vital in this regard. We need to be cautious about our spending, and purchase local products to support our micro, small and medium enterprises, while at the Government, institutional and corporate level, adopt very tight cost containment measures and slash budgets.”
“As we encounter many obstacles in our day to day life, I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude to each and every member of the HNB team for their continuous commitment and dedication in delivering essential banking services to our valued customers.”(HNB)
SLIIT launches CODE with the country’s first free AI/ML online course
Ushering a new era of online learning, SLIIT unveiled its Centre for Open and Distance Education (CODE), a fully-fledged, independently developed online platform offering a range of self-paced courses. CODE aims to fill skill shortages in the industry by enabling youth to equip themselves with highly sought after skills.The Centre, established by the Industry Engagement Unit of the Faculty of Computing, SLIIT, held its virtual launch event recently under the patronage of Prof. Lalith Gamage, Vice-Chancellor, SLIIT, senior management, and staff from SLIIT with industry professionals and prospective students in attendance.
The inaugural course offered by CODE is ‘Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Engineer Stage 1’, which has been developed for anyone aspitring to become an AI/ML Engineer. The next two courses lined up are in Cyber Security and Cloud Computing. . The comprehensive courses, molded with hands-on exposure to cutting-edge technologies, will seek to maximize the employability potential of the youth.Prof. Chandimal Jayawardena, Dean, Faculty of Computing SLIIT, said, “SLIIT developed CODE as a free learning platform designed to offer courses and learning materials for those who wish to develop skills needed by the industry within a short time period. Courses offered by CODE are self-paced and will be equally relevant for school leavers, university students, as well as industry professionals. . The first course in CODE, the AI/ML Engineer stage 1 course can help anyone who wants to develop a career as an AI/ML engineer. This will be followed by two other courses covering stages 2 and 3. We are proud to launch this distance education platform as part of our mission to provide useful and relevant education to a wider audience, reaching beyond traditional university education. Being a platform open for free courses, CODE platform also illustrates SLIIT’s commitment to addressing and contributing to the needs of the society.”
The SLIIT AI Course, which is the first course to be offered to students via the CODE platform, consists of fundamental, intermediate, and expert levels, with the initial Stage 1 covering fundamentals relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning, with an understanding of how each area of expertise is used in the industry related to AI.The course has been designed with a practical and hands-on approach that will introduce the learner to the industry’s most innovative tools and technologies, including TensorFlow and PyTorch. Courses are designed to ensure an individual can gain exposure to programming basics since a certain knowledge of programming basics is required for the course.
Lessons related to the course will be introduced weekly and participants need to study the content, complete the assessment components such as available quizzes and achieve sufficient marks to complete the course and gain the certificate. Upon completing the course, participants will receive a ‘Certificate of Completion’ from SLIIT.CODE invites school leavers, non-IT graduates studying IT-related programmes and IT enthusiasts to enhance their skills and knowledge to enrol in the AI/ML Course. All courses are free of charge, and there is no restriction on the number of participants for each course.SLIIT believe the courses offered via the CODE platform will empower students to maximize their potential for employability while enhancing their capabilities of gaining foreign employment, engaging in remote work, or even working for reputed IT companies in Sri Lanka.
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